The widespread consumption of Champagne during the holiday season has led to an increase in posts about sabering Champagne. These posts usually feature an explosive video and perhaps a link to purchase an official sabre à champagne. There are alternative instruments for performing sabrage as I discovered while rummaging through the kitchen of an in-law in Albuquerque. As it is not yet New Year’s this post is merely inspiration. I shall aim for action pictures later on.
The smallest instrument is a hatchet purchased in Ketchikan, Alaska. It is made from a two-man crosscut logging saw. It is quite light so anyone can yield it. The short length of the blade makes it good for crowded parties.
The best balance between weight and rusticity appears in the broad axe with poll purchased in St. Jacobs, Ontario. With one forceful motion the wide edge is guaranteed to hit the lip of the bottle and the weight of the blade will carry your arm forward.
The most impressive blade is the hand-made meat cleaver from St Petersburg, Russia. The blade is massive with weight to carry through any large piece of meat or small animal. In fact the blade is so massive it dwarfs the standard bottle size and changes my posture. It must be used on larger bottles for fear of losing fingers.
Madeira was often described as “Choice old Madeira” in advertisements dating back to 1739. Some parcels were listed as “good old Madeira WINE.” There was typically no inclusion of a vintage date so what was meant by “old” is unknown. One advertisement of July 1766, implied the vintage by detailing parcels which were three years old, two years old, and “of the last Vintage.” Curious about what was meant by “old” and the specific vintages imported, in this post I take a brief look at the advertisements for madeira in Philadelphia during the 18th century.
One of the first advertisements for a specific vintage of madeira appears in February 1759 when Bayton and Wharton advertised a “Choice Parcel of Madeira WINE” from the 1756 vintage. A little over one year later a parcel of the 1757 vintage was listed as “fine old Madeira Wine”. This wine was imported by the ship Two Brothers, Captain Neil and sold by Henry and Robert Ritchie. Henry Lisle sold 1764 madeira in pipes, hogsheads, and quarter-casks on April 24, 1766. Willing and Morris imported “a very large stock of Madeira, Teneriffe, and Mountain wines, and Claret” which they advertised for sale that summer on June 26, 1766. The madeira was of the 1763 vintage. It is possible these wines came from Bristol for “good bottled Bristol beer” was listed as well. The following year they sold lots of the 1763 vintage of “London market Madeira wines.”
The 1763 vintage was also available that same year at the store of Joshua Howell. His advertisement of January 15, 1767, described this “neat genuine Madeira Wine” as “fit for immediate Use.” Later that year on June 11, 1767, Ritchie and Clymer still had some stock of the 1762 vintage. Neave and Harman sold multiple vintages of “choice old Madeira WINES” from 1763, 1764, and 1765.
Despite the profusion of madeira advertisements the number which specified the vintage date appears to thin out after 1767. This may be attributed to the series of low yields between 1668 and 1772 when they fell “to one-third of their usual output.” Ten pipes of 1765 madeira “of best Quality, and warranted Genuine” were advertised on July 21, 1768. On May 16, 1771, Willing and Morris once again advertise madeira of “London market quality” from the vintage 1766. Thus, in the years prior to the Revolutionary War the vintages of 1756 through 1766 were sold in Philadelphia. From these advertisements the implication is that “old” parcels were at least two years of age.
In looking through images from the British Museum online collection I came across these two 17th century tokens featuring grapevines. I know nothing of 17th century merchant tokens but several appear within John Yonge Akerman’s Tradesmen’s Tokens Current in London and Its Vicinity Between the Years 1648 and 1672 (1849). For this post I present simplified descriptions from Ackerman’s book and include images of two tokens. In looking at the tokens I cannot help but wonder who engraved them and what were the inspirations for the grapevines. Both vines are untrained, layered for depth, and bearing fruit. The vocabulary is similar, five clusters of grapes with seven or eight leaves, each of which five lobes. Simon Marshal’s clusters feature five grapes each whereas John Barnes’ contain closer to ten, densely packed grapes. Were they based on a single garden vine or perhaps an example from a London nursery?
There are just a handful of tokens which feature a grape vine:
#785 Obverse: AT THE VINE IN. Reverse: GOVLDEN LANE.
#930 Obverse: SIMON MARSHAL, VINE. Reverse: TAVERNE IN HOLBORNE.
#1193 Obverse: JOHN BARNES AT THE. Reverse: VINE IN LONGAKER, 1664.
The list of tokens including a bunch of grapes are:
#59 Obverse: GABRIEL HARPER. Reverse: WITHOVT ALLGAT 59.
#103 Obverse: RICH. READ, IN RED LION COVRT. Reverse: IN BASING LANE, COOPPER, 71.
#351 Obverse: JOHN BODINGTON AT YE. Reverse: CELLER IN CHANCERY LANE.
#539 Obverse: WILLIAM SARGANT. Reverse: IN CRVTCHED FRIERS.
#1018 Obverse: GEO. WAPLES, YE OLD BVNCH. Reverse: IN HOVNSDICH.
#1152 Obverse: THOMAS GASLEY, GROCER. Reverse: IN LITTLE BRITTIN.
#1227 Obverse: JOHN VARNY AT THE. Reverse: IN LOTHBVRY, 1671.
#1619 Obverse: ED. FLOWERS AT THE. Reverse: ROSEMARY LANE EN.
#1632 Obverse: THOMAS MAY AT Y E BUNCH. Reverse: GRAPES IN REDERIF …1669.
#1916 Obverse: FRANCIS CLIDENHAM AT THE. Reverse: WITHOVT SMITHFIELD BARS.
#2281 Obverse: JOHN GODDIN IN KINGS. Reverse: STREET WAPPING.
 Ackerman, John Yonge. Tradesmen’s Tokens Current in London and Its Vicinity Between the Years 1648 and 1672. 1849. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=YAEfAAAAMAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
Both of these wines are full of flavor which is undeniable after a few hours of air. I suspect the 2010 Casar de Burbia, Casar could use with a few months of cellar time. This is serious, more concentrated Mencia. The 2010 Montesco, Passionate Wine, Parral received a very high score which was hard to avoid and ignore. Despite my skepticism, I really enjoyed the savory flavors and ample mouthfeel. It is a full but not overdone experience. I definitely recommend you try both of these selections. These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.
2010 Casar de Burbia, Casar, Bierzo – $20
Imported by South River Imports. This wine is 100% Mencia aged 8 months in French (American?) oak. Alcohol 13.5%. With air the wine unfolds a little to reveal blue, black, and violet fruit. The flavors have some weight before a little tangy note comes out followed by some wood. The wine oscillates as it takes on air, sometimes showing a little vanilla and other times a watering acidity. The structure develops with air making fine, drying tannins stick on the insides of the cheeks. Good flavors, serious Mencia. *** Now-2019.
2010 Montesco, Passionate Wine, Parral, Mendoza – $22
Imported by Monsieur Touton. This wine is a blend of 40% Malbec, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 40% Bonarda sourced from 30+ year old vines which spent 12 months in French and American oak. Alcohol 14%. There was a sweet nose of deep blue and black fruit. In the mouth were rich but not overpowering flavors with a savory presence on the tongue. It had thickness, decent complexity, minerals in the finish, and was spicy throughout. With air it takes on some earth and rounds out. It becomes a touch forceful after much air but has good flavors. **** Now-2019.
I hope you have a happy holiday and enjoy unique wine with your friends and family. I am starting with the 2002 Leeuwin Estate, Chardonnay, Art Series, Margaret River which was given to me many years ago by my friend William. Thank you for reading this blog and sharing your comments with me. I am curious to read what you are enjoying as well.
This past weekend we gathered at Lou’s house for what is meant to be an annual Christmas tasting…with dinner. We had decided on Bordeaux ahead of time but in the hours preceding we focused in on the 1983 and 1989 vintages. The red wines were double-decanted such that they had two hours of air prior to tasting. We began with charcuterie, an old family crab dish, and a bottle of NV Duval-Leroy, Brut. Lou and I agreed that it nicely revealed bottle age which made it quite integrated and with subdued bubbles, very easy to drink. I am not entirely sure what the 2009 Strohmeier, Weisswein aus Trauben, Liebe und Zeit is made out of. Apparently Pinot Blanc. Regardless this self-professed “natural wine” was aromatic and very complex on the nose. The balance of acidity and skin-contact flavors was quite attractive.
We moved down to the cellar to taste through the red wines. The 1989 Chateau Lalande-Borie, Saint-Julien was purchased over 7 years ago from MacArthur Beverages. This was opened as a curiosity and surprisingly, the nose was quite deep and earthy. Most people liked this bottle. The nose was its strong point for the flavors came up a bit short. For me the 1983 Chateau Sociando-Mallet, Haut-Medoc had a nose strong in old-school perfume but the flavors remained firm. It should continued to live for some time but I do not see it improving. The 1983 Chateau Gloria, Saint-Julien was a perfect example of mature Bordeaux with a fill at the bottom of the neck. From the beginning the nose was aromatic and deep. In the mouth were fresh fruit, good acidity, and expansive flavors. Completely mature but in no way past its prime. The 1989 Chateau l’Enclos, Pomerol was quite good by the end of the evening when it opened to show black fruit and minerals. I wonder if it could develop further. Unfortunately the 1989 Chateau Cantermerle, Haut-Medoc was a somewhat flawed bottle. If you got beyond the musty nose there were veiled flavors of good fruit. Normal bottles must actually be quite good.
Right before leaving I had a quick glass of 2006 Waitrose (Chateau Suduiraut), Sauternes from half bottle. Lou had picked this up during one of his trips to the UK. The wine is produced by Chateau Suduiraut using estate fruit. I thought it already showed an attractive maturity which made it a satisfying drink.
NV Duval-Leroy, Brut, Champagne
Imported by Duval-Leroy Importers. This wine is a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Alcohol 12%. The nose revealed biscuit, dark yellow fruit, and some toast. There were good, frothy bubbles at first which quickly dissipated. The flavors were fresh before the wine became still. It tasted as if it had some bottle age. There were dried herbs and toast in the finish. There was acidity at first then it returned in the aftertaste. *** Now-2016.
2009 Strohmeier, Weisswein aus Trauben, Liebe und Zeit
Imported by Williams Corner Wine. This wine is 100% Pinot Blanc. Alcohol 13%. The wine was slightly cloudy with a light golden yellow color. The nose was very aromatic with Christmas spices, clove, orange peeling, mulling spices, and floral notes. In the mouth the crisp acidity was immediately noticeable follow by weight from skin contact. The wine then became light in flavor with laser acidity and focus to the flavors. Really nice wine. **** Now-2016.
1989 Chateau Lalande-Borie, Saint-Julien
Imported by Luke’s Distributing Co. This wine is a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, and 10% Cabernet Franc. Alcohol 12.5%. The light was was quite inviting with earthy aromas of blue and red berries. In the mouth there was good acidity to the black and red fruit then a slightly firm middle followed by a wood note. The finish was shorter in flavor. The acidity was present throughout. The nose was the best part *** at first but overall ** Now-2018.
1983 Chateau Sociando-Mallet, Haut-Medoc
Imported by Calvert Woodley. This wine is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Petit Verdot. Alcohol 11%-13%. The nose consistently revealed old-school perfume, it did not give up much fruit. In the mouth the wine was firmer in flavor with black fruit, prominent acidity, and the sense that this will be long-lived. ** Now-2024.
1983 Chateau Gloria, Saint-Julien
Imported by N & T Imports. This wine is a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Petit Verdot. Alcohol 11%-14%. There was a good nose with light to medium strength aromas of deep berries and roasted meat. In the mouth were tangy berry flavors at first then fresher fruit. The flavors were gently mouth filling and balanced by good, lively acidity. It became higher-toned with powdery fruit. Nice wine. *** Now-2018.
1989 Chateau l’Enclos, Pomerol
Imported by Luke’s Distributing Co. This wine is a blend of 80% Merlot, 19% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Malbec. Alcohol 12.5%. There was a low-lying, serious nose. In the mouth the black fruit tasted fresh and dense. There was a tangy middle with a cedar note developing by the finish. It had minerals, good complexity, and was developing well. With air there was a gentle cedar note, soft finish, and both minerals and a fresh touch of earth in the aftertaste. *** Now-2020.
1989 Chateau Cantermerle, Haut-Medoc
Imported by Bordeaux Wine Locators. This wine is a blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot. Alcohol 12.5%. The nose was affected by some TCA and was musty but there was fruit underneath. In the mouth were muted but dense black and red fruit with good acidity and mouthfeel. It tasted unevolved, muted, and unfortunately a little rough in the finish. Completely drinkable. ** Now-2023.
2006 Waitrose (Chateau Suduiraut), Sauternes
This wine is a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc which was aged for 16 months in 10% new and 90% used oak barrels. Alcohol 14%. No formal note but a nice wine, tasting mature already with thickness and spices. Why wait? *** Now-2018.
The last-minute return of Frank Morgan (Drink What YOU Like) to Maryland was the impetus for a casual night of Chateauneuf du Pape at my house. Thus on a work night Frank, Jenn, Lou, Roland, and I gathered by the warm fire drinking a bagged bottle of bubbly. There was no mistaking this for Krug or Dom Perignon but the lack of Champagne in my basement led to some fun jokes and general comments. I believe it was enjoyed by all and Lou certainly ripped open the bag with curiosity. I have lately taken to the NV Lambert de Seyssel, Petit Royal so that it now serves as our house bubbly. This undated, yet single vintage, wine offers complexity and balance at an outstanding price. The 2012 Mark Herold Wines, Flux, Blanc was served bagged as well. It was a fresh, floral wine with stone notes and a lot of mouthfeel. Everyone guessed Sauvignon Blanc with some Chenin Blanc which just demonstrates how different it was from the 2007 Clos Saint Jean, Blanc. The latter revealed some maturity and a barrel note but its density and youthful aspect lead me to believe it will develop for quite some time. The next morning I found both of these bottles, uncorked and half full. I corked them, chilled them, then tasted them again. The Mark Herold was a touch sharper but the Clos Saint Jean was drinking well with increased length.
NV Lambert de Seyssel, Petit Royal
Imported by Kermit Lynch. This wine is a blend of 70% Molette and 30% Altesse sourced from 10-25 year old vines. Alcohol 12%. The nose reveals dark yellow aromas and There were soft bubbles which dance on the tongue-tip revealing a textured mousse. Dark notes mix with the yellow fruit. Good acidity at first leading to chewy fruit and a tangy, textured finish. Has good complexity. Drinks well over many nights so no rush to drink up but perfectly mature right now. *** Now.
2012 Mark Herold Wines, Flux, Blanc
This wine is a blend of 84% Grenache Blanc and 16% Rousanne. Alcohol 13.3%. The nose was floral with white fruit, stones, and freshness. There was some grip at first then the wine rounded out a bit. The flavors became tropical towards the finish where the salivating acidity picked up. It became tangy with air. It took on a little texture and some tannin. *** Now-2017.
2007 Clos Saint Jean, Blanc, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler. This wine is an equal blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, and Clairette which sees some age in new barrels. Alcohol 13.5%. The nose was taking on a little cedar and maturity. In the mouth were round, dense flavors with stones playing a supportive role. It was creamy towards the finish with a barrel note. It was still tight and young. On the second night it had a lovely mouthfeel, the minerals were more obvious, and the length of the aftertaste had improved. *** Now-2024.
I set out enough glasses on the dining room table for each of us to have three so we naturally tasted the Chateauneuf du Pape in flights. All of the wines were served in bags. The 2011 Domaine de Ferrand was interesting for its youthful red fruit and citrus note which kept putting on weight and developing a saline quality. This seems odd but works out quite well if you are ready for an intense experience. The 2008 Saint Cosme was not a corked bottle but its dusty nose leads me to believe it underperforming. The 1999 Domaine Charvin showed really well and completely engaged me with its complex, earthy aromas and animale flavors.
2011 Domaine de Ferrand, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler. This wine is a blend of 94% Grenache with the rest Mourvedre, Syrah, and Bourboulenc sourced from 60 to 100 year old vines. It is aged in large oak foudre and some used barriques. Alcohol 15%. The nose was fresh with young fruit, a little citrus note, orange peel, perhaps clove, and candy. In the mouth were good, young, saline red fruit. It had nice young weight which was maintained through the finish. The saline quality developed as well as flavors of raspberry candy. It continued to develop with air. On the second night, it showed some roughness in the aftertaste. **** Now-2028.
2008 Saint Cosme, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by The Country Vintner. This wine is a blend of 50% Grenache, 30% Mourvedre, 10% Cinsault, 7% Syrah, and 3% Clairette which was aged for 24 months in used barrels. Alcohol 14.5%. The nose had a maturing aroma and was, perhaps a little dusty. The flavors were more mellow in the mouth with some black minerals and some youthfulness. On the second night this firm wine did not give up much beyond dried herbs. Underperforming? * Now.
1999 Domaine Charvin, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler. This wine is a blend of 80% Grenache, 15% Syrah, and 5% Mourvedre and Vaccarese sourced from vines averaging 50 years of age.Alcohol 14%. The nose was complex and aromatic with earth and stinky fruit. In the mouth the fruit was chewy with good acidity. It had a lighter beginning followed by some firmness in the finish where mature flavors came out. It was still fresh and became more animale with air. Nice. **** Now-2020.
The second flight mirrored the first flight in that the first and third wines showed very well. The 2000 Domaine du Pegau, Cuvee Reservee was drinking really well. There was an effortless old-school quality to the wine but also a core of young fruit to carry it on for years. I did not much care for the 2009 Domaine de la Vieille Julienne on the first night. despite being double-decanted hours ahead of time it remained very tight and modern. After a few more hours of air on the second night, its potential began to be revealed. I would keep this in the cellar and reevaluate in three years. In contrast to the Pegau which was perfectly open and consistent throughout the evening the 2001 Pierre Usseglio & Fils, Reserve des deux freres continued to evolve with air. With lovely fruit it too was drinking well but I suspect there is more to come with this wine.
2000 Domaine du Pegau, Cuvee Reservee, Chateauneuf du Pape
This wine is a blend of 80% Grenache, 6% Syrah, 4% Mourvedre and other varieties which are fermented in cement tanks then aged in foudres. Alcohol 13.5%. The nose was quite complex with spices. In the mouth the flavors were very good with a core of young fruit. It was a little juicy and a touch spicy in the finish. Why take a note when one should just drink it? **** Now-2028.
2009 Domaine de la Vieille Julienne, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Europvin. This wine is a blend of 65% Grenache and 35% Cinsault, Syrah, Mourvedre, and Clairette. Alcohol 15.5%. The nose returned to young and fresh aromas but was still tight. In the mouth were modern fruit. On the second night the nose was still tight with some mixed berries escaping. In the mouth were slowly expanding flavors of blue and black fruit followed by a lot of minerals towards the finish. It was almost metallic with minerals in the aftertaste. There were hints of garrigue. A powerful wine that is still firm and black. **(**) 2018-2028.
2001 Pierre Usseglio & Fils, Reserve des deux freres, Chateauneuf du Pape
This wine is a blend of 70% Grenache and 30% Syrah which was aged in 60% foudres and 40% Burgundy barrels. Alcohol 14.5%. The nose was a little reticent at first but opened up really well with air. The good nose was followed by lovely fruit, revealing a wine which was still youthful. The structure was still there but the flavors were taking on thickness and ripe spices. Plenty of life as it continued to develop all evening. ****(*) Now-2035.
Upon revealing the flight Roland became excited to find out we had been drinking the 2000 Pegau. A connection was quickly made to some wine in his cellar. As he lives just two streets away he dashed home with an empty paper bag only to return minutes later with the bag containing an open bottle. The 2000 Bonneau, Reserve des Celestins was a great last wine. Paul Feraud and Henri Bonneau were classmates so to sample both wines from the same vintage was cool. The Bonneau had a bit more structure and reserves for development. With all of the bottles revealed everyone set out to retaste the wines. I scanned my meager notes but could not bring myself to write down more. I wanted to drink these wines and the conversation was just too much fun, particularly on the uses of the Coravin.
It seemed that just a few minutes had passed when the bottle of Bonneau was held up. It was to my surprise, empty. It was the bottles of Bonneau, Charvin, Pegau, and P. Usseglio which stood empty at the end of the evening. Perhaps that expresses the pleasure of aged Chateauneuf du Pape. They are wines you want to drink or at least the five of us did.
2000 Bonneau & Fils, Reserve des Celestins, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. This wine is a blend of 90% Grenache and 10% Mourvedre, Syrah, Counoise, and Vaccarese which was fermented in concrete tanks then aged in old Burgundy barrels. Alcohol 14.5%. The color looked older and was very clear in the glass. The nose was sweaty, engaging, and youthful. In the mouth were fresh, chewy flavors and Kirsch. Beautiful. ****(*) Now-2030.