Posts Tagged ‘History of Wine’

“At No 120, Tradd Street”: An historic Madeira advertisement in Charleston

Advertisement for London Particular Madeira wine by Hunter & Ross. Saturday, February 6, 1808. [1]

On January 20, 1808, James Hunter and John Ross advertised London Particular Madeira and Old Madeira for sale at their newly incorporated firm Hunter & Ross at 120 Tradd Street, Charleston, South Carolina.  Formed that same year, Hunter & Ross appears to have operated for three years until 1811.  Their initial advertisements included Madeira wine whereas later ones offered corn and black eyed peas.[2]

Hunter & Ross listed their business at 120 Tradd Street, a location where a house was first built in 1770 as a wood house on a brick basement.  At the time, 120 Tradd Street was located at the western end of developed Charleston.  The house burnt down during the Great Fire of Charleston in 1861 so the building which exists today is not the same structure as when one could purchase pipes, quarter-casks, and bottles of Madeira.

120 Tradd Street, Charleston, SC. Present Day.

[1] Advertisement. Date: Saturday, February 6, 1808 Paper: Charleston Courier (Charleston, South Carolina) Page: 1

[2] Advertisement. Date: Saturday, January 5, 1811 Paper: Charleston Courier (Charleston, South Carolina) Volume: IX Issue: 2471 Page: 2

[3] The great fire in Charleston additional particulars. The Daily Dispatch: December 18, 1861. Perseus Digital Library. Tufts University. URL:

“Received the contents”:  Exploring General George Washington’s Madeira supply during the beginning of the New York campaign of 1776

Detail from William Faden’s “A Plan of New York Island”. 1776. LOC.

With the end of the Siege of Boston during the Revolutionary War between the American colonies and Great Britain, military attention quickly shifted south to New York.  New York was an important port and a strategic link between the northern and the southern colonies.  After the British forces withdrew from Boston, George Washington moved his headquarters from Cambridge, Massachusetts to New York during April 1776.

General Washington had felt the need to create a personal guard based on his experience during the Siege of Boston.[1]  In March 1776, before he left Boston, he appointed Captain Caleb Gibbs, Captain Commandant of the Guard.  Captain Gibbs was not only head of George Washington’s security but also chief steward of his household.  Captain Gibbs served in this position for nearly five years during which time he took over the purchasing of Madeira for General Washington.  It is fortunate for us that General Washington’s receipts were kept.

During these war years General Washington stopped personally ordering his Madeira direct from the Island.  Direct import was impossible because the Continental Congress had banned the import of Madeira wine since October 1774.  Instead, Captain Gibbs purchased Madeira from merchants and individuals located near headquarters.  Such purchases did not require a series of correspondence so we must rely on the Revolutionary War receipts to piece together George Washington’s Madeira supply.

General Washington moved from Cambridge to New York during April 1776 which is the very same month that the Continental Congress opened all American ports to international trade.  Though Madeira could now be imported, trade was complicated by the presence of American and British military forces.

General Washington arrived in New York on April 13, 1776.  The first purchase upon his arrival is for one dozen bottles at “New York”.[2]   Colonel William Palfrey was General Washington’s aide-de-camp during the move so he kept the list of moving expenses.  Unfortunately, we do not know from whom Colonel Palfrey purchased the Madeira.

Once in New York Captain Gibbs took over.  The initial purchase of one dozen bottles is soon followed by another small parcel of three dozen bottles from the Loyalist Lloyd Danbury on April 25, 1776.[3] These bottles cost £2 16s per dozen, the lowest price per bottle for all purchases that summer.  Given the price these must be a lower grade of Madeira and perhaps represent an effort by Captain Gibbs to simply supply Madeira for the table.

For the rest of the campaign General Washington’s Madeira was sourced from a merchant who regularly sold Madeira and two men with significant Madeira collections.  Abraham Duryee, the New York merchant and member of the Committee of 100, sold Madeira and other goods since at least 1758. On March 28, 1776, he placed his last advertisement for goods detailing cash only.[4]  The last listed item for sale is “Old Madeira Wine”.  In the June 1776, the Portuguese monarchy aligned with the British and forbade any American colonial ships from calling on Portuguese ports.  Duryee still held stocks for he sold Captain Gibbs 10¼ gallons of “old” Madeira on June 25, 1776.[5] This purchase of low quality Madeira appears to have been for Major General Charles Lee which could explain why the very next day a dozen bottles were purchased of Samuel Fraunces.  He was the owner of Fraunces Tavern and later steward of George Washington’s presidential household.[6]

Receipt for Old Madeira Wine from Thomas Marston. July 17, 1776. LOC. [7]

Captain Gibbs next bought 11 dozen bottles of Madeira from Thomas Marston of New York on July 9, 1776, of which the funds were paid on July 17, 1776.[7]  In Cambridge, General Washington typically purchased his Madeira by the casks then had it bottled.   This is what appears to have been done by Thomas Marston given the slightly cryptic description of the expense as “the wine is in quarter casks rack of the Bottles.”   On August 31, 1776, another 11 dozen bottles of “Old Madeira” were purchased from Thomas Marston.[8]  He held his price at £3 12s per dozen.  Upon the death of Thomas Marston, his “good old Madeira” was auctioned off in the spring of 1814.[9]  Some 48 demijohns and 1700 bottles were sold off with some lots reaching $25 per gallon.

Throughout June, July, and August of 1776, British troops continued to arrive in the New York region.  Unsure of where the British would launch their attack, General Washington stationed troops both in New York and Long Island.  It is unclear why but the next two parcels of Madeira came from David Clarkson and his son David Clarkson Jr of Flatbush, Long Island.  On July 23, 1776, came 12 dozen bottles of wine from David Clarkson.[10]  These cost £4 per dozen for a total of £48. Within two weeks, on August 4, 1776, came 12 dozen “Madeira wine” at the standard price of £3 12s per dozen from David Clarkson’s son David Clarkson Jr.[11]  The switch in suppliers was not because Thomas Marston was out of Madeira for Captain Gibbs purchased more from him at the end of August.

One possibility for the switch is that the Clarkson’s feared for the safety of the Madeira stored in their house in Flatbush.  General Washington was still located in New York and did not land on Long Island until the end of August.  The Madeira would have been ferried back to New York.  The first parcel is the most expensive purchased during the New York campaign so it was probably of higher quality and worth the effort to transport back to headquarters.

There is plausibility to this reasoning.  It was on July 12, 1776, that British ships arrived at the Hudson River with additional ships continuing to arrive over the next several weeks.  On August 22, 1776, the main body of British troops invaded Long Island.  There was a line of American troops at Flatbush but they moved back allowing the British to take Flatbush.   David Clarkson had left behind “a quantity of wine” in his house. [12]  These bottles of Madeira wine were stored behind a hidden partition in an upper part of the house.  A British sympathizer revealed the secret location of the “very choice” wine which was consumed by the British in a “complete drunken frolic.”

The house in Flatbush where David Clarkson lived. George Bradford Brainerd (American, 1845-1887). Bergen House, Flatbush, Brooklyn, 1877. Collodion silver glass wet plate negative Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Museum/Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Collection, 1996.164.2-174.

That George Washington bought Madeira from these specific men appears to be the result of their relationships.  Both Abraham Duryee and Augustus Van Horne were members of the Committee of 100.[13]  Abraham Duryee, David Clarkson, Augustus Van Horne, and Thomas Marston all served on the General Committee for the City and County of New York.[14]  Members of the Clarkson and Van Horne families were both married and business partners.[15]

I have gathered the Madeira purchased by Colonel Palfrey and Captain Gibbs during the beginning of the New York campaign.  General Washington was outside of New York from May 22, 1776 through June 5, 1776.[16] This in part explains the gap in receipts and entries between April 25, 1776, and July 26, 1776.  Given the size of subsequent Madeira purchases General Washington must have been supplied during this period by some means.

  • April 13, 1776, Unknown, wine, 1 dozen bottles, £3 12s per dozen, £3 12s total
  • April 25, 1776, Lloyd Danbury, Madeira wine, 3 dozen bottles, £2 16s per dozen, £8 8s total
  • June 26, 1776, Abraham Duryee, old Madeira wine, 10¼ gallons, 14s per gallon, £7 3s 6d total
  • June 27, 1776, Samuel Fraunces, Madeira wine, 1 dozen bottles, £3 12s per dozen, £3 12s total
  • July 9, 1776, Thomas Marston, old Madeira wine, 11 dozen bottles, £3 12s per dozen, £39 12s total
  • July 23, 1776, David Clarkson, wine, 12 dozen, £4 per dozen, £48 total
  • August 4, 1776, David Clarkson Jr., Madeira wine, 12 dozen, £3 12s per dozen, £43 2s total
  • August 31, 1776, Thomas Marston, old Madeira wine, 11 dozen bottles, £3 12s per dozen, £39 12s total

After the British drank all of Madeira in Flatbush they advanced towards Brooklyn.  General Washington was trapped between superior numbers of British troops and British ships.  Under the cover of night on August 29, 1776, he was able to ferry all of his men to New York without alerting the British. The day after his arrival in New York he was met by a fresh supply of Madeira.

[1] Caleb Gibbs.  George Washington’s Mount Vernon. URL:

[2] William Palfrey, April, 1776, Revolutionary War Accounts, Vouchers, and Receipted Accounts 2. George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799: Series 5 Financial Papers.

[3] Lloyd Danbury to George Washington, April, 1776, Revolutionary War Accounts, Vouchers, and Receipted Accounts 1. George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799: Series 5 Financial Papers

[4] Advertisement. Date: Thursday, March 28, 1776   Paper: New-York Journal (New York, New York)   Issue: 1734   Page: 4

[5] Abraham Duryee to George Washington, June 26, 1776, Revolutionary War Accounts, Vouchers, and Receipted Accounts 2. George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799: Series 5 Financial Papers

[6]Since at least John C. Fitzpatrick published George Washington’s Accounts of Expenses While Commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, 1775-1783 (1917) it has been held that there is a “voucher” from Samuel Fraunces dated June 27, 1776, for these bottles of Madeira which was not entered into the debit lists in the Series 5 Financial Papers.   I can find no citation for this “voucher” nor can I find it amongst the Series 5 documents.  Instead it is entered in the Journal of Household Expenses.   Washington, G. (1776) George Washington Papers, Series 5, Financial Papers: Revolutionary War Journal of Household Expenses, July, 1776 – November, 1780. 07-/11-1780. [Manuscript/Mixed Material] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

[7] Caleb Gibbs, 1776-80, Revolutionary War Receipt Book. George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799: Series 5 Financial Papers and Thomas Marston to Caleb Gibbs, July 17, 1776, Revolutionary War Accounts, Vouchers, and Receipted Accounts 1. George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799: Series 5 Financial Papers

[8] Thomas Marston to Caleb Gibbs, August 31, 1776, Revolutionary War Accounts, Vouchers, and Receipted Accounts 1. George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799: Series 5 Financial Papers

[9] Thomas Marston, Esq; Madeira. Date: Saturday, April 2, 1814   Paper: Portsmouth Oracle (Portsmouth, New Hampshire)   Volume: XXV   Issue: 28   Page: 3

[10] David Clarkson to George Washington, July 23, 1776, Revolutionary War Accounts, Vouchers, and Receipted Accounts 1. George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799: Series 5 Financial Papers

[11] David Clarkson Jr. to Caleb Gibbs, April 4, 1778. George Washington Papers, Series 5, Financial Papers: Revolutionary War Vouchers and Receipted Accounts, 1776 -1780

[12]Strong, Thomas M. The history of the town of Flatbush in Kings County, Long Island. URL:

[13] Williams, C. S. Jan Cornelis Van Horne and his descendants. 1912. URL:

[14] Jones, Thomas.  History of New York During the Revolutionary War: And of the Leading Events in the Other Colonies at that Period, Volume 1. 1879. URL:  and Wilson, James Grant. The Memorial History of the City of New-York: From Its First Settlement to the Year 1892, Volume 2. 1892. URL:

[15] David Clarkson Jr was married to Elizabeth French whose sister Anne was married to David Van Horne, the son of Augustus Van Horne.  David Van Horne was business partners with David Clarkson’s brother Levinus Clarkson.   Levinus Clarkson was married to Mary Van Horne.  The Clarksons of New York: A Sketch, Volume 1. 1875. URL:

[16] Washington’s Revolutionary War Itinerary. University of Virginia. URL:

Vintage wines at the 1884 sale of Cossart, Gordon, & Co’s London stock

Cossart, Gordon, et Cie. 1874. [1]

On June 19, 1884, Messrs. Southard & Co. sold the entire stock of Cossart, Gordon, & Co.’s bottled and demijohned Madeira that lay in London. This was a significant sale involving 8,700 dozen bottles and 200 demijohns. The inventory was being sold off because Cossart, Gordon, & Co. had shifted priority to the bulk sale of Madeira while their bottled sales reduced.

Phylloxera began to spread across the island of Madeira in 1872 and it took until 1883, when American root stock could be imported into the Island, that replanting began in earnest. It would be many years before production fully recovered. This sale came at the tail end of the destruction by Phylloxera.

The vintages in the sale range from 1879 back to 1836 with bottling dates of 1883 back to 1870. Only one of the wines was bottled before Phylloxera became known on the Island. The wines without bottling dates were still in demijohn but it is not clear when they were moved out of cask.  There is the expected gap in vintage dates do to oidium so no vintages appear from 1851 through 1864 inclusive.

There are both vintage dated and non-vintage selections. In the chart below I have transcribed the vintage dated wines in ascending order.  The non-vintage wines appear in ascending bottling date order.  For both types, the names of the individual wines are largely a mixture of variety or region, sometimes with a descriptor attached. Of particular interest to me are the series of “Vintage” wines.

Like most of the other wines, the “Vintage” wines have a date but there is no reference to variety nor to place. These wines are from the vintages 1838, 1840, 1842, 1850, 1866, and 1868.   Noel Cossart considers the pre-oidium vintages “generally very good” with the two others as “generally good”.

The two oldest of these “Vintage” wines bear the descriptors “Superb” and “Superior”.   These are amongst the four most expensive wines offered with all of the “Vintage” wines generally at the expensive end of pricing.  The 1850 “Vintage” was bottled twice. First, in 1870 with the description “Extra” and a shipping price of 100/ per dozen. The second bottling in 1881 was less expensive at 90/ per dozen.

It is not yet clear how a “Vintage” wine differs from a regular wine from a single vintage.  Given the nature of the descriptions and the pricing, I believe “Vintage” wines were a new category of a high-quality blends.

1836 Sercial, Bottled 1882, dozen at 108/
1836 Imperial Reserve, Bottled 1883, dozen at 86/
1838 Vintage “Superb”, Bottled 1880, dozen at 140/
1840 Vintage Superior, Bottled 1880, dozen at 110/
1842 Malmsey, Bottled 1876, dozen at 120/
1842 Vintage, Bottled 1881, dozen at 95/
1844 Came de Lobos, Bottled 1880, dozen at 110/
1848 Finest Sercial, Bottled 1883, dozen at 66/
1850 Vintage, Bottled 1881, dozen at 90/
1851 Sao Martinho, Bottled 1883, dozen at 90/
1850 Vintage Extra, Bottled 1870, dozen at 100/
1850 Bual, Bottled 1882, dozen at 110/
1865 Finest Sercial, Bottled 1881, dozen at 70/
1866 Cama de Lobos, Bottled 1872, dozen at 60/
1866 Madeira Secco, Bottled 1882, dozen at 70/
1866 Vintage, demijohn at 90/
1867 Quinta Do Leme, Bottled 1875, dozen at 60/
1867 Ribeiro Real, Bottled 1876, dozen at 60/
1867 Bual, Bottled 1883, dozen at 54/
1868 dry, fine, delicate, Vintage, Bottled 1874, dozen at 54/
1868 Bual, Bottled 1880, dozen at 54/
1868 Finest Malmsey, Bottled 188, dozen at 68/
1868 Finest Malmsey, Bottled 188, 2 dozen half-bottles at 68/
1868 Sercial, Bottled 1883, dozen at 70/
1868 Verdelho Canteiro, Bottled 1883, dozen at 54/
1869 very fine Ribeiro Secco, Bottled 1875, dozen at 48/
1869 very fine Santo Antonio, Bottled 1877, dozen at 48/
1870 Finest Sercial, Bottled 1881, dozen at 63/
1870 Bual, demijohn at 70/
1871 Malmsey, Bottled 1882, dozen at 80/
1872 Sercial, demijohn at 80/
1873 Verdelho, demijohn at 60/
1876 Campaneiro Canteiro, Bottled 1876, dozen at 50/
1876 Finest Cama de Lobos, Bottled 1881, dozen at 32/
1878 Finest dry Tinta (Red), Bottled 1880
1878 Finest Campanario, Bottled 1881, dozen at 32/
1878 Finest Malmsey, Bottled 1882
1878 very choice Tinta (Red), Bottled 1882, dozen at 36/
1878 Finest Malmsey, Bottled 1883, dozen at 44/
1879 Finest dry Tinta (Red), Bottled 1880, dozen at 42/

NV Finest Old West India, Bottled 1878, dozen 60/
NV Very choice, old, delicate, Bottled 1878, dozen at 67/
NV Very dry old Sercial, Bottled 1878, dozen at 78/
NV Very old, delicate, Bottled 1879, dozen at 78/
NV Verdelho Velhissimo, bottled 1879, dozen at 84/
NV Very pale, dry, bottled 1879, dozen at 34/
NV Finest old, Sao Martinho, Bottled 1879, dozen at 57/
NV Finest Old Rich, Cama de Lobos, Bottled 1879, dozen at 63/
NV Imperial Reserve, Bottled 1879, dozen at 96/
NV Full, rich, very fine bottled 1880, dozen at 32/
NV Finest old, East India. Bottled 1880, dozen at 58/
NV Finest old, rich, East India. Bottled 1880, dozen at 58/
NV Fine young rich, Bottled 1881, dozen at 22/
NV Very old, “picked” Wine, Bottled 1881, dozen at 54/
NV Choice Old Rich, bottled 1882, dozen at 29/
NV Pale, Fine, Bottled 1883, dozen at 20/
NV Rich Old, Bottled 1883, dozen at 23/
NV Fine Old, Bottled 1883, dozen at 26/
NV Very choice Bastardo, 1883, dozen at 40/
NV Very choice old, pale, Bottled 1883, dozen at 44/
NV Extra Old East India, Bottled 1883, dozen at 60/

[0] Ridley & Co.’s Monthly Wine and Spirit Trade Circular, Issue 432, Part 43. 1883.  URL:

[1] Cossart Gordon & Cie : Ile de Madère. 1874. URL:

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:

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.


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

Wines Submitted and Tasting Notes


‘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:
[2] United States Centennial Commission. Reports and Awards. 1878. URL:
[3] Biddle, Anthony Joseph Drexel. The Madeira Islands, Volume 2. 1900. URL:

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”
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”


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.