Home > History of Wine > Historic Tasting Notes for Californian Wines From the Early 1880s

Historic Tasting Notes for Californian Wines From the Early 1880s


I find the 19th century tasting notes of Californian wine samples and wines produced from grape samples quite interesting.   Through their defined format they detail the successes and many failures of the early trials from a number of different producers.  I have selected several tasting notes from more favorable received wines listed in the Report of the Viticultural Work During the Seasons 1883-4 and 1884-5 (1886).[1] These notes focus on color, bouquet, flavor, acidity, astringency, condition, and dilution.  To me they demonstrate that with the complete lack of aroma or flavor specific adjectives, taken as a group, you would have no idea how a wine made from Grossblaue would taste different from a Cabernet Sauvignon based one.  Tasting notes aside how exciting to taste such diverse wines as Black Burgundy, Blaue Elbing, Burger, Grenache, and Scuppernong.

No. 174. Zinfandel, 1880.
From J. H. Drummond, Glen Ellen.  From red hill land.  Color of sample not very deep; condition, bright; acid and astringency, both light; body, medium; bouquet not strong, but flavor vinous and claret-like.  The color, after the wine has been diluted with one half its bulk of water, remains quite stable, and the general quality good.

No. 151. Malbeck, 1884 (Ch. Le Franc, New Almaden Vineyard.)
Condition of the sample, bright; color, intense purple-red; astringency, high; acid, medium. The bouquet could not be judged from sample.  Flavor, vinous, agreeable; general quality; good.

No. 144. Grossblaue, 1883.
From H. W. Crabb, Oakville.  A wine of intense purple color, so much so that the color holds good after the wine has been diluted with its own bulk of water.  Bouquet is undeveloped, but promises well.  Flavor, vinous; acid, light; astringency very decided, but agreeable; body, good; condition bright.
Wine is too astringent for use by itself, but excellent for blending.

No. 139. Cabernet Sauvignon, 1882.
From H. W. Crabb, Oakville.  Wine of moderately dark garnet color, with a vinous flavor, accompanied by a perceptible, light bouquet; fair acid and medium astringency.  Body, good; condition, clear. The wine promises very well.

No. 118. Feher Szagos, 1884.
From R. Barton, Fresno.  Bouquet fairly developed; body, heavy; acid, medium; flavor, vinous,  nutty; color, pale straw; a very fair, drinkable wine.

No. 160. Trousseau, 1883 (From M. Denicke, Fresno.)
A clear, medium-bodied wine of a moderately deep garnet color, decided acid and astringency, and vinous flavor; bouquet is decided and fruity, accompanied by an alcoholic odor.  After diluting with fifty per cent water, the wine is very good, and fair after one hundred per cent of water has been added.

Chauche Gris, 1884. (From R. Barton, Fresno)
A light topaz-colored wine, of heavy body; medium acid; clean vinous flavor, accompanied by very characteristic bouquet.

Herbacious Grafting [2]

[1] Report of the Viticultural Work During the Seasons 1883-4 and 1884-5. 1886. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=GJ5CAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[2] Annual Report of the Board of State Viticultural Commissioners.  1888. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=uqo6AQAAMAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false

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