“[C]hoice Madeira Wines”: Boston Bual from The Rare Wine Company
The advertisements in Boston for the sale of Madeira in the 1740s feature such descriptions as “Good Madeira Wine”, “the best Madeira Wine”, “choice Madeira Wines”, and “very good Madeira Wines”. Some 30 years later in 1774 the descriptions are a bit more specific such as the “choice West-India Madeira WINE” auctioned off by Andrew Oliver and Abraham Hunt’s “best old Sterling Madeira”. Later that year on December 1, 1774, the Continental Congress called for a boycott on all imported British goods. Madeira sales continued but the new boycott was immediately reflected in advertisements. Joshua Blanchard added that he “yet continues to sell WINES” including “fine old Sterling Madeira” on December 12, 1774. He was careful to thank “his Friends and the Publick for past Favours, and hopes in these hard Times their Continuance”. At the end of the month he reiterated that he had “the least intention of quitting a business”.
Seized and prize wine begins to be taken such as when the Royal Vice Admiralty Court of Massachusetts Bay seized 36 casks of wine and nine boxes of lemons. On May 17, 1775, the sloop Falcon fired three six-pounders and took the sloop Three Friends laiden with wine and fruit from Hispaniola. The cargo was eventually sold to the Boston garrison. Madeira itself was taken on November 9, 1775, when two Continental Privateers going into Boston took a ship from Madeira with 150 pipes of wine. However, a particularly interesting cargo was seized in December 1775, when the small sloop Polly and Ann was stranded on the shore of Squam Beach on its way to Boston. The sloop contained casks and boxes with labels nailed to them addressed to General William Howe. General Howe became the Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in America. Amongst the cargo were three quarter-casks of Madeira wine being shipped to General Howe by Governor William Tryon of North Carolina. An invoice listed the Madeira at £22 10s. per quarter-cask. It is unclear what happened to General Howe’s Madeira. The records of the New-York Committee of Safety from January 20, 1776, give no indication. An advertisement on February 8, 1776, indicates that the Committee of Safety took possession of the sloop and cargo but permitted “to deliver to the seamen and passengers, their wearing apparel, bedding, chests, &.c”. Anything which was not collected by February 15th would be sold. Presumably the Madeira was drunk if not sold.
For a Madeira still available I recommend you try the Rare Wine Company’s Historic Series Boston Bual produced by Vinhos Barbeito. I drank my bottle over the course of two months. It was an interesting bottle, definitely complex and sweeter with a piercing characteristic that showed better after being open for one month. At that point the initially gritty flavor, almost as if from sugar crystals, became integrated. Even the last partial glass which I drank this weekend showed no signs of decay nor reduction in flavor. I can appreciate the attraction for Madeira in a time when wine was stored in casks and bottles did not have the most perfect of cork seals. With my open bottle lasting for months I imagine new bottles will last for several decades. Amazing! This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.
Rare Wine Company, Historic Series Boston Bual, Special Reserve – $46
Imported by the Vieux Vins. Alcohol 19.5%. The nose was complex with sweaty aromas of beef stock. In the mouth were slightly saline and earthy flavors. There was some residual sugar and grippy flavor. Quite complex with tangy flavors, acidity, and a nutty finish. **** Now-2044+.