Home > History of Wine > “A finer Flower was never drank”: A Look at Early Advertisements of the Wines of Chateau Haut-Brion 1705-1717

“A finer Flower was never drank”: A Look at Early Advertisements of the Wines of Chateau Haut-Brion 1705-1717

The London Gazette has widely been referenced in discussing the history of Chateau Haut-Brion.[1]  This is due in part because the earliest known advertisement in Britain for the wine of Haut-Brion was published here in May 1705.[2]  This and other advertisements feature Haut-Brion as prize wines that were captured then condemned and sold by the Exchequer.   The London Gazette maintains free online access to the archive making it an open source for contemporary historians.  However, the London Gazette was not the only publication to feature these advertisements for they also appear in The Daily Courant , The GuardianThe Spectator, and The Tatler.  It is possible that these publications have not yet been referenced for they are a part of the 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers which requires paid access.  The Daily Courant was the first daily British newspaper,  originally produced by Elizabeth Mallet.  Richard Steele had a hand in publishing The Guardian, The Spectator, and The Tatler.  It appears that these were all Whig publications.[2.5]  Whether any advertisements appear in Tory publications remains to be investigated.

The first known advertisement for Haut-Brion in the London Gazette. []

The first known advertisement for Haut-Brion in the London Gazette. [2]

Several of the Haut-Brion prize wine advertisements appear simultaneously in these publications.  This suggests an effort by the government to reach a larger audience than commonly thought.  A quick comparison also reveals that the London Gazette did not run the advertisements of Haut-Brion imported by private individuals during the period of interest.[3]  Additionally, there is at least one instance where Haut-Brion prize wine was not advertised in the London Gazette.   A potential reason for this stems from the format of the publication.  The early issues of the London Gazette feature two printed pages.  The advertisements appear after the news on the second page.  Thus the amount of news dictated the space leftover for the advertisements.  This varied from as much as one and a half columns to half a column.  This suggests that when advertisement space ran low the Haut-Brion prize wine was advertised in other publications.

A Rake's Progress (plate 3) 1735 William Hogarth 1697-1764 Transferred from the reference collection 1973 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T01790

See Pontac’s portrait in the upper-right of A Rake’s Progress (plate 3) 1735 William Hogarth 1697-1764 Transferred from the reference collection 1973 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T01790

An example of an advertisement for Haut-Brion prize wine that appears in in both The Tatler and the Daily Courant and not the London Gazette was published on the December 23, 1710.  Here we find some 60 hogsheads and 12 tierces of “new excellent French Obrion claret of the very last vintage”, being 1709, advertised for sale by the broker Thomas Tomkins of Seething Lane at Lloyd’s Coffee House on December 29, 1710.[4]  It is possible that at least two hogsheads of Haut-Brion were sold and other top growth wines included because the December 27, 1710, advertisement in The Daily Courant lists some 58 hogsheads and 16 tierces of “Obrion and other very good growths”.[5]  The wine was the cargo of a French prize ship taken by a Guernsey privateer. [6]

Charles Ludington writes that the Haut-Brion advertised between 1705-1707 represent wine sold at government-sponsored auctions. While the lots condemned by the Exchequer continued to be advertised throughout the years, other merchants began to sell Haut-Brion as well.   In 1711, there was one parcel sold by a wine merchant at his house.  Amongst his Hermitage and Burgundy in flasks was “Obrion Claret” at 3s. per bottle.[7]  Whether this merchant imported the wine himself or bottled it from casks taken from a prize ship is not specified.  Messieurs Tourton and Guiguer imported “Margaux, Obrion, and other of the best growths” for sale by the candle on May 21, 1712.[8] In 1716 Peter Rafa imported a parcel of “extraordinary good old Margaux, and Obrion French Claret” of the vintage 1714.[9]

A Prospect of the City of London, 1724 (with key). PAH9880. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.

A Prospect of the City of London, 1724 (with key). PAH9880. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.

What did Haut-Brion taste like that caused it to be sold at such high prices?  In 1712, 87 hogshead of “la Fit, la Tour, Margaux, Obrion” were described as “deep, bright, and of the true Flavour, fit for perfecting drinking, having been racked in France.”[10]  Peter Rafa described his wines as “deep, bright, strong and fresh, of a curious Flavour and taste”.  In 1713, a merchant at the Golden-Key described the “very last vintage” as “bright, deep, strong, and of a most delicious Flavour…and is certainly the noblest Flower for Colour, Taste and Smell that was ever imported.”[11]  One parcel of “New Pontack French Claret” advertised in 1717 was described as “perfectly neat, strong, deep, bright, and of the right delicious Flavour peculiar to that Growth”.[12]  This merchant continued to claim through 1719 that there was nothing in London to compare it to, even at 7s. per bottle.  The reader might be relieved to find he offered it for sale at only 42s. per dozen or 3s. 6d. per bottle.[13]  These flavor descriptions of “curious”, “delicious”, and “peculiar” echo what Samuel Pepys described in his diary some 50 years earlier, “Ho Bryan, that hath a good and most particular taste that I never met with.”[14]

[1] In such books as Asa Briggs’ Haut-Brion, Clive Coates’ Grand Vins, and Charles Ludington’s The Politics of Wine in Britain.
[2] Classified ads . London Gazette (London, England), May 14, 1705 – May 17, 1705; Issue 4123
[2.5] Harris, Michael. The Press in English Society from the Seventeenth to Nineteenth Centuries. 1986.
[3] The London Gazette did run advertisements for wine that appears to not be condemned such as that of Nathaniel Wood.  The London Gazette. Publication date:19 December 1710 Issue:4785Page:2. URL: https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/4785/page/2
[4] Advertisement. (1710). The Lucubrations of Isaac Bickerstaff, Esq., (267) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/6037275?accountid=14784 and Classified ads .  Daily Courant (London, England), Saturday, December 23, 1710; Issue 2861.
[5] Advertisement. (1710). The Daily Courant, (2863) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/5381116?accountid=14784
[6] This parcel is not to be confused with the claret from the two prize ships captured by Captain Daniel Nastell of Gurnsey that appears in the London Gazette on December 30, 1710.  We know they are separate parcels because they simultaneously appear in the Tatler on December 23, 1710.  See: The London Gazette. Publication date:30 December 1710 Issue:4790Page:2 and Classified ads . Tatler (1709) (London, England), December 23, 1710 – December 26, 1710; Issue 268.
[7] Advertisement. (1711). The Spectator (1711), (199) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/6075486?accountid=14784
[8] The London Gazette. Publication date:17 May 1712 Issue:5006Page:2. URL: https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/5006/page/2
[9] Advertisement. (1716). The Daily Courant, (4581) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/5397490?accountid=14784
[10] Advertisement. (1712). The Spectator (1711), (281) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/6077418?accountid=14784
[11] Advertisement. (1713). Guardian, 1713, (34) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/5489451?accountid=14784
[12] Advertisement. (1717). The Daily Courant, Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/5389964?accountid=14784
[13] Advertisement. (1719). The Daily Courant, (5610) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/5535564?accountid=14784
[14] The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 10 April 1663. URL: http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1663/04/10/

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