Home > History of Wine > Table of the principal known Wines, and of the Quality of Alcohol in Wines (1826).

Table of the principal known Wines, and of the Quality of Alcohol in Wines (1826).

On Saturday, February 11, 1826, The London Literary Gazette published a table of the principal known wines to aid those in “these times of general tribulation” who “may wish to lose the sense of losses and disappointments by steeping it in wine”.[1]  The editor noted that while the list was comprehensive they did miss amongst “our French tipple” the wines of “Lafitte, Chateau Margaux, haut Brion, and Grave”.  Still, it was found that the “list is, nevertheless, superb, and enough to awaken a dry reviewer’s ( or any other body’s) thirst.”

Table of the Principal Known Wines. Part 1. 1826. [2]

Table of the Principal Known Wines. Part 1. 1826. [2]

For this post I have reproduced the table, broken apart into two pieces, using a clear version printed in the National Gazette.[2] This is a fascinating table for two obvious reasons and one more subtle.  First, it provides a succinct description of what all the major unadulterated wines tasted like nearly two hundred years ago.  Second, it provides insight into a form of tasting note and associated vocabulary.  The third reason is both subtle and important.  Hugh Johnson recently published the article “From Earnest Bud to Exotic Flower” in The World of Fine Wine.[3]  He admits that he had “been tempted to compile a sampler of the ways we used to write about wine.  I needn’t go back earlier than the century before last; indeed, I can’t; there were no writers employed at the job.”  While acknowledging Edward Barry and Alexander Henderson it is Cyrus Redding who is his “professional progenitor”.  This chart thus appears in the decade before Cyrus Redding published A History and Description of Modern Wines (1833).  That makes it amongst the earliest examples of comprehensive English tasting notes.

Table of the Principal Known Wines. Part 2. 1826. [2]

Table of the Principal Known Wines. Part 2. 1826. [2]

There are fascinating descriptions such as that for Romanee Conti, Clos Vougeot, Chambertin, etc. that are grouped together with the description, “Beautiful, rich, purple colour; exquisite flavor with a full body, yet delicate and light.”  Of the red Hermitage wines of Meal, Greffieux, etc., “Dark purple colour; flavor exquisite, and perfume resembling that of the raspberry.”  The wines of Rivesaltes had the “flavour of quince” and the wines of Chateaux Lafite, Latour, Leoville, Margaux, and Rauzan smelled of “violet perfume”.  It is true that the color and body descriptions reign supreme while the aromas and flavors are less common.  I should note that the table includes a column for the alcohol content of each wine reflecting the rising scientific curiosity about wine.  Alcohol content soon becomes a major focus in assigning wine duties because it indicates a line between natural wines and those adulterated with spirits.

[1] The Literary Gazette: A Weekly Journal of Literature, Science …, Volume 10. 1826. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=AXUZAAAAMAAJ&pg=PP9#v=onepage&q&f=false
[2] Page: 4. Date: Thursday, July 27, 1826 Paper: National Gazette (Philadelphia, PA) Page: 4. Geneaology Bank.
[3] Johnson, Hugh. “From Earnest Bud to Exotic Flower”, The World of Fine Wine. Issue 44, Q2, 2014.

Categories: History of Wine

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