Home > History of Wine > “Choice old Madeira”: The Early Vintages of Philadelphia

“Choice old Madeira”: The Early Vintages of Philadelphia


Madeira was often described as “Choice old Madeira” in advertisements dating back to 1739[1].  Some parcels were listed as “good old Madeira WINE.”[2]  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.”[3]  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.

Vuë de Philadelphie. Leizelt, Balthasar Friedrich. 1770s. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Vuë de Philadelphie. Leizelt, Balthasar Friedrich. 1770s. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

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.[4]  A little over one year later a parcel of the 1757 vintage was listed as “fine old Madeira Wine”.[5]  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.[6]  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.[7]  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.”[8]

The 1763 vintage was also available that same year at the store of Joshua Howell.[9]  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.[10]  Neave and Harman sold multiple vintages of “choice old Madeira WINES” from 1763, 1764, and 1765.[11]

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.”[12]  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.[13]  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.


[1] Paper: Pennsylvania Gazette, published as The Pennsylvania Gazette; Date: From April 5, to April 12, 1739; Issue: 539; Page: [4]; Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
[2] Paper: Pennsylvania Gazette; Date: 02-28-1765; Page: 3; Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
[3] Paper: Pennsylvania Gazette, published as The Pennsylvania Gazette; Date: 07-24-1766; Issue: 1961; Page: [1]; Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
[4] Paper: Pennsylvania Gazette, published as The Pennsylvania Gazette; Date: 02-15-1759; Issue: 1573; Page: [2]; Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
[5] Paper: Pennsylvania Gazette, published as The Pennsylvania Gazette; Date: 04-03-1760; Issue: 1632; Page: [5]; Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
[6] Paper: Pennsylvania Gazette, published as The Pennsylvania Gazette; Date: 04-24-1766; Issue: 1948; Page: [5]; Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
[7] Paper: Pennsylvania Gazette, published as The Pennsylvania Gazette; Date: 06-26-1766; Issue: 1957; Page: [3]; Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
[8] Paper: Pennsylvania Gazette, published as The Pennsylvania Gazette; Date: 02-05-1767; Issue: 1989; Page: Supplement [1]; Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
[9] Paper: Pennsylvania Gazette, published as The Pennsylvania Gazette; Date: 01-15-1767; Issue: 1986; Page: Supplement [1]; Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
[10] Paper: Pennsylvania Gazette, published as The Pennsylvania Gazette; Date: 06-11-1767; Issue: 2007; Page: Supplement [2]; Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
[11] Paper: Pennsylvania Gazette, published as The Pennsylvania Gazette; Date: 10-29-1767; Issue: 2027; Page: [1]; Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
[12] Hancock, David. “Commerce and Conversation in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic: The Invention of Madeira Wine” Journal of Interdisciplinary History. XXIX:2 (Autumn, 1998), 197-219.
[13] Paper: Pennsylvania Gazette, published as The Pennsylvania Gazette; Date: 05-16-1771; Issue: 2212; Page: [3]; Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
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  1. January 30, 2015 at 7:54 am

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