Home > History of Wine > “Light and delightful, especially when iced”: 19th century descriptions of Hamadan wine in Persia

“Light and delightful, especially when iced”: 19th century descriptions of Hamadan wine in Persia


The wine of Shiraz, the city in what was once Persia and now Iran, were renowned around the world.  There was another wine that was described as of the same quality, that of the ancient city of Hamadan.  Hamadan is located south west of Tehran, up in the foothills of the Alvand Mountain.  The city is one of the oldest in the world dating back to the Assyrians some 3,000 years ago.  Due to the expansion of British interest in central Asia during the 19th century, written English descriptions of Hamadan wine are readily found.

Persia, Afghanistan, Baluchistan. 1897. [3]

Persia, Afghanistan, Baluchistan. 1897. [3]

Charles James Willis felt that only the wines of Shiraz and Hamadan were worthy of the cellar.  He described Hamadan wine as “a delicious pale white wine, with a powerful natural bouquet, resembling Moselle.  It is, when new, rather too sweet.  It is a very heady wine”.  [1]  George Nathaniel Curzon, The Lord Curzon of Kedleston may have felt slightly different in that it resembled “hock”.[3]  Another visitor described the wine as “a sort of strong sauterne, and some of it has quite a delicate flavour”. [2]

Crop showing Hamadan and Tehran from Persia, Afghanistan, Baluchistan. 1897. [3]

Crop showing Hamadan and Tehran from Persia, Afghanistan, Baluchistan. 1897. [3]

When Hamadan wine was stored in bottle it was found to turn sour by the second summer.  Thus the wine kept best when stored in bulk which involved large earthen jars.  Each jar contained some 600-800 bottles worth of wine and were uniquely employed only in this city.  Hamadan is located in the foothills where the winter temperatures average well below freezing.  The large jars had only the bottom three feet buried in the ground.  The cold would penetrate the jars so hotbeds of horse manure were kept around the upper part of each jar.  This source of heat was not always enough for the wine sometimes frozen into a solid piece.  To access the wine for drinking, blocks had to be chopped out!


[0] Willis, Charles James. In the Land of the Lions and the Sun. 1891. URL: https://books.google.com/books?id=30w4AAAAMAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[1] Willis, Charles James. Persia as it is. 1886.  URL: https://books.google.com/books?id=M4c2AAAAMAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[2] Gordon, Sir Thomas Edward.  Persia Revisited. 1896.  URL: https://books.google.com/books?id=eDhFAAAAYAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[3] Persia, Afghanistan, Baluchistan.  Rand McNally. 1897. David Rumsey Map Collection. URL: http://www.davidrumsey.com/
[4]  Curzon, George Nathaniel, The Lord Curzon of Kedleston.Persia and the Persian Question, Volume 2. URL: https://books.google.com/books?id=9c0oAAAAYAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false

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