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The contented fellow. 1807.

November 18, 2014 Leave a comment
The contented fellow. 1807. British Museum. [1]

The contented fellow. 1807. British Museum. [1]


[1] The contented fellow. Published by Laurie & Whittle. 1807. Museum number 1861,0518.1173. British Museum. URL: http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details/collection_image_gallery.aspx?assetId=512084&objectId=3009025&partId=1

Diverse wines from Spain

November 18, 2014 1 comment

Our latest experience with Spanish wine has shown us diversity I normally associate with Italy.  The 2013 Bodegas Docampo, Rio Mino Blanco, Ribeiro is an “experimental” blend that was destined to be mixed into other wine.  Fortunately, this experiment was bottled separately for the importer so that we can enjoy acidity driven flavors of lemons, herbs, and minerals.  Try it with food.  Only 50 cases of the 2012 Casar De Burbia, Casar Godello, Fermentado en Barrica, Bierzo were produced.  This barrel fermented Godello already shows good complexity with a deft touch of toast.  It drank very well over five days so I would buy some to drink now and to cellar.  Be sure to serve it blind to lovers of barrel fermented Chardonnay.  I should note that the Docampo and Burbia should be drunk just below cellar temperature which is certainly warmer than refrigerator temperature.  The 2013 Partida Creus, Vinel-Lo, Catalunya has quite the blend of varieties. The nose is a fantastic blend of strawberries and potpourri suitable for the impending holiday seasons.  For me it is a somewhat polarizing wine due to its natural wine aspects and I think one glass at a time is perfect.  The Bodegas Docampo and Casar De Burbia were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.  The Partida Creus was purchased at Despaña Vino y Mas.

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2013 Bodegas Docampo, Rio Mino Blanco, Ribeiro – $17
Imported by South River Imports.  This wine is a blend of 40% Treixadura, 40% Godello, and 20% Torrontes.  Alcohol 12%.  The fruit aromas become riper with extended air.  In the mouth there were acidity driven flavors of bright and tart lemons.  The lemons enjoyably mixed with dried herbs and a stone note.  The wine maintained good tension from acidity and had a salivating finish.  It should last for some time but why not drink it now?  *** Now-2016.

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2012 Casar De Burbia, Casar Godello, Fermentado en Barrica, Bierzo – $30
Imported by South River Imports.  This wine is 100% Godello sourced from 50+ year old vines located at 600 meters on soils of slate and quartz.  The wine fruit was fermented in French oak barrels then aged on the lees for 12 months.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The color was a very light amber straw.  The nose bore aromas of slightly tropical flowers, white fruit, and orchard fruit.  In the mouth were rounded flavors of white fruit that built in texture through the finish.  There was an appropriate amount of toast notes, tangy acidity, and a good mix of chalk and stones.  It has a persistent and expansive aftertaste. ***(*) Now-2020.

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2013 Partida Creus, Vinel-Lo, Catalunya – $25
Imported by USA Wine Imports.  This wine is a blend of Garnatxa, Ull de Perdiu, Sumoll, Queixal de Llop, Samso, Garrut and Trepat that was trodden by foot then fermented with indigenous yeast and aged for seven months in stainless steel tanks.  No sulphur was added.  Alcohol 11.5%.  The wine was rather light with a slightly cloudy colors of straw and red.  The nose was immediately evocative of a natural wine with strawberry and potpourri aromas galore.  In the mouth a tart, berry and potpourri beginning tingled on the tongue.  It had what I consider a classic natural wine profile but the wine certainly built in attraction.  The wine was very stable after opening.  ** Now -2016.

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Plat map of Anaheim, California, showing the year vines became diseased. Circa 1880s

November 17, 2014 Leave a comment

This image shows a plat map of Anaheim, California from the 1880s.  For each plat it details what types of vines were planted, the year they were planted, and the year they became diseased.

Plat Map of Anaheim, California [graphic]. 1880s (?). Anaheim Public Library. [1]

Plat Map of Anaheim, California [graphic]. 1880s (?). Anaheim Public Library. [1]


[1] Plat Map of Anaheim, California [graphic]. 1880s (?). Accession number: P152. Anaheim Public Library. URL: http://www.oac.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/kt5k40197q/?layout=metadata&brand=oac4

August Clape’s 2013 Le Vin des Amis

November 17, 2014 Leave a comment

August Clape’s Le Vin des Amis is a great introduction to traditionally made Northern Rhone Syrah.  The fruit is sourced from the plain near the Rhône and very young Cornas vines. The wine itself is vinified similar to the Cornas and sometimes a bit of press wine from Cornas is added as well.  The result is a wine that always smells and tastes like nothing else.  Unfortunately, the 2013 vintage in the Northern Rhone saw significantly reduced yields, which means this wine is essentially all but sold out.  That is a shame for this vintage is ready to drink now.  Do not worry about scores or ageability, you should drink Le Vin des Amis for the experience.  This wine was purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

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2013 Domaine A. Clape, Le Vin des Amis – $30
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from 40-year-old vines on soils of round river stones. It was fermented with indigenous yeasts in cement tanks then underwent malolactic fermentation and aging for 6 months in cement cuves and 6 months in foudres. Alcohol 12%.  The wine was immediately aromatic with sweet, old-school floral aromas that were straight up exotic. In the mouth were very approachable flavors that followed the nose.  It was enjoyable odd in a way, the old-school flavors clearly exceeding my ability to describe them.  Some chewy, structure developed with air along with juicy acidity.  There was an expansive finish with drier flavors of polished wood before the persistent aftertaste.  Refreshing as well.  *** Now-2019.

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“Five, in the Afternoon”: A scene from the day of a young dandy’s life in 1795.

November 15, 2014 Leave a comment

This image is from a set depicting various times during the day.  This particular image shows a young dandy on a sofa with a young woman.  They both hold glasses filled from the two Madeira bottles on the table.  Below the title at the bottom appears the line, “With Women & Wine I defy ev’ry Care”.

"Five, in the Afternoon". 1795. [1]

“Five, in the Afternoon”. 1795. [1]


[1] Five, in the Afternoon. After Dighton, Robert. 1795. British Museum. 2010,7081.434

“[I]t will not be exceeded by an[y] Wine in the Universe”: Descriptions of James Madison’s Madeira

November 14, 2014 2 comments

During retirement, James Madison preferred to drink the Madeira he “put away in the pediment of the portico…above all new importations”.[1]  These were the bottles he purposely stored in the attic of Montpelier, his home in Virginia.  James Madison also had “several large wine cellars” full of “old-fashioned wines” in the basement of Montpelier.[2]   This storage preference is telling because it illustrates an appreciation of flavor affected by the cycling of temperature throughout the year over the stable development in a wine cellar.  James Madison’s father also stored his Madeira “in the wall” so it is possible this preference developed early in life.

The Islands of Madeira Porto Santo and Dezertas. Surveyed by Captain ATE Vidal RN in HMS Styx 1843. 1847. Copyright National Maritime Museum, London

The Islands of Madeira Porto Santo and Dezertas. Surveyed by Captain ATE Vidal RN in HMS Styx 1843. 1847. Copyright National Maritime Museum, London

A letter to James Madison from a local wine merchant encapsulates what were considered important attributes for Madeira.[3]  The letter states that the agents would “pay strict attention to your directions as to the body, flavor, [&] Color of the wine.”  These were actually widespread concerns meant to address geographically different preferences for Madeira.  While living in Washington, DC, James Madison could have readily purchased all of his wine from merchants in Georgetown and Alexandria but instead he chose to specifically order his Madeira.  I suspect he was looking for certain qualities in his favorite drink, Madeira.  While we do not yet know what James Madison’s specific importations of Madeira looked, smelled, and tasted like, it is possible to form a general idea.  To do so, it is helpful to broaden the correspondence reviewed.

The Island of Madeira with the Brig Comet Thomas Ormston Master entering the Bay of Funchal. 1831. Copyright National Maritime Museum, London.

The Island of Madeira with the Brig Comet Thomas Ormston Master entering the Bay of Funchal. 1831. Copyright National Maritime Museum, London.

Color is the first aspect one notices of wine in a glass.  A desirable color was of such importance that a wine merchant wrote to George Washington in 1760 that his cask of Madeira had a “Color we have endeavored Carefully to please you.”[4]  Merchants were not simply picking casks of a particular color, they were coloring the wines.  Benjamin Franklin received a case of wine split between “high coloured or Madeira Wine” and “pale Wine”.[5]  It was even recommended that cyder be colored for “It will add Greatly to its beauty to have it a little coloured”.[6]  Contemporary to James Madison’s orders was Thomas Jefferson’s receipt of a “half Pipe Natural Sherry” and a half pipe “Sherry with Color”.[7]  The “Natural Sherry” was without “color or any additives”.[8]

There is but one example of the actual color of Madeira from this period.  George Washington received three year old “very choice Particulr Madeira Wine” that was “of a fine Amber Colour”.[9]  This description matches an advertisement in New York City for similarly aged Madeira[10] and is distinct from “old pale” Madeira.[11]  The implication is that the Amber wine was more colorful.  James Madison preferred Madeira that was “rather of the deeper colour”.[12]  A later order of Madeira was also described as “of a very deep colour”.[13]

Advertisement for "Amber colour Madeira Wine". [10]

Advertisement for “Amber colour Madeira Wine”. [10]

I can find no descriptions of body in the James Madison’s papers.  We know that George Washington requested a “rich oily Wine” for one of his Madeira orders.[14]  Thomas Jefferson later wrote of “silky Madeira” that was made by “putting a small portion of Malmsey into the dry Madeira.”[15]

James Madison was very specific when it came to the handling of Madeira for he desired to achieve a particular flavor.  He preferred to age his Madeira in cask for at least five years.[16]  If he received an order of Madeira he was sure to let the cask remain stationery for quite some time.[17]  This allowed all of the lees or dead yeast cells to settle on the bottom.  As an alternative to waiting, many people would fine their wines to remove the lees.  This usually involved putting an ingredient into the cask to help bind the lees together so they would settle down on the bottom.  One correspondent noted his wines were frequently spoiled in finning.  His preferred method was to pour a pint of milk into the cask.[18]   After agitating the cask the top third of the cask would be clear in one week and the bottom would be clear in two weeks.  He drank his wine from the cask for it was “milder than when bottled” and that bottled wine “has a sediment which often fouls the wine.”

James Madison did not drink his Madeira straight from cask.  After letting the cask age and settle he preferred to bottle the Madeira for further aging.  He felt that this was the ideal “mode of compleating its flavour.”  He wrote that “wine is said to attain its perfection best by lying 5 or 6 years in Cask, and then going into bottles and kept throughout in warm situations.”  James Madison found that a particular parcel of Madeira which he had bottled then stored in the garret or attic for 18 months had become “exquisite”.

Advertisement for "old south side Madeira Wine". Date: Monday, July 24, 1815  Paper: Baltimore Patriot (Baltimore, MD)   Volume: VI   Issue: 798   Page: 3.

Advertisement for “old south side Madeira Wine”. Date: Monday, July 24, 1815 Paper: Baltimore Patriot (Baltimore, MD) Volume: VI Issue: 798 Page: 3.

James Madison was succinct in describing the Madeira he particularly enjoyed.  In one case, two pipes of 1800 Madeira were sourced from the private stock of Don Jao de Carvahal.[19]  Described as the “richest man” on the Madeira island the wine came from “the best plantations”.  Tasted at 11 years of age, James Madison found the Madeira “proved very satisfying” and that the pipes “seem to be unusually fine and well flavored”.[20]  He naturally requested two more pipes.  The quality of this Madeira was due to it being “pure” unmixed south-side Madeira from a good old vintage.  The vintages of 1808-1811 were “remarkably bad” forcing merchants to mix “new & north wines with the old south” to ripen during the sea voyage.

James Madison ordered a wide variety of Madeira such as London Market, London Particular, Malmsey, Sercial, and Terita [sic].  While there is not enough surviving documentation to learn what all of these wines were like, it is clear that James Madison enjoyed the flavor of Madeira affected by age.  As one guest of James Madison wrote in 1816, the “Madeira that he purchased in Philadelphia in :96 made a part of every day’s fare!”.[21]


[1] Mary Estelle Elizabeth Cutts Memoir II, [1849-1856], Cutts Family Collection of Papers of James and Dolley Madison, Library of Congress, Washington, DC. MRD-S 23538
[2] See both Hunt, Gaillard. The life of James Madison. 1902. URL:  http://books.google.com/books?id=-A35AwAAQBAJ&lpg=PP1&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false and Homes of American Statesmen. 1855. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=uvUUAAAAYAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[3] “To James Madison from Adams Herbert and Company, 3 May 1816,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/99-01-02-5116, ver. 2014-05-09). Source: this is an Early Access document from The Papers of James Madison. It is not an authoritative final version.
[4] “To George Washington from Hill, Lamar & Hill, 28 March 1760,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/02-06-02-0219, ver. 2014-05-09). Source: The Papers of George Washington, Colonial Series, vol. 6, 4 September 1758 – 26 December 1760, ed. W. W. Abbot. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1988, pp. 404–405.
[5] “To Benjamin Franklin from Thomas Wharton, 18 November 1767,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Franklin/01-14-02-0189, ver. 2014-05-09). Source: The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, vol. 14, January 1 through December 31, 1767, ed. Leonard W. Labaree. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1970, pp. 310–311.
[6] “To Thomas Jefferson from Adam Lindsay, 12 April 1792,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-23-02-0361, ver. 2014-05-09). Source: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 23, 1 January–31 May 1792, ed. Charles T. Cullen. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990, pp. 409–410.
[7] “To Thomas Jefferson from Joseph Yznardi, Sr., 12 February 1802,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-36-02-0375, ver. 2014-05-09). Source: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 36, 1 December 1801–3 March 1802, ed. Barbara B. Oberg. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009, pp. 572–573.
[8] “To Thomas Jefferson from Joseph Yznardi, Sr., 30 January 1802,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-36-02-0307, ver. 2014-05-09). Source: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 36, 1 December 1801–3 March 1802, ed. Barbara B. Oberg. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009, pp. 482–484.
[9] “To George Washington from John Searle, 15 July 1783,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/99-01-02-11598, ver. 2014-05-09). Source: this is an Early Access document from The Papers of George Washington. It is not an authoritative final version.
[10] Advertisement. Date: Monday, April 25, 1763           Paper: New-York Mercury (New York, NY)   Issue: 600   Page: 3
[11] Advertisement. Date: Monday, September 12, 1763               Paper: Boston Post-Boy (Boston, MA)   Issue: 317   Page: 4
[12] “From James Madison to William Jarvis, 30 October 1807,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/99-01-02-2276, ver. 2014-05-09). Source: this is an Early Access document from The Papers of James Madison. It is not an authoritative final version.
[13] “To James Madison from Anthony-Charles Cazenove, 13 July 1815,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/99-01-02-4510, ver. 2014-05-09). Source: this is an Early Access document from The Papers of James Madison. It is not an authoritative final version.
[14] “From George Washington to John and James Searle, 30 April 1763,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/02-07-02-0127 [last update: 2014-09-30]). Source: The Papers of George Washington, Colonial Series, vol. 7, 1 January 1761 – 15 June 1767, ed. W. W. Abbot and Dorothy Twohig. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1990, p. 208.
[15] “From Thomas Jefferson to Stephen Cathalan, Jr., 26 May 1819,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/98-01-02-0434 [last update: 2014-09-30]). Source: this is an Early Access document from The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series. It is not an authoritative final version.
[16] “From James Madison to Isaac Hite, 15 December 1804,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/02-08-02-0403 [last update: 2014-09-30]). Source: The Papers of James Madison, Secretary of State Series, vol. 8, 1 September 1804 – 31 January 1805 and supplement 1776 – 23 June 1804, ed. Mary A. Hackett, J. C. A. Stagg, Mary Parke Johnson, Anne Mandeville Colony, Angela Kreider, Jeanne Kerr Cross, and Wendy Ellen Perry. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2007, p. 381.
[17] “From James Madison to Francis Corbin, 28 May 1817,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/04-01-02-0051 [last update: 2014-09-30]). Source: The Papers of James Madison, Retirement Series, vol. 1, 4 March 1817 – 31 January 1820, ed. David B. Mattern, J. C. A. Stagg, Mary Parke Johnson, and Anne Mandeville Colony. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009, pp. 52–53.
[18] “To James Madison from Thomas Newton, 28 November 1806,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/99-01-02-1118 [last update: 2014-09-30]). Source: this is an Early Access document from The Papers of James Madison. It is not an authoritative final version.
[19] “To James Madison from James Leander Cathcart, 13 August 1810 (Abstract),” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/03-02-02-0594 [last update: 2014-09-30]). Source: The Papers of James Madison, Presidential Series, vol. 2, 1 October 1809–2 November 1810, ed. J. C. A. Stagg, Jeanne Kerr Cross, and Susan Holbrook Perdue. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1992, p. 483.
[20] “From James Madison to James Leander Cathcart, 28 May 1811 (Abstract),” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/03-03-02-0371 [last update: 2014-09-30]). Source: The Papers of James Madison, Presidential Series, vol. 3, 3 November 1810–4 November 1811, ed. J. C. A. Stagg, Jeanne Kerr Cross, and Susan Holbrook Perdue. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1996, p. 320.
[21] Richard Rush to Charles Jared Ingersoll, October 9, 1816, box 3, folder 8, Charles Jared Ingersoll Papers, MS 1812, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. MRD-S 29167

Another lovely Saumur Champigny from Thierry Germain

November 14, 2014 Leave a comment

You cannot miss the changing labels of Thierry Germain for he has a certain aesthetic when it comes to his color choices. The recently released 2013 Domaine des Roches Neuves, Saumur Champigny is another excellent, yet different vintage compared to the 2012.  Of that vintage I wrote “Texture is the key” in my post Cahors, Saumur Champigny, and Tautavel.   For this vintage I would suggest lightness (as in levity) and drinkability.  This is the sort of wine to open with your friends.  It it engaging, will stimulate conversation, yet at the end of the evening you will feel satisfied and sober.  This wine was purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

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2013 Domaine des Roches Neuves, Saumur Champigny – $20
Imported by Elite Wines Imports.  This wine is 100% Cabernet Franc sourced from 25+ year old vines which was fermented with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel then aged for three to four months in both stainless steel and oak.  Alcohol 12.5%.  There was a lovely  nose of white pepper mixed with fresh black fruit.  In the mouth were attractive flavors of tart black fruit, a hint of greenhouse, and good tannins.  Tangy black grip came out with air but the overall sense of lightness and moderate structure suggest a wine to drink sooner than later.  *** Now-2016.

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There is no school like old-school: the wines of Chateau Maris

November 13, 2014 Leave a comment

Robert Eden took over Chateau Maris in 1996.  With his business partner Kevin Parker, they set about restoring the tired vineyards using biodynamic principles.  The estate now has 79 acres of vines that are certified by Demeter, Biodyvins, and Ecocert.  In keeping with these principles the fruit is fermented with indigenous yeasts, the wines are not corrected, and they are bottled unfined and unfiltered.  The 2012 Chateau Marvis, Old School Rouge, Minervois is specifically produced to preserve the freshness of the fruit.   Our particular bottle drank great over two nights with textured fruit, minerals, and rustic structure.  There are few wines that have both personality and potential for development at $12 per bottle.  This is one of those few so be sure to purchase it by the case!  The 2012 Chateau Maris, Continuite de Nature, Minervois La Liviniere is notable not only for the use of a vineyard planted in 1922 but the vineyard’s location in the Minervois cru of La Liviniere.  I did not know this cru even existed!  In moving from young Syrah to old Carignan the wine offers up ripe, fresh fruit without any seams at all.  I must admit I fell for the seductive quality of the wine and did not give it proper time to open up.  In order to better gauge this wine I would give it a proper decant or wait until the new year.  This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.

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2012 Chateau Maris, Old School Rouge, Minervois – $12
Imported by Verity Wine Partners.  This wine is a blend of 85% Syrah and 15% Grenache sourced from 20 year old vines planted at 850 feet of elevation.  The fruit was fermented in concrete vats using indigenous yeasts and underwent malolactic fermentation.  Alcohol 14.5%.  There were controlled ripe and textured black fruit flavors before the wine took on a mineral hint.  The wine was balanced by acidity with some roast notes and a drier finish.  There is generally a lot of flavor in the mouth with a good aftertaste.  With air this subtly rustic wine shows structure for short-term aging, some glycerin and density.   **(*) Now-2018.

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2012 Chateau Maris, Continuite de Nature, Minervois La Liviniere – $27
Imported by Verity Wine Partners.  This wine is a blend of 90% Carignan and 10% Grenache sourced from vines planted in 1922 at 1200 feet of elevation.  The fruit was fermented in canonical wooden tanks using indigenous yeasts, underwent malolactic fermentation, then was aged for 12 months in 10% new French oak barrels.  Alcohol 15%. There were ripe, fresh and sweet (not from residual sugar) fruit flavors that mixed with cinnamon baking spices and some roast in the finish. The flavors have good energy.  The structure is there but it is very approachable now, almost seductive, and should be drunk sooner than later.  ***/***(*) 2015 – 2020.

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“Marked on the cork”: The identification of James Madison’s wine

November 12, 2014 Leave a comment

The Treaty of Ghent marked the end of the War of 1812 which was fought between the United States of America and Great Britain.  The treaty was signed on December 24, 1814, just several months after invading British forces burned the Capitol and President’s House.  Amongst the losses from the burning was the destruction of James Madison’s presidential wine cellar.

President James Madison’s wine orders continued to be shipped after the burning.  One shipment of wine was sent immediately after the signing of the Treaty of Ghent.  It consisted of a box, presumably of Bordeaux wine.[1]  This box was placed onboard the U.S. schooner Transit which famously bore a copy of the Treaty of Ghent escorted by Christopher Hughes Jr.  Christopher Hughes Jr. was carrying one of three copies of the treaty that were redundantly sent back to Washington, DC, for signing by Congress.

James Madison's Montpelier.  c. 1914. Image from Wikimedia.

James Madison’s Montpelier. c. 1914. Image from Wikimedia.

The box of wine never made it to President James Madison for it was drunk aboard the schooner.  It was subsequently replaced with wine Christopher Hughes Jr. purchased in Bordeaux.  I suspect he needed extra wine to celebrate the end of war during the long journey across the Atlantic Ocean.  It would not be by accident that Christopher Hughes Jr. was involved with the consumption of President James Madison’s box of wine.  Christopher Hughes Jr. would have known what he was drinking the President’s wine because the box would have been marked to identify both the shipper of the wine and the recipient.

Wine was kept in “Secure Storage”. Cellar floor plan from James Madison’s Montpelier. URL: http://www.montpelier.org/

The wines of James Madison were transported and stored in both wooden casks and bottles.  His wine was ordered both within America and from Europe.  In both cases the long journey involved stages of transit and storage, both of which could involve loss from theft, adulteration, or damage.  James Madison was aware of this danger and even took the time to write James Monroe to secure his wine against “every species of casualty by land as well as by water”.[2]  The packaging and marking of the wine thus depended upon the container.

A cask of wine contains a hole for filling and draining the wine.  The hole is sealed with a bung or stopper which meant that a thief could pry open the bung to access the wine.  In one instance a cask of James Madison’s wine was drained then “filled up with Water” by seamen.[3]  To prevent such theft James Madison wrote to his father in 1792 that a cask was to be placed inside a wood case to “secure it against fraud”.[4] James Madison continued to employ casing for his casks of fine wine.  His 1807 order of “finest old Madeira wine” involved an extra charge of £1 20s. for each of the cases.[5]  To secure the wine from damage these “strong” casks were “trimmed with twelve iron hoops each”.[6]   While James Madison typically cased his casks his order of two hogsheads of “old Cantenac wine” were placed in “double casks”.[7]  This involved removing the head of a larger, empty cask then slipping the cask of wine inside and padding it, perhaps with straw.

Wine in bottle was shipped in wood boxes.  The boxes held different numbers of bottles no doubt partially dependent upon the bottle being a pint, quart, or flask.  One box of old “Rhenish Wine” contained 60 bottles.[8]  Another shipment that year involved cases of both 30 and 36 bottles.[9]  Improperly packed cases resulted in broken bottles.

Crop of brand from bill of lading. [6]

Crop of brand from bill of lading. [6]

Casks, bottles, and boxes were not marked with paper labels as they are now.  To identify the casks and boxes they would bear both brands and marks.  Together this would distinguish individual wines within a single order as well as the order from the property of others.  Thus the previously mentioned 1807 order of “finest old Madeira wine” was branded with “MYW CO:” for the shipper Murdoch, Yuille, Wardrop & Co. and marked with “JM” for James Madison.  A combined order of Sherry for both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison was marked on the casks and cases with “PX” for President Thomas Jefferson and “M” for James Madison.[10]  The same letter did indicate that “the Young Gentleman” who cased the casks did not look at the marks thus “the Case must therefore be removed from one before it Can be discovered to whom each belongs.”  A later order of “old Madeira wine” involved two casks and one quarter-cask all of which were cased.  The casks were not only marked “JM” and branded “IL Cathcart” but painted.[11] Unfortunately, there is no indication of color!

The Marks for James Madison's cases of white wine and 1798 Ch. Haut-Brion red wine.

The Marks for James Madison’s cases of white wine and 1798 Ch. Haut-Brion red wine.

Wine bottles were marked by other means.  When an order of Madeira in pipes was bottled for both James Madison and James Munroe, a string was tied around James Munroe’s bottles.[12]  It was noted that the dregs of the Madeira from the bottom of the pipes were in bottles that were “corked in the common Way.”  It is possible these bottles only had the corks driven in whereas the other bottles had the corks sealed with wax.  We know James Madison was familiar with wax for his 1802 “white Hermitage wine, Cortillon” bore yellow wax seals.[13]  In one order, the bottles of “Old Chateau Margaux” were “marked with a wafer on the bottom of the bottle.”[14]  It is possible this mark refers to wafer seals that were typically used to seal letters.  They were made from a paste that was often colored, dried, and cut into a circle.  Once wet it could be applied to a surface, in this case the bottom of a wine bottle.  Being that the wines were old the corks could have already been sealed with wax so the wafer was used to distinguish James Madison’s order.  Unfortunately, there are no related documents at Chateau Margaux so we do not know if this was a common or uncommon practice.[15]

It is noted that in the same order the 73 bottles of Clos de Vougeot were “marked on the cork”.  This order took place in 1811 and is a fantastic description because it is the earliest reference I can find to the marking of corks for bottles of wine in America.  From my Murder & Thieves series we know that private individuals were marking their corks as far back as 1762 in London.  The only other early American reference I am aware dates to 1844.[16]

James Madison wine bottle seal. Images from James Madison’s Montpelier. URL: http://www.montpelier.org/

When it came to drinking Madeira, James Madison preferred to drink from a bottle rather than straight from the cask.[17] He would have bottled his wine in the cellar of Montpelier, his Virginia home, or at the President’s House.  These bottles would be stored for some time including one parcel that spent 18 months in his garret at Montpelier.[18]  Archaeological excavations have revealed bottle fragments both from Mount Pleasant, the first Madison family home at Montpelier, and around the second family home, the Montpelier mansion.  James Madison’s father, James Madison Sr., used wine bottles that had personalized glass seals on them.  Some of the seals bore his initials and others his name.  James Madison used wine bottle seals as well.

Unfortunately, we do not know how James Madison organized his bottles.  There are no surviving orders for wine bottles, corks, and sealing wax nor descriptions of how he marked his bottles.  Wine bottle seals were useful in distinguishing privately bottled wine from that which was purchased in bottle.  So it is possible James Madison employed various methods such as color coded wax, chalk marks on bottles, and even tags tied on with strings to identify his own bottled wine.


[1] “To James Madison from William Lee, 6 September 1815,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/99-01-02-4638, ver. 2014-05-09). Source: this is an Early Access document from The Papers of James Madison. It is not an authoritative final version.
[2] “From James Madison to James Monroe, 20 July 1799,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/01-17-02-0163, ver. 2014-05-09). Source: The Papers of James Madison, vol. 17, 31 March 1797–3 March 1801 and supplement 22 January 1778–9 August 1795, ed. David B. Mattern, J. C. A. Stagg, Jeanne K. Cross, and Susan Holbrook Perdue. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1991, pp. 254–255.
[3] “To James Madison from William Jarvis, 25 February 1809,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/99-01-02-4069, ver. 2014-05-09). Source: this is an Early Access document from The Papers of James Madison. It is not an authoritative final version.
[4] “From James Madison to James Madison, Sr., 17 April 1792,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/01-14-02-0262, ver. 2014-05-09). Source: The Papers of James Madison, vol. 14, 6 April 1791 – 16 March 1793, ed. Robert A. Rutland and Thomas A. Mason. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1983, pp. 290–291.
[5] “To James Madison from Murdoch Yuille Wardrop and Company, 10 January 1807,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/99-01-02-1271, ver. 2014-05-09). Source: this is an Early Access document from The Papers of James Madison. It is not an authoritative final version.
[6] The James Madison Papers. Murdock,Yuille, Wardrop & Co. to James Madison, January 10, 1807. Bill of lading and copy included. URL: http://memory.loc.gov/master/mss/mjm/09/0400/0452d.jpg
[7] The James Madison Papers.  William Lee to James Madison, October 4, 1807. Includes two bills of lading and invoices. URL: http://memory.loc.gov/master/mss/mjm/09/1000/1064d.jpg
[8] “To James Madison from Frederick Jacob Wichelhausen, 4 April 1804 (Abstract),” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/02-07-02-0009, ver. 2014-05-09). Source: The Papers of James Madison, Secretary of State Series, vol. 7, 2 April–31 August 1804, ed. David B. Mattern, J. C. A. Stagg, Ellen J. Barber, Anne Mandeville Colony, Angela Kreider, and Jeanne Kerr Cross. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2005, pp. 4–5.
[9] “To James Madison from William Lee, 20 June 1804 (Abstract),” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/02-07-02-0356, ver. 2014-05-09). Source: The Papers of James Madison, Secretary of State Series, vol. 7, 2 April–31 August 1804, ed. David B. Mattern, J. C. A. Stagg, Ellen J. Barber, Anne Mandeville Colony, Angela Kreider, and Jeanne Kerr Cross. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2005, pp. 344–345.  For the bill of lading see: The James Madison Papers. Robert Hatton, June 19, 1804. Two bills of lading and copy, wine & copper shipments. URL: http://memory.loc.gov/master/mss/mjm/08/0300/0355d.jpg
[10] “To James Madison from Chandler Price, 14 December 1804,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/02-08-02-0399, ver. 2014-05-09). Source: The Papers of James Madison, Secretary of State Series, vol. 8, 1 September 1804 – 31 January 1805 and supplement 1776 – 23 June 1804, ed. Mary A. Hackett, J. C. A. Stagg, Mary Parke Johnson, Anne Mandeville Colony, Angela Kreider, Jeanne Kerr Cross, and Wendy Ellen Perry. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2007, p. 378.
[11] The James Madison Papers.  James Leander Cathcart to James Madison, August 13, 1810. Invoice and Bill of lading. URL: http://memory.loc.gov/master/mss/mjm/12/0500/0539d.jpg
[12] “To James Madison from James Yard, 28 October 1800,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/01-17-02-0277, ver. 2014-05-09). Source: The Papers of James Madison, vol. 17, 31 March 1797–3 March 1801 and supplement 22 January 1778–9 August 1795, ed. David B. Mattern, J. C. A. Stagg, Jeanne K. Cross, and Susan Holbrook Perdue. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1991, pp. 429–430.
[13] “To James Madison from Stephen Cathalan, Jr., 5 November 1806,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/99-01-02-1043, ver. 2014-05-09). Source: this is an Early Access document from The Papers of James Madison. It is not an authoritative final version.
[14] “Account with Joel Barlow, 12 June 1811 (Abstract),” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/03-03-02-0395, ver. 2014-05-09). Source: The Papers of James Madison, Presidential Series, vol. 3, 3 November 1810–4 November 1811, ed. J. C. A. Stagg, Jeanne Kerr Cross, and Susan Holbrook Perdue. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1996, p. 340.
[15] Per email from Johana Loubet, External Relations Manager, Chateau Margaux. October 21, 2014.
[16] Date: Wednesday, September 11, 1844      Paper: Alexandria Gazette (Alexandria, VA)   Page: 3
[17] “From James Madison to Francis Corbin, 28 May 1817,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/04-01-02-0051, ver. 2014-05-09). Source: The Papers of James Madison, Retirement Series, vol. 1, 4 March 1817 – 31 January 1820, ed. David B. Mattern, J. C. A. Stagg, Mary Parke Johnson, and Anne Mandeville Colony. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009, pp. 52–53.
[18] “From James Madison to Isaac Hite, 15 December 1804,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/02-08-02-0403, ver. 2014-05-09). Source: The Papers of James Madison, Secretary of State Series, vol. 8, 1 September 1804 – 31 January 1805 and supplement 1776 – 23 June 1804, ed. Mary A. Hackett, J. C. A. Stagg, Mary Parke Johnson, Anne Mandeville Colony, Angela Kreider, Jeanne Kerr Cross, and Wendy Ellen Perry. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2007, p. 381.

The must-try 2010 Yannick Amirault, Les Quartiers, Bourgueil

November 11, 2014 Leave a comment

Yannick Amirault has been tending the family vineyard and making wine since 1977.  Today he is joined by his son Ben and focuses exclusively on Cabernet Franc.   The 2010 Yannick Amirault, Les Quartiers, Bourgueil is produced from the 1.5 ha vineyard known as La terre à Blanc due to the chalk soils.  The 45-year old vines are hand harvested then whole-cluster fermented in wooden vats followed by aging for 30 months in barrel.  These efforts have produced a wine with deep aromas and mouth filling flavors of dense and textured dark fruit.  The long aging in barrel is supportive rather than intrusive for this is a wine that will clearly improve over the next several years yet it is quite enjoyable right now.   Those who stay away from the red wines of the Loire should reevaluate with this bottle.  Thanks to Warren for the recommendation.  This wine was purchased at Weygandt Wines.

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2010 Yannick Amirault, Les Quartiers, Bourgueil – $28
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler.  This wine is 100% Cabernet Franc that was fermented in wooden vats using indigenous yeasts.  Alcohol 13%.  There were deep aromas of blackberries and fresh pepper.  In the mouth were dense, finely textured flavors that took on notes of plum.  The wine was racy with watering acidity and a drying finish of purple and black fruit.  Though this dense wine is poised for future development it is already mouth-filling with perfumed flavors and a complex aftertaste of bitters. ***(*) Now-2024.

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