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Posts Tagged ‘History of Madeira’

A 19th century advertisement for Blandy’s Madeira

My current correspondence and research inspired me to post this image from Blandy’s of Madeira.

Madères Blandy garantis d’origine. 1896. BnF Gallica [1]


[1]  Madères Blandy garantis d’origine. Blandy frères fondée en 1811. Funchal (Ile de Madère) : [affiche] / Maurice Realier-Dumas 96 ; Ducourtioux & Huillard. Bibliothèque nationale de France. URL: http://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb39840456j

A list of Madeira submitted to the 1876 International Exposition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Vintage at Blandy’s from Anthony Joseph Drexel Biddle’s The Madeira Islands, Volume 2. 1900. [3]

I am a bit obsessed with Madeira lists right now. The different types of Madeira sold at auction over the last several decades are fairly well known and it is relatively easy to amend the impressive list of Madeira found in Noel Cossart’s Madeira, The Island Vineyard, Second Edition (2011). As far as I can tell there are no lists to be found for the Madeira on offer towards the end of the 19th century. I cannot help but wonder if there are vintages and wines sold in the late 19th century that are still available today.

For this post I have gathered up the Madeira wines presented at the 1876 Centennial International Exposition held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  To this I have augmented comments published in 1868 with regards to reports and awards.  Frustratingly, I cannot determine which wines were submitted by such major houses as Cossart, Gordon, & Co. and Leacock & Co.

Looking at the Oidium years Leal, Irmaos & Ca submitted a wine from 1854 which places it just two years after the devastation began.  Just a few years later, perhaps from young vines, Henrique Jose Maria Camacho’s 1860 Malvasia was highly regarded.

Vintages

  • 1826
  • 1828
  • 1829
  • 1830
  • 1840
  • 1844
  • 1848
  • 1846
  • 1850
  • 1851
  • 1854
  • 1860
  • 1863
  • 1865
  • 1868
  • 1870
  • 1872

Wines Submitted and Tasting Notes

Blandy

‘Report.-A precious collection of Madeira wines from 1826 to 1872. The “Boal 1846,” “Sercial 1826,” and “Malvasia 1826,” are remarkably good; highly rich in flavor and taste. All these wines may be said to be among the most delicious of the world.’
1829 Malmsey, Paul do Mar e Feijao do Mar
1826 Reserva, Campanario e Camara de Lobos
1826 Sercial, Paul dos Padres and Feijao dos Padres
1846 Boal, Campanario e Camara de Lobos
1846 Reserva Especial
1851 Reserva
1868 Sul da Madeira, First Quality, Campanario e Camara de Lobos
1868 Sul da Madeira, Second Quality, Santo Antonion e Sao Martinho
1870 Sul da Madeira, First Quality, Sao Martinho e Campanario
1870 Sul da Madeira, Second Quality
1872 Third Quality, Porto da Cruz e Fayal
1872 Third Quality, Porto da Cruz e Ponta Delgada

Henrique Jose Maria Camacho

‘Report.-A very good collection of Madeira wines from 1844 to 1870; remarkably, “Malvasia, 1860,” and “Boa, 1844;” flavor and taste highly rich.’
1844 Boa, Camara de Lobos
1844 Superior Reserva, Camara de Lobos
1850 Reserva, Camara de Lobos
1860 Sercial, Paul do Mar, Calheta
1860 Malvasia, Paul do Mar, Calheta
1870 Moscatel, Sta Luzia, Funchal

Tristao Perestrello de Camara

‘Report.-Very good Madeira wines; flavor and taste very rich.’
1870 M.S., Casa Branca
1870 L., Ladeira

Cossart, Gordon, & Co.

‘Report.-A remarkable collection of very fine Madeira wines,-verygood,-Verdellin, Bool. And Malmsey.’
[Cannot find list of wines submitted.]

Leacock & Co.

‘Report.-Madeira wines of a very superior quality ; flavor and taste remarkably rich.’
[Cannot find list of wines submitted.]

Leal, Irmaos & Ca.

1828 Camara de Lobos
1830 Boal, Campanario
1830 Malmsey, Feijao dos Padres
1830 Sercial, Campanario
1854 R.R., Camara de Lobos
1863 O.R., Camara de Lobos
1865 Boal, Campanario
1865 Camara de Lobos
1865 R., Sul de Ilha
1868 O.S., Sul de Ilha
1870 S., Sul de Ilha

J.J. Rodrigues Leitao & Fos.

‘Report.-Very good Madeira wines; flavor and taste very rich.’
1874 Sta. Maria Maior
1875 Sta. Maria Maior

Seal, Brothers, & Co.

‘Report.-A very good collection of Madeira wines from 1828 to 1870, the celebrated “Boals 1865 and 1830,” “Sercial 1830,” and “Malvasia 1830.” Taste and flavor very rich. Remarkable wines; among the most precious of the world.’
1830 Boal
1830 Sercial
1830 Malvasia
1865 Boal
[Cannot find list of wines submitted.]

Welsh Brothers

‘Report.-Very good Madeira wines. The “Boal,” 1840, is remarkably good. All the collection very rich in flavor and taste.’
1840 Reserve Boal, Quinta Grande, Camara de Lobos
1848 Navy Reserve, Sao Martinho


[1] International Exhibition. 1876. Portugal. Agriculture and Colonies. 1876. URL: https://archive.org/details/internationalexh00port
[2] United States Centennial Commission. Reports and Awards. 1878. URL: https://books.google.com/books?id=GC4SAAAAYAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[3] Biddle, Anthony Joseph Drexel. The Madeira Islands, Volume 2. 1900. URL: https://books.google.com/books?id=PqRBAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA7#v=onepage&q&f=false

Specific Madeira wines mentioned in Vizetelly’s Facts about Port and Madeira (1880)

The Armazem dos Vinhos Velhissimos of Messrs. Cossart, Gordon & co. at Funchal. From Vizetelly “Facts about Port and Madeira”. Google e-Books.

At the recent annual Madeira tasting organized by Mannie Berk and Roy Hersh there was the usual talk of 18th and 19th century vintages both recently purchased and drunk.  There was also talk between Paul Day, Mannie Berk, and myself of historic references to these vary same vintages.  No mention of historic Madeira may be made without referring to Henry Vizetelly’s Facts about Port and Madeira (1880).

For this post I have gathered up all references to Madeira wine where a date or age may be attributed.  Those wines simply described as old or young have been left out.  Vintages marked circa are where I calculated the date based on Vizetelly having been on the island in 1877.  Those marked with a tilda represent what I take to be a vague reference to date, i.e. half a century old.  For solera wines the year typically represents the oldest vintage upon which the solera was founded and not the year the solera was founded.

Vintages Tasted

The vintages tasted include just a handful of wines older than 50 years of age at the time of Vizetelly’s visit to Madeira.   The vintages from the 20 years before the Oidium devastation of 1852 are largely solera.  Except for 1857 Senhor Cunha, Verdelho, the vineyards planted in response to Oidium appear to yield wine again with the 1862 vintage.  From this vintage foward Vizetelly tastes a wine from each year save the 1864 and 1867.

  • 1760
  • 1792 Solera
  • 1820
  • pre-1827
  • c. 1827
  • 1829
  • c. 1832
  • 1832 Solera
  • 1834-35
  • 1835 Solera
  • c. 1838
  • 1842 Solera
  • 1844 Solera
  • 1847
  • 1848
  • 1850 Solera
  • 1851
  • pre-1852
  • 1857
  • 1862
  • 1863
  • 1865
  • 1866
  • 1868
  • 1869
  • 1870
  • 1871
  • 1872
  • 1873
  • 1874
  • 1875
  • 1876

The Tasting Notes

Note, not every vintage wine mentioned includes a tasting note.

Viuva Abudarham e Filhos

1871 Campanarios – “remarkably fine in flavour and possessed a peculiar and delicate bouquet”

Signor Augusto C. Bianchi, partidista

c. 1862 Bual, Campanario – “rich and almost oily in character”
1873 São Martinho – “soft, and with a very fine aroma”
1874 São Martinho – “soft, and with a very fine aroma”

Blandy Brothers

1760 – “but a phantom of its former self, it had not in the slightest degree turned acid”
1792 Solera, Cama de Lobos – “a powerful choice old Reserve”
Pre-1827 Verdelho, São Martinho – “boasting a wonderful perfume…one of the most perfect old Madeiras we ever tasted”
c. 1827 Sercial – “remarkable…to-day emitting a wonderful aromas, and having a marked though pleasant pungent flavour.”
1829 Porto da Cruz, bottled 1842 – “of remarkable lightness and delicacy of flavour””
1868 Cama de Lobos
1870 São Martinho – “excellent wine of medium dryness”
1872 Ponta Delgado – “combining a pleasant dryness with remarkable softness.”
NV 8 Year old blend – “agreeable and not over-spirituous wine, with a slight sub-pungent flavour, and fairly brilliant in colour although it had not been fined.”

Senhor Henrique J. M. Camacho

~1857-1862 Ponta do Pargo – “old, powerful yet refined in flavour”

Cossart, Gordon, and Co.

1832 Solera, Bual – “remarkably delicate in flavor”
1835 Solera, Malmsey – “had all the qualities of a choice liqueur”
1842 Solera, Bastardo, São Martinho – “soft choice wine with fine bouquet”
1844 Solera, Cama de Lobos – “deep-coloured, powerful wine of fine high flavour” replenished with Bastardo.
1850 Solera, Malmsey
1851 Verdelho – “sound mellow wine of the highest character”
1862 Malmsey – “pale, delicate…with a highly-developed bouquet, which promised to become a wine of singularly choice character.”
1863 Viho do Sol
1865 Sercial, Ponta do Pargo – “exceedingly dry and clean-tasting, and slightly pale.”
1874 North Side – “light and agreeable to drink”
1875 North Side – “light and agreeable to drink”

Senhor Cunha, partidista

1847 Bual – “rich pungent”
pre-1852 Malmsey – “luscious and refined, and beautifully rounded.”
pre-1852 Sercial – “dry delicate”
1857 Verdelhos – “particularly fine”
1873 Verdelhos – “particularly fine”

Messrs. R. Donaldson and Co.

1866 Cama de Lobos – “high-flavoured yet delicate wine, and beautiful soft and aromatic”
1869-1870 São Martinho – “proved equally delicate and fragrant.”
1872 Cama de Lobos
1872 Porta de Cruz – ” dry, light, and delicate, and possessing an agreeable freshness”
1872 São Martinho and Santo Antonio – “especially soft, with a very aromatic bouquet”
1876 Porta da Cruz – “grapy alike in flavour and bouquet”

Mr. Henry Dru Drury

1820 Sercial – “powerful bouquet and a dry but scarecely pungent flavour”
~1820 Bual – “exceedingly pungent and powerful – an essence of wine, so to speak”
~1820 Malmsey – “deep-tinted luscious”
1870
1874 Cama de Lobos
1876 Bual – “delicate and fresh-tasting”

Messrs. Henriques and Lawton

c. 1832 Malmsey – “”venerable…of ruby brightness and rich liqueur-like flavour, and possessing an admirable bouquet.”
c. 1865 Sercial – “a great wine in full perfection”
1868 Santo-Antonios – “dry and aromatic”
1870 Santo-Antonios – “dry and aromatic”
1871 Santo-Antonios – “dry and aromatic”
1872 Bual – ” rich oily…too sweet, however, to be drunk excepting as a dessert wine”

Krohn Brothers and Co.

c. 1838 Cama de Lobos – “very strong, yet wonderfully soft, which had developed an exquisite bouquet and a slightly nutty flavour.”
1868 Cama de Lobos – “powerful, sub-pungent and aromatic wine”
1869 Tinta
1874 Cama de Lobos – “very dry”

Leacock

1834-35 – “had acquired a singular softness and delicacy, and proved much less spirituous than we expected to find it.”
1848 Sercial – “deep in colour, and dry and pungent in flavour””
1872 – “slightly more matured, was soft and delicately pungent in flavour”
1873 – “light, dry, and fine-flavoured”

A new Madeira vintage chart for the years 1865-1873

In 1851, the Oidium or powdery mildew appeared on the island of Madeira and production plummeted the following year.  It would take years before vineyards were replanted and wine was again produced in significant quantities.  Replanting appears to have taken place mainly between 1859 and 1862.  As the vines matured the quantity and quality of wine produced increased.

Letter from Oliveira & Davies explaining devastation from Oidium. July 20, 1852. Alexandria Gazette. Genealogy Bank.

In 1867, Cossart, Gordon, and Co. felt that damage by the Oidium had reached trifling levels and in such light submitted a letter to the Editor of The Times of London regarding the current Madeira vintage.  This marked the beginning of a series of annual Madeira vintage reports which appeared in the pages of The Times.  These reports continued until the second crisis from the Phylloxera of the 1870s.

In Noel Cossart’s  Madeira The Island Vineyard , Second Edition (2011) appears a  list of Madeira vintages.  These inter-crisis years are largely regarded as “Small, generally good” with a particular variety or two singled out.  By extracting reports from The Times of London we gain more insight into the vintage variations.  I must say that the description of 1870 as of “not superior quality” does match my recent experience tasting three 1870 Bastardo bottlings the other weekend.  They were good but not great.

  • 1865 – Disappointing quality overall
  • 1866 – 2,300 pipes, good quality overall
  • 1867 – 2,300 pipes (1,600 south side and 700 pipes north side), good quality better than 1866, south side is best quality and north side inferior in strength and flavor.
  • 1868 – 4,000 pipes (3,600 south side and 400 pipes north side) up to 8,000 pipes, probably good quality overall, south side is good and north side very inferior.
  • 1869 – 8,000 pipes, very good quality overall
  • 1870 – 8,000 pipes, not superior quality overall
  • 1871 – 10,000 pipes, very good quality overall
  • 1872 – 8,000 pipes, quite equal to 1871 overall
  • 1873 – 10,000 pipes, about average quality overall

Cossart, Gordon, & Co letter to the Editor, The Times, August 9, 1867. Digital Archive 1785-2011, Gale Cengage Learning.
Money-Market & City-Intelligence, The Times, December 16, 1867. Digital Archive 1785-2011, Gale Cengage Learning.
Cossart, Gordon, & Co letter to the Editor, The Times, July 29, 1868. Digital Archive 1785-2011, Gale Cengage Learning.
Money-Market & City-Intelligence, The Times, November 27, 1868. Digital Archive 1785-2011, Gale Cengage Learning.
Money-Market & City-Intelligence, The Times, November 19, 1869. Digital Archive 1785-2011, Gale Cengage Learning.
Money-Market & City-Intelligence, The Times, December 1, 1870. Digital Archive 1785-2011, Gale Cengage Learning.
Money-Market & City-Intelligence, The Times, December 5, 1871. Digital Archive 1785-2011, Gale Cengage Learning.
Cossart, Gordon, & Co letter to the Editor, The Times, December 17, 1872. Digital Archive 1785-2011, Gale Cengage Learning.
Money-Market & City-Intelligence, The Times, December 5, 1873. Digital Archive 1785-2011, Gale Cengage Learning.

“mellow Madeira Wine…from Calcutta”

James Madison loved Madeira above all other wines.  During February 1816, near the end of his second term as President, at a time when the end of the War of 1812 between Great Britain and America meant regular trade with the island of Madeira had resumed, James Madison corresponded within one week about two seperate orders of Madeira.

From Murdoch, Yuille, Wardrop, and Co. came two pipes of “finest, old wine” and from J. Howard March & Co. came one pipe of “the very best old Madeira Wine”.[1]  The timing of these orders meant they were both sent on the schooner Mary & Francis under command of Captain Nathaniel Cushing.

Invoice to James Madison for “Mellow Madeira”. LOC. [2]

The invoice from J. Howard March & Co. provides further description of the Madeira as “the best old Mellow Madeira Wine”.[2]  There are very few descriptions of the color, smell, and taste of Madeira wine from this period. This is a unique appearance of “mellow Madeira” in early American Madeira correspondence so it is important to investigate the meaning. [3]

In the late 18th century there are but a handful of examples of mellow wine in literature.  John Croft writes of “sound, old mellow Madeira” in 1783 when describing the American habit of storing wine in the attic.[4]  Duncan McBride notes that Spanish Sitges wine develops a “mellow taste” as it “advances in age”.[5]  A mellowing effect was known to take place on Madeira during the long, warm trip in the hold of an East India ship.[6]  It took decades before this term appears in use in America.

Advertisement for two half pipes of old Mellow Madeira Wine. [6]

James Madison’s particular order from J. Howard March & Co marks the first instance of mellow used to describe Madeira in America.  The schooner Mary & Francis carried other pipes of Madeira which were sold to the general public by at least two different merchants.  N & R Blacklock had two half-pipes of the mellow Madeira which are additionally described as “high flavor and full body”.[7]

Beginning in 1816, the term “mellow Madeira” appears in advertisements at various frequencies for the next three decades until oidium struck the island and devastated the vineyards.  “Mellow Wine” is also used in reference to Madeira.  Beginning in 1818, all of these advertisements bear a common thread, mellow Madeira first went to India or China before arriving in America.

Advertisement for mellow Madeira wine that first went to Calcutta. [7]

The earliest connection  appears in November 1818 in a sale of 20 pipes of “fine mellow Wine” at least 10 years of age.  This parcel was sent from America to Calcutta, upon the end of the War of 1812.  The pipes lay in Calcutta for several years until they were imported in the ship Eliza Ann.[87] Another example include two mellow pipes that were sold in 1834. For 20 years they lay in Calcutta before being imported into Boston. [9]  Four years later a pipe of “very rich flavored Old Mellow Madeira Wine” came by way of Canton. [10]

This raises the question of whether James Madison’s Madeira was mellowed by a trip to India or China.  His 1816 “mellow Madeira” pipe cost £75 not including freight.  This is a significant price increase over the £65 per pipe for “finest old Wine” ordered from Murdoch Yuille Wardrop & Co just one year earlier.[11]  This £10 per pipe increase can simply be attributed to Great Britain adopting the gold standard in 1816 and not for any additional premium on the wine itself.[12]  The freight charges are in the £3 range which is also nominal for a pipe which only traveled from Madeira to America.

While “mellow Madeira” first appears in James Madison’s correspondence of 1816 it is not until 1818 in America that it came to mean Madeira which first went to India or China.


[1] “To James Madison from Murdoch Yuille Wardrop and Company, 18 February 1816,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified March 30, 2017, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/99-01-02-4953. [This is anEarly Access documentfrom The Papers of James Madison. It is not an authoritative final version.]  and “To James Madison from J. Howard, & Co March, 22 February 1816,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified March 30, 2017, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/99-01-02-4962. [This is anEarly Access documentfrom The Papers of James Madison. It is not an authoritative final version.]

[2] J. H. March & Co to James Madison, February 22, 1816. Invoice-Order to Pay. Series: Series 1, General Correspondence, 1723-1859, Microfilm Reel: 17.
The James Madison Papers at the Library of Congress. URL: http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.mss/mjm.17_0998_1003

[3] “[I]t will not be exceeded by an[y] Wine in the Universe”: Descriptions of James Madison’s Madeira. URL: https://hogsheadwine.wordpress.com/2014/11/14/it-will-not-be-exceeded-by-any-wine-in-the-universe-descriptions-of-james-madisons-madeira/

[4] Croft, John. A Treatise on the Wines of Portugal. 1788. URL: https://books.google.com/books?id=1x5BAAAAIAAJ&pg=PP5#v=onepage&q&f=false

[5] McBride, Duncan. General Instructions for the Choice of Wines and Spirituous Liquors (1793). Fascimile edition reissued by The Rare Wine Co. 1993.

[6] A Vindication of Gen. Richard Smith. 1783. URL: https://books.google.com/books?id=lTRcAAAAcAAJ&pg=PA1#v=onepage&q&f=false

[7] Date: Monday, June 17, 1816 Paper: Alexandria Herald (Alexandria, Virginia) Volume: VI Issue: 725 Page: 1

[8] Date: Monday, November 2, 1818 Paper: Boston Daily Advertiser (Boston, Massachusetts) Volume: XXIII Issue: 28 Page: 3

[9] Date: Friday, June 27, 1834 Paper: Boston Daily Advertiser (Boston, Massachusetts) Page: 3

[10] Date: Saturday, January 6, 1838 Paper: Newark Daily Advertiser (Newark, New Jersey) Page: 3

[11] “To James Madison from Anthony-Charles Cazenove, 4 July 1815,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified March 30, 2017, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/99-01-02-4495. [This is anEarly Access documentfrom The Papers of James Madison. It is not an authoritative final version.]

[12] See mention of 19% premium on the exchange rate. “To James Madison from Anthony-Charles Cazenove, 27 April 1816,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified March 30, 2017, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/99-01-02-5100. [This is anEarly Access documentfrom The Papers of James Madison. It is not an authoritative final version.]

George Washington’s Food Supply Ledger

January 20, 2017 Leave a comment
Invoice for 2 pipes of Madeira from John M. Pintard to George Washington, November 20, 1793. Library of Congress.

Invoice for 2 pipes of Madeira from John M. Pintard to George Washington, November 20, 1793. Library of Congress.

As today is the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States, I thought I would briefly focused on our first president George Washington.  George Washington’s Mount Vernon recently published a page from the Food Supply Ledger for the dates of May 19-25, 1794.  It is a fascinating, daily account with rows detailing the consumption of the Meats, Fish, Butter, Bread, Spices, Candles and of course Wines.

The wines are categorized as “Madeira”, “Claret”, “Champaign”, “Burgundy”, “Ven-de-Grave”, “Sauterne”, and “Sweet wine”.  On all but one day several bottles of Madeira were drunk.  In reviewing his wine orders it is possible to hazard a guess as to what type of Madeira was in those bottles.

The last Madeira order prior to May 1794, was acknowledged on November 20, 1793, when John Marsden Pintard, US Consul at Madeira, shipped “2 Pipes Old particular Madeira” at £38 Sterling each.  The pipes arrived via the sloop Lively at Philadelphia in January 1794.  We know from the Household Account Book that Joseph Sim was paid $484.59 for the two pipes on January 24, 1794.  The very next month on February 3, 1794, the final expense of $2 was paid for “putting in the Cellar”.

Madeira was classified according to quality with the best and most expensive being London Particular.  “Old particular” thus refers to London Particular most likely of two years of age.

 

“Sercial Sherman”: A look at the 1852 Sercial selected by General Sherman in 1871

January 12, 2017 Leave a comment

In December 1864, General William Tecumseh Sherman completed his “March to the Sea” which involved widespread devastation not just of military targets but also industrial and civilian property.  Having reached Savannah, Georgia, his troops turned towards the Carolinas with the intention of reaching Virginia.  Thus at the start of 1865, residents of Charleston, South Carolina took action as General Sherman’s army advanced.

Residents of Charleston were careful to hide and disperse their treasured Madeira collections to avoid consumption by General Sherman’s troops.  Bottles were hidden between rafters, demijohns were buried in the ground and for the South Carolina Jockey Club, the Madeira was hidden in the South Carolina State Hospital for the mentally ill.  The Jockey Club’s Madeira remained untouched but for some families their entire collection was lost.  One family sent eight wagon loads of Madeira nearly 200 miles from Charleston to Cheraw, near the North Carolina border.[1]  The Madeira was captured by General Frank P. Blair before it could be hidden.

General Blair served a few bottles of the captured Madeira to General Sherman who found them “very good”.  General Blair shared the story of its capture and eventually sent a dozen bottles “of the finest Madeira” General Sherman had ever tasted.  The rest of the Madeira was divided equally amongst the army.

Surviving stocks of 19th century American bottled Madeira are exceedingly rare.  It is ironic then, given the widespread disruption and consumption of Madeira by General Sherman’s army that one of his own bottles was served at The Sensational Sercial Tasting held last year.

shermansercial4

Labeled “1852 Sercial Selected By General Sherman On his visit at Madeira, 1871” this bottle was part of a parcel of three bottles acquired by Roy Hersh, For the Love of Port.  The paper-wrapped bottles were purchased from a family on Long Island who had owned them for three decades.  Two of the bottles were labeled as Sercial and one Navy Reserve.  There is no known documentation for these bottles and outside General Sherman’s comments on General Blair’s captured Madeira, he himself wrote nothing else about specific bottles of Madeira.

It was at a dinner in August 1871, with Admiral James Alden and General William W. Belknap, that General Sherman made plans to visit Madeira.[2]  Admiral Alden had been promoted to rear admiral in command of the Mediterranean Squadron.  As General Sherman had never been to Europe he agreed to accompany Admiral Alden on his journey to Spain.  They were to first stop at Madeira.

Admiral Alden was to take the screw frigate Wabash as his flagship.  She was being overhauled at the time.  With repairs complete she left the Boston Navy Yard on November 17, 1871. Just a few weeks later she approached Funchal under steam on December 5, 1871.[3]

USS Wabash. c 1871-1873. Image from Naval History and Heritage Command.

USS Wabash. c 1871-1873. Image from Naval History and Heritage Command.

General Sherman wrote very little of wine during his life and little of the “Celebrated Madeira Wine” during his visit as he described it.  His only descriptions of wine relate to the “[b]light destroy the grapes” some 20 years earlier.  He described how “New Vineyards are beginning to reproduce the Same wine”.

He accompanied Admiral Alden on their very first visit ashore which was to a “Mr Walsh’s house”, the Admiral having known him in “former years”.  It is Mannie Berk, The Rare Wine Co., who first suggested that General Sherman perhaps visited Mr. Welsh of the Madeira shippers Welsh Brothers and that perhaps our bottle came from the Welsh’s.[4]

Prior to the Oidium, or blight that General Sherman wrote of, the Welsh Brothers were focused on “cheap light Madeira”.[5]  This succeeded in this business becoming the largest Madeira shipper by 1849.  By 1881, their focused changed to sending the “more costly growths” mostly in bottle to the United States.

That our bottle came from the Welsh’s is corroborated by an article published in Harper’s Magazine during 1919 by Major Charles Wellington Furlong.[6]  Major Furlong was an American explorer and writer who traveled around the world.  This particular article of his describes a hunting trip he took with Charles B. Cossart, Harry Hinton, and Mr. Welsh Jr on a deserted island off of Madeira.

shermansercia32

On the last night of the hunt, the party celebrated with a meal of curried rabbit and goat-meat stew accompanied by a bottle of Madeira brought by Mr. Welsh Jr.  It was none other than “a bottle of Sercial wine of a vintage of seventy years.”  This dates the wine to 1849 which essentially matches the 1852 vintage of our bottle.  Mr. Welsh Jr. explained that wine was called “Sercial Sherman” because at Christmas time “General Sherman sent for four bottles, and since then his daughter has followed her father’s custom.”

It seems unequivocal that our 1852 General Sherman Sercial came from the Welsh Brothers.  It is also possible that the Madeira Wine Association (MWA), in part formed by Hinton and Welsh, marketed wine under the name “Sercial Sherman”.  Since this bottle is not labeled “Sercial Sherman” it is possible it was shipped during General Sherman’s lifetime which means it arrived in the United States between 1871 and 1891.


[1] Sherman, William Tecumseh.  “Memoirs of General William T. Sherman”, 1876.

[2] Ibid.

[3] General William Tecumseh Sherman to Thomas E. Sherman.  December 5, 1871. CSHR 9/59. Sherman Letters. University of Notre Dame. URL: http://archives.nd.edu/findaids/ead/index/fulltext/cshr9_59.htm

[4] See Mannie Berk’s background information on the wine in the Sensational Sercial tasting booklet. April 30, 2016.

[5] Vizetelly, Henry. Facts About Port and Madeira. 1880.

[6] Furlong, Major Charles Wellington. “Hunting With the Lords of the Dezertas” Harper’s Magazine, Volume 138. 1919.