Home > History of Wine > Charles Bellow’s design for a demijohn that captures the lees

Charles Bellow’s design for a demijohn that captures the lees


It is through Mannie Berk, Rare Wine Co., that I was able to read the text of the “Old Madeira” articles published by Charles Bellows.  Charles Bellows was a wine connoisseur and expert who wrote memorable accounts of old vintages of Madeira in Bonfort’s Circular during 1896 and 1897.  I recently came across a digitized version of these articles and was delighted to see the illustrations.

Design for a demijohn. [1]

Design for a demijohn. [1]

Madeira was often stored in upright demijohns that could contain around 5 gallons or 25 bottles worth of wine.  Left undisturbed, the lees of the Madeira would settle to the bottom of the demijohn.  Charles Bellows wrote of using a siphon to decant off the Madeira so as not to disturb the lees.  As an alternative, he wanted to patent a demijohn design that did not require a siphon.  This design included a “shelf” made from a half circle of glass attached inside the demijohn.  Thus in pouring the Madeira “the mud slips under the glass shelf, and the wine can be poured off clear.”  He did acknowledge the project stopping “difficulty of getting the section of glass blown in the half sides.”


[1] Bellows, Charles. Article on Madeira written for Bonfort’s Circular, 1896, 1897, 1900. 1901. URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2027/hvd.32044019963636

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