Archive

Posts Tagged ‘History of Wine’

“The [illustrated] effects of medicine and wine-drinking compared.”

October 18, 2019 Leave a comment

I came across this drawing while perusing the Wellcome Collection to stock an anatomy display at my house for our Halloween party.  On the left, is a thin, gaunt man suffering from the blue devils despite his three bottles of physic.  On the right is a jolly, robust man, holding up a glass of wine, surrounded by wine bottles.  As there are two wine glasses and six bottles of wine, I suspect the thin, gaunt man switched from wine to physic for the worse!

“The effects of medicine and wine-drinking compared.” [1]

Two three bottle men. Wine and physic. What I was. What I am. A hint to jolly dogs.


[1] The effects of medicine and wine-drinking compared. Ink drawing, 18–.. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY. URL: https://wellcomecollection.org/works/hta2mhfq/items?langCode=eng

An intense and dark 1979 Calafia Cellars, Merlot

October 16, 2019 Leave a comment

I pulled the cork on the 1979 Calafia Cellars, Merlot, Napa Valley not knowing one bit of its history.  Founded by Randle and MaryLee Johnson, this bottle is from their inaugural vintage which happens to be the same year the winery was founded.  Just five years earlier, in 1974, Johnson graduated from UC Davis then a year later begin work with Phil Baxter at Chateau Souverain in 1975. In 1977, Johnson started work under Bob Travers at Mayacamas Vineyard which is located on Mount Veeder.  Fascinated with this mountain fruit, Johnson opened Calafia Cellars in 1979.

Johnson explored the terroir of Mount Veeder.  In the early years at Calafia Cellars, he produced Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Zinfandel from both the southeast-facing and west-facing slopes.  I do not know any background details of this wine but as it is marked Napa Valley, it could be Merlot sourced from the southeastern slopes of Mount Veeder.  Calafia Cellars was a winery in name only so I wonder if this inaugural vintage was made at Mayacamas.  This bottle was showing a bit of its age but the dark and intense flavors bear all the hallmarks of Mount Veeder.  What a treat!

1979 Calafia Cellars, Merlot, Napa Valley
Alcohol 14.1%.  Dark in color with a lovely nose.  Ripe and dark in the mouth with firm, dense and polished flavors carried by watering acidity.  In good condition, this wine is integrated all around.  It fleshes out a bit taking on some spice.  It eventually shows its age being a touch hollow in the end.  **(*) Now.

Frightening 16th c. Wine-related Images for Friday the 13th & a Full Moon!

September 13, 2019 Leave a comment

“Devil and Man” from Hans von Leonrod. Hymelwag. 1517. [1]

As it is Friday the 13th and a full-moon, I present two frightening wine-related images.  In keeping with yesterday’s post about the popularity of drinking in 15th century Germany, I present two images by Hans Schaufelein found in Hans von Leonrod Hymelwag (1517).  The popularity of intoxication in Germany continued into the 16th and 17th century. As a result, a temperance movement developed, as did books complete with devil-related drinking images.

In the title image of this post, a knight is presented a demijohn of wine by a diablocal creature.  This is the first known image of the “boozing devil” or Saufteufel.  In these books, the vice of drunkenness opened the gates to other vices.  In the second image, we see the same knight with his cup and demijohn of wine riding a cart into the mouth of hell.  He seems oblivious to his fate which is frightening indeed.

“Wagon to Hell” from Hans von Leonrod. Hymelwag. 1517. [1]


[1] von Leonrod, Hans. Hymelwag auff dem, wer wol lebt un wol stirbt fert in das reich der himel. 1517. URL: https://books.google.com/books?id=PNVdAAAAcAAJ&pg=PT6#v=onepage&q&f=false

Hans Folz, Prints In Praise of Distilled Wine from the 1490s

September 12, 2019 Leave a comment

Folz, Hans. Wem der geprennt wein schad oder nucz sei. ca. 1491. [1]

I have periodically looked at Hans Folz’s colorful image Wem der geprennt wein schad oder nucz sei (ca. 1491) for several years now.  I first came across it when I worked on my 16th Century German Wine Books posts.  In this post I present a bit of context.

Hans Folz (1435-1513) was a German barber surgeon, playwright, and printer amongst other occupations.  He is considered a major figure but the breadth of his work was largely ignored in English research until Caroline Huey’s Hans Folz and Print Culture in Late Medieval Germany: The Creation of Popular Discourse (2012).  Folz was based in Nuremberg where he self-published a large number of works including the poem Wem der geprennt wein schad oder nucz sei, vnd wie er gerecht oder felschlich gemacht sei (ca. 1491).  The drinking of wine and beer was very common in the 15th century Germany but towards the end, distilled wine or brandy increased in popularity.  Folz’s poem is focused on this widely popular drink which he praises as a remedy against sadness and hangovers but also warns against immoderate use. [4]  Folz was no doubt an observer of drinking behavior in his city.  In 1496, shortly after he published these works, the Nuremberg city council banned the drinking of distilled wine in the streets and the sale on Sundays and holidays.

Folz, Hans. Wem der geprennt wein schad oder nucz sei. ca. 1491. [2]

Folz’s wine incunabula exists in at least three different forms.  The first two, dated ca. 1491, are in the form of a book and a broadsheet.  The book features a hand colored woodblock print with hand-copied text.[1]  The broadsheet features the same print with printed text.[2]  A few details contain the single color red such as lips, a flask of distilled wine, and some letters.  The two prints are formed from the same wood block given the wear patterns.  For example, two dots appear in the title text between “schad oder” and in the top of the right vertical border are additional signs of wear.  A third form contains an entirely different wood block print.  Though the image is completely different, the key features are the same.

Folz, Hans. Wem der geprant wein nutz sey oder schad. 1493. [3]

In both image types, a merchant appears behind his table which is partially covered with a cloth.  On it are arrayed flasks of distilled wine, a knife, perhaps wooden rulers, maybe some corks or coins, and shallow cups for drinking.  It is certainly a mysterious assortment of items.  The first image type, which takes place outside on the grass, features a line of three men waiting for a drink.  The second image, presumably inside as there is a stone wall and tiled floor, features only one man actively taking a drink.  The different images in book form feature green glass flasks which do not reveal their contents.  The broadsheet, with it judicious use of color, implies the glass is clear as there is red fluid in one flask.

The culture of drinking continued to develop in Germany during the 16th century.  In tomorrow’s post I will present a couple of scary wine-related images.


[0] Huey, Caroline. “Hans Folz and Print Culture in Late Medieval Germany: The Creation of Popular Discourse”. Routledge. 2012.

[1] Folz, Hans. Wem der geprennt wein schad oder nucz sei, vnd wie er gerecht oder felschlich gemacht sei. c. 1491. München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek — Cgm 407#S.298. URL: https://app.digitale-sammlungen.de/bookshelf/bsb00101646

[2] Folz, Hans: Wem der geprennt wein schad oder nucz sei, vnd wie er gerecht oder felschlich gemacht sei , [Nuremberg], [c. 1491] [BOD Ink F-174 – GW 10121]. Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. URL: http://daten.digitale-sammlungen.de/~db/0010/bsb00101645/images/

[3] Hans Folz: Wem der geprant wein nutz sey oder schad … Bamberg, Marx Ayrer und Hans Bernecker, 1493 | SBB, JH.Inc.typ.IV.322, Bl. 1r. Staatsbibliothek Bamberg.

[4] Spode, Hasso. “The First Step toward Sobriety: The ‘Boozing Devil’ in Sixteenth-Century Germany.” Contemporary Drug Problems 21, no. 3 (September 1994): 453–83. doi:10.1177/009145099402100307.

No School Like the Old-School: A Unique Madeira Advertisement in Washington, DC during 1835

September 7, 2019 Leave a comment

Detail from Tanner, Henry Schenck. City of Washington. 1836. [0]

Thomas H. Jacobs and James Gowen created their Washington, DC, based wine firm Gowen & Jacobs in 1829.  Both men had previous experience as wine importers and merchants in Philadelphia.  In fact, Gowen maintained his establishment in Philadelphia to help with the wine selections down at their Washington, DC firm.  Their aim was to stock an extensive selection of foreign wines and liquors.  In particular, they catered to members of Congress who typically brought their own supplies of wine to Washington.  Gowen & Jacobs aimed to be the new source for all of their vinuous needs.

Congress moved from Philadelphia to Washington, DC during November, 1800.  When Gowen & Jacobs opened their store, the city population was estimated at nearly 19,000.  A decade later, in 1840, it had climbed to roughly 27,000.

Partial Cadastral Map around Center Market. 1836. [2]

Gowen &  Jacobs were located at 7th St NW and Pennsylvania Ave.  This placed them halfway between the President’s House and the Capitol.  There were four markets serving the District at the time and their storefront location placed them across the street from the Centre Market. This market was located between 7th and 9th Streets with the store on the west side of 7th street fronting the market. This was the principal market of the city with one guide book going so far as to state, “in the quality and abundance of the commodities brought there for sale, it is not excelled by any” other.[3]

This prime location placed them within two blocks of the Patriotic and Washington Banks along with Gadsby’s and Brown’s Hotels.  By the end of the year they were fully stocked with Old London Particular Madeira, Old Pale Sherry, Old Champagne, Old Bordeaux, and more including Burgundy, Hock, and Sauternes.[4]

“Old school vintage of 1803” from Gowen’s & Jacobs’ advertisement. 1835. [5]

Gowen & Jacobs laid in a large selection of old wine during the fall of 1835.  In a series of advertisements address to the “Members of Congress” they laid out some enticing selections.  Of importance to this post is their description of one particular wine found amongst a “large stock of Old Bottled Madeiras”.  Here we find “the Stevenson bottled in St. Croix–the old Old school Vintage of 1803″. [Emphasis added.]

The “old school” phrase dates back to the mid-18th century but as far as I can tell, these advertisements are unique with regards to the subject of wine.  As the 19th century progressed, an appreciation for ever older bottles of Madeira continued to develop.  This particular wine of the “Old school Vintage of 1803” would have been bottled just one or two years later.  Its long life in glass made it particularly different than wines which would have gained their age on the Island of Madeira.  These wines would have concentrated in wood before making the long journey to America where they were finally bottled.

“Old Wine and Liquors” from Gowen’s & Jacbobs’ advertisement. 1835.


[0] Tanner, Henry Schenck. City of Washington. [Philadelphia: H.S. Tanner, 1836] Map. https://www.loc.gov/item/88694080/.

[1] Advertisement. Daily National Intelligencer Thursday, Nov 05, 1829 Washington (DC), DC Vol: XVII Issue: 5230 Page: 3

[2] Partial cadastral map of the district around the Center Market, N.W. Washington D.C. 1836. Map. https://www.loc.gov/item/88694081/.

[3] Watterson, George.  A Picture of Washington. 1840. URL: https://books.google.com/books?id=VtfC1aNc2VIC&dq=Watterson,+George.+A+Picture+of+Washington.+1840&source=gbs_navlinks_s

[4] Advertisement. United States’ Telegraph Saturday, Nov 21, 1829 Washington (DC), DC Page: 3

[5] Advertisement. United States’ Telegraph Saturday, Nov 28, 1835 Washington (DC), DC Page: 3

[6] Centre Market and Vicinity. Author(s): Washington Topham. Source: Records of the Columbia Historical Society, Washington, D.C., Vol. 26 (1924), pp. 1-88. Published by: Historical Society of Washington, D.C. Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/40067380. Accessed: 06-09-2019 15:54 UTC

Carafes and glasses in Cruikshank’s The Mulberry-Tree, 1808.

September 5, 2019 Leave a comment

Cruikshank. The Mulberry-Tree. 1808. [1]

The “vine-juice” mentioned in The Mulberry-Tree below, is being enjoyed in Cruikshank’s illustration by three gentlemen sitting at a table underneath a mulberry tree.  The wine is found both in the full glass each man holds and in the two carafes resting on the table.  The carafes are triple-ringed, broad shouldered types with very narrow lips.  I would venture they date within a decade or so of the engraving.  Carafes do not use stoppers, as such the inside of the neck is not ground for a tight fit.  Unlike a decanter, they would have been filled in the cellar then put on the table for immediate use.

Cruikshank. The Mulberry-Tree. 1808. [1]

THE MULBERRY-TREE.

The sweet brier grows in the merry green wood,
Where the musk-rose diffuses his perfume so free,
But the blight often seizes both blossom and bud,
While the mildew flies over the mulberry tree.

In the nursery rear’d like the young tender vine,
Mankind of all orders, and ev’ry degree,
First crawl on the ground, then spring up like the pine,
And some branch and bear fruit, like the mulberry- tree.

To the fair tree of knowledge some twine like a twig,
While some sappy sprouts with their fruits disagree;
For which we from birch now and then pluck a twig,
Which is not quite so sweet as the mulberry tree.

The vast tree of life we all eagerly climb,
And impatiently pant at its high top to be,
Tho’ nine out of ten are lopp’d off in their prime,
And they drop like dead leaves from the mulberry- tree.

Some live by the leaf, and some by the bough,
As the song or the dance, their vocation may be,
And some live and thrive, tho’ we know no more how,
Than the dew that flies over the mulberry tree.

But like weeping willows we hang down the head,
When poor wither’d elders we’re destin’d to be,
And we’re minded no more than mere logs when we’re dead,
Or the dew that flies over the mulberry tree.

Yet like lignum-vitae we hearts of oak wear,
Or the cedar that keeps from the canker-worm free,
While the vine juice, we drain to dissolve ev’ry care,
Like the dew that flies over the mulberry tree.


[1] Cruikshank. The Mulberry-Tree.  London, 1808.  Museum number: 1869,1009.30. Prints and Drawings, The British Museum.  Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0). URL: https://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=1670714&partId=1

A Preserved mid-1970s Liberty School, Cabernet Sauvignon

September 4, 2019 Leave a comment

Charles Wagner’s famous Caymus Vineyards was bonded in 1971 with the first successful vintage a year later in 1972.  Wagner would develop a reputation during the 1970s for producing some of California’s best wines.  These early vintages still command a premium to this day.  The shifting nature of the California wine boom left some winemakers with more wine than they could sell.  Liberty School, Wagner’s second label, made its debut, born of surplus wine, in 1976.

Nathan Chroman, of the Los Angeles Times, was skeptical of the first release of the bicentennial named Liberty School.[1]  Though the origins of subsequent releases are not known, Chroman sheds some light on the first.  It is a 1974 Cabernet Sauvignon that a grower could not market.  The wine was produced by a large winery in Dry Creek Valley then finished by Wagner at Caymus Vineyards.  First released at $3.50, Chroman found it “laden with tannin but with enough flavor” to suggest it would age.  A year later, Frank Prial of the New York Times reported that often “very good wine” shows up in second labels including Liberty School.[2]  He found these wines quite good and a bargain.

The origins of our NV Caymus Vineyard, Liberty School, Lot 3, Cabernet Sauvignon remain a mystery.  Advertisements are not consistent but we know that Lot 1 was sold in 1976, Lot 2 in 1977,  with Lots 4 and 5 in 1979.  That would place Lot 3 as being offered around 1978.  The vintage is certainly mid 1970s, perhaps 1976.  In 1979, it was priced between $5-$6 placing it in the range of Beringer, Clos du Bois, Souverain Vintage Select, and Sterling.

Today the wine is decidedly in a fine, preserved state.  It is clean and focused with an herbaceous Cabernet edge.  It does not have the depth that I would prefer but it is balanced and easy to drink.  I find this quite cool given that it a second wine.

NV Caymus Vineyards, Liberty School, Lot 3, Cabernet Sauvignon
Alcohol 13%. A dark, robust color.  In the mouth it offers clean cherry flavor with a touch of wood.  It remains focused with an herbaceous edge carried by fresh acidity.  **(*) Now but will last.


[1] California’s Cup Overflowing With Excellent Wine Bargains. CHROMAN, NATHAN. Los Angeles Times (1923-1995); Apr 1, 1976; ProQuest. pg. H14

[2] Wine Talk. Prial, Frank J. New York Times (1923-Current file); Apr 27, 1977; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times. pg. 64

[3] Wine Talk. Robards, Terry. New York Times (1923-Current file); Oct 10, 1979; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times. pg. C17