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“A finer Flower was never drank”: A Look at Early Advertisements of the Wines of Chateau Haut-Brion 1705-1717

June 27, 2014 1 comment

The London Gazette has widely been referenced in discussing the history of Chateau Haut-Brion.[1]  This is due in part because the earliest known advertisement in Britain for the wine of Haut-Brion was published here in May 1705.[2]  This and other advertisements feature Haut-Brion as prize wines that were captured then condemned and sold by the Exchequer.   The London Gazette maintains free online access to the archive making it an open source for contemporary historians.  However, the London Gazette was not the only publication to feature these advertisements for they also appear in The Daily Courant , The GuardianThe Spectator, and The Tatler.  It is possible that these publications have not yet been referenced for they are a part of the 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers which requires paid access.  The Daily Courant was the first daily British newspaper,  originally produced by Elizabeth Mallet.  Richard Steele had a hand in publishing The Guardian, The Spectator, and The Tatler.  It appears that these were all Whig publications.[2.5]  Whether any advertisements appear in Tory publications remains to be investigated.

The first known advertisement for Haut-Brion in the London Gazette. []

The first known advertisement for Haut-Brion in the London Gazette. [2]

Several of the Haut-Brion prize wine advertisements appear simultaneously in these publications.  This suggests an effort by the government to reach a larger audience than commonly thought.  A quick comparison also reveals that the London Gazette did not run the advertisements of Haut-Brion imported by private individuals during the period of interest.[3]  Additionally, there is at least one instance where Haut-Brion prize wine was not advertised in the London Gazette.   A potential reason for this stems from the format of the publication.  The early issues of the London Gazette feature two printed pages.  The advertisements appear after the news on the second page.  Thus the amount of news dictated the space leftover for the advertisements.  This varied from as much as one and a half columns to half a column.  This suggests that when advertisement space ran low the Haut-Brion prize wine was advertised in other publications.

A Rake's Progress (plate 3) 1735 William Hogarth 1697-1764 Transferred from the reference collection 1973 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T01790

See Pontac’s portrait in the upper-right of A Rake’s Progress (plate 3) 1735 William Hogarth 1697-1764 Transferred from the reference collection 1973 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T01790

An example of an advertisement for Haut-Brion prize wine that appears in in both The Tatler and the Daily Courant and not the London Gazette was published on the December 23, 1710.  Here we find some 60 hogsheads and 12 tierces of “new excellent French Obrion claret of the very last vintage”, being 1709, advertised for sale by the broker Thomas Tomkins of Seething Lane at Lloyd’s Coffee House on December 29, 1710.[4]  It is possible that at least two hogsheads of Haut-Brion were sold and other top growth wines included because the December 27, 1710, advertisement in The Daily Courant lists some 58 hogsheads and 16 tierces of “Obrion and other very good growths”.[5]  The wine was the cargo of a French prize ship taken by a Guernsey privateer. [6]

Charles Ludington writes that the Haut-Brion advertised between 1705-1707 represent wine sold at government-sponsored auctions. While the lots condemned by the Exchequer continued to be advertised throughout the years, other merchants began to sell Haut-Brion as well.   In 1711, there was one parcel sold by a wine merchant at his house.  Amongst his Hermitage and Burgundy in flasks was “Obrion Claret” at 3s. per bottle.[7]  Whether this merchant imported the wine himself or bottled it from casks taken from a prize ship is not specified.  Messieurs Tourton and Guiguer imported “Margaux, Obrion, and other of the best growths” for sale by the candle on May 21, 1712.[8] In 1716 Peter Rafa imported a parcel of “extraordinary good old Margaux, and Obrion French Claret” of the vintage 1714.[9]

A Prospect of the City of London, 1724 (with key). PAH9880. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.

A Prospect of the City of London, 1724 (with key). PAH9880. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.

What did Haut-Brion taste like that caused it to be sold at such high prices?  In 1712, 87 hogshead of “la Fit, la Tour, Margaux, Obrion” were described as “deep, bright, and of the true Flavour, fit for perfecting drinking, having been racked in France.”[10]  Peter Rafa described his wines as “deep, bright, strong and fresh, of a curious Flavour and taste”.  In 1713, a merchant at the Golden-Key described the “very last vintage” as “bright, deep, strong, and of a most delicious Flavour…and is certainly the noblest Flower for Colour, Taste and Smell that was ever imported.”[11]  One parcel of “New Pontack French Claret” advertised in 1717 was described as “perfectly neat, strong, deep, bright, and of the right delicious Flavour peculiar to that Growth”.[12]  This merchant continued to claim through 1719 that there was nothing in London to compare it to, even at 7s. per bottle.  The reader might be relieved to find he offered it for sale at only 42s. per dozen or 3s. 6d. per bottle.[13]  These flavor descriptions of “curious”, “delicious”, and “peculiar” echo what Samuel Pepys described in his diary some 50 years earlier, “Ho Bryan, that hath a good and most particular taste that I never met with.”[14]


[1] In such books as Asa Briggs’ Haut-Brion, Clive Coates’ Grand Vins, and Charles Ludington’s The Politics of Wine in Britain.
[2] Classified ads . London Gazette (London, England), May 14, 1705 – May 17, 1705; Issue 4123
[2.5] Harris, Michael. The Press in English Society from the Seventeenth to Nineteenth Centuries. 1986.
[3] The London Gazette did run advertisements for wine that appears to not be condemned such as that of Nathaniel Wood.  The London Gazette. Publication date:19 December 1710 Issue:4785Page:2. URL: https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/4785/page/2
[4] Advertisement. (1710). The Lucubrations of Isaac Bickerstaff, Esq., (267) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/6037275?accountid=14784 and Classified ads .  Daily Courant (London, England), Saturday, December 23, 1710; Issue 2861.
[5] Advertisement. (1710). The Daily Courant, (2863) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/5381116?accountid=14784
[6] This parcel is not to be confused with the claret from the two prize ships captured by Captain Daniel Nastell of Gurnsey that appears in the London Gazette on December 30, 1710.  We know they are separate parcels because they simultaneously appear in the Tatler on December 23, 1710.  See: The London Gazette. Publication date:30 December 1710 Issue:4790Page:2 and Classified ads . Tatler (1709) (London, England), December 23, 1710 – December 26, 1710; Issue 268.
[7] Advertisement. (1711). The Spectator (1711), (199) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/6075486?accountid=14784
[8] The London Gazette. Publication date:17 May 1712 Issue:5006Page:2. URL: https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/5006/page/2
[9] Advertisement. (1716). The Daily Courant, (4581) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/5397490?accountid=14784
[10] Advertisement. (1712). The Spectator (1711), (281) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/6077418?accountid=14784
[11] Advertisement. (1713). Guardian, 1713, (34) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/5489451?accountid=14784
[12] Advertisement. (1717). The Daily Courant, Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/5389964?accountid=14784
[13] Advertisement. (1719). The Daily Courant, (5610) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/5535564?accountid=14784
[14] The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 10 April 1663. URL: http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1663/04/10/

As the Crow Flies: Historic Images of “Les Quatre Premiers Grands Crus du Medoc”

June 16, 2014 1 comment

Pierre Aussel published his La Gironde a Vol d’Oiseau Ses Grands Vins et Ses Chateaux in 1865.[0]  This was a comprehensive treatment of the wines and vineyards of the Gironde that included history, production methods, and commerce.   Pierre Aussel then collaborated with Alfred Danflou in producing a second edition of his book.  Together they explored the vineyards and chateaux marveling at both the monumental and picturesque.  They were captivated by the crenellation, turrets, porticoes, and pinnacles such that they wondered why they had never seen photographs of the chateaux in a gallery.  They decided to capture “ces monuments ancients et moderns de notre viticulture national” as photographic art.  This effort was manifested in the first edition of Les Grands Crus Bordelais which was published in 1866 and focused on 15 of the first and second growth wines.[1]  The second edition was published one year later in an attempt to be complete.[2]  This edition spanned two volumes which covered the first, second, third, and fourth growths as well as Sauternes.

I have included images of the four first growths from both editions for comparison.   The photographs that appear in the first edition are more casual.  That of Chateau-Lafitte contains a road in the foreground where a horse and cart are stopped on the side.  The driver has turned his head to watch the photographer.  The photograph of Chateau Margaux was taken outside the gate and is slightly angled, leaving the sense of being an observer looking in.  The image of Chateau Haut Brion is of the now uncommon side.  The photographs in the second edition show more studious composition.  The name of Chateau Lafitte changed to Chateau Lafite.  The images are immersive with better perspective such as that of Chateau Latour that may have been taken on a ladder.  Chateau Margaux was photographed within the gate and Chateau Haut Brion now features the famous facade.  Please review the pictures I have included in this post but I strongly recommend you review the archive quality images referenced below.

Chateau-Lafitte a Pauillac

Chateau-Lafitte a Paulliac [1]

Chateau-Lafitte a Pauillac [1]

Chateau-Lafitte a Pauillac [2]

Chateau-Lafite a Pauillac [2]

Chateau-Latour a Pauillac

Chateau-Latour a Pauillac [1]

Chateau-Latour a Pauillac [1]

Chateau-Latour a Pauillac [2]

Chateau-Latour a Pauillac [2]

Chateau-Margaux a Margaux

Chateau-Margaux a Margaux [1]

Chateau-Margaux a Margaux [1]

Chateau-Margaux a Margaux [2]

Chateau-Margaux a Margaux [2]

Chateau Haut Brion a Pessac

Chateau Haut Brion a Pessac [1]

Chateau Haut Brion a Pessac [1]

Chateau Haut Brion a Pessac [2]

Chateau Haut Brion a Pessac [2]


[0] Aussel, . La Gironde a Vol d’Oiseau. 1865. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=651AAQAAMAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[1] Danflou, Alred. Les Grands Crus Bordelais.  1866.  Gallica Bibliotheque Numerique. URL: http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b8625650m
[2] Danflou, Alred. Les Grands Crus Bordelais.  Premiere Part.  1867.  Gallica Bibliotheque Numerique. URL: http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b86256511

Chateau Haut-Brion, Available in the United States for 250 Years

A quick Google search for “Haut-Brion import Thomas Jefferson” returns a number of results.  Most of these results, including the Wikipedia entry for Chateau Haut-Brion, all state that Chateau Haut-Brion became the first recorded first growth wine to be imported to the United States.  The Wikipedia entry cites Karen McNeil’s  The Wine Bible (2001) followed by referencing Thomas Jefferson’s letter to his brother-in-law Francis Eppes dated May 26, 1787.  The Lea & Sandeman – Chateau Haut Brion page is even more generous stating “Haut Brion was the first Bordeaux wine known to have been imported into the USA…”.  Karen McNeil did not write that Chateau Haut-Brion was the earliest first growth sent to the United States.  She simply wrote that Thomas Jefferson had “purchased six cases to be sent from the chateau to Virginia”.[0]  As a result it is worth looking into this claim.

Chateau Haut-Brion. Cocks and Ferret. Bordeaux and Its Wines. 1899.

Chateau Haut-Brion. Cocks and Ferret. Bordeaux and Its Wines. 1899.

Thomas Jefferson’s letter of May 26, 1787, notes he was sending six dozen bottles of the 1784 vintage from Bordeaux.[1]   He felt this was the “only very fine” vintage since 1779.  As described in my post “I am in great distress for want of it, having none”: John Adam’s Inquiries about Bordeaux Wines Prior to Thomas Jefferson’s Classification of 1787 John Bondfield wrote to Thomas Jefferson on April 19, 1785, that he had forwarded, “four Cases containing thirty six Bottles each of our first Growth”.  The citations state that the Massachusetts Historical Society holds the invoices and bills of lading but it turns out that they are held by the Library of Congress.  Chateau Haut-Brion was considered one of the first growths at the time so it is possible that it was shipped to the United States in 1785.  Unfortunately, these additional documents do not detail the specific wines which were shipped.

June 21, 1783. []

June 21, 1783. [2]

Additional references to Chateau Haut-Brion may be found in historic newspapers.  There are at least two earlier advertisements for the sale of Chateau Haut-Brion in the United States during the period of Thomas Jefferson’s first known importation.  Alexander Gillon of Charleston, South Carolina advertised on June 21, 1783, “Claret in cases of three dozen bottles in each case, of the favourite qualities of Haut Brion, de Grave and Julian”.[2]  Cornelius Ray of New York advertised on September 1, 1785, “A FEW hogsheads and cases of the best Bordeaux Claret, being the first growths of Haut-Brion and Latour”.[3]

February 23, 1764. []

February 23, 1764. [4]

However, the earliest importation of Chateau Haut-Brion belongs to Walter Shee and Sons of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  They placed five advertisements between February 23, 1764, and April 12, 1764, that included “best Haubrion and other French clarret in cases and hogsheads”.[4]  Walter Shee’s advertisements state he has “a compleate assortment of European and India goods”.  This same phrase appears in a short advertisement from January 5, 1764, which includes the first run date of December 1, 1763.[5]  A subsequent advertisement indicates the goods were “imported in the last vessels from England”.[6]  This importation date is corroborated by the November 30, 1763, advertisement that had been run since June 1, 1763.[7]  This advertisement note the goods came in on Captains Hardy’s and Bolizho’s ships from London thus a different set of vessels than what carried the Chateau Haut-Brion.

This is an exciting find for it pushes back the earliest known availability of Chateau Haut-Brion prior to the formation of the United States.  In moving from 1787 to 1764 we now know Chateau Haut-Brion has been enjoyed on these shores for exactly 250 years this spring.


[0] McNeil, Karen. The Wine Bible. 2001.
[1] “From Thomas Jefferson to Francis Eppes, 26 May 1787,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-11-02-0362, ver. 2014-05-09). Source: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 11, 1 January–6 August 1787, ed. Julian P. Boyd. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1955, pp. 378–379. URL: http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-11-02-0362
[2] Date: Saturday, June 21, 1783 Paper: South-Carolina Weekly Gazette (Charleston, SC) Volume: I Issue: 19 Page: 4
[3] Date: Thursday, September 1, 1785 Paper: New-York Packet (New York, NY) Issue: 520 Page: 3
[4] Date: Thursday, February 23, 1764 Paper: Pennsylvania Journal (Philadelphia, PA) Page: 3.  See also The Pennsylvania Gazette. February 23, 1764.
[5] Date: Thursday, January 5, 1764 Paper: Pennsylvania Journal (Philadelphia, PA) Issue: 1100 Page: 6
[6] Date: Thursday, January 12, 1764 Paper: Pennsylvania Journal (Philadelphia, PA) Issue: 1101 Page: 3
[7]Date: Thursday, November 10, 1763 Paper: Pennsylvania Journal (Philadelphia, PA) Issue: 1092 Page: 6