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“A very wholesome wine”: An 18th Century Map Showing the Vineyards of Côte-Rôtie

September 23, 2016 Leave a comment

(Carte de France levee par ordre du Roy). No. 88 (Saint-Etienne - Saint-Marcellin. 1767). [1]

(Carte de France levee par ordre du Roy). No. 88 (Saint-Etienne – Saint-Marcellin. 1767). [1]

The image above is taken from Carte de France. Levee par ordre du Roy. (1750-1815) published by the Cassini family.  This particular map was executed in 1767.  Students of Northern Rhone wine should recognize at least two names which appear on this image, Condrieu and Ampuis.  Located just above the Ampuis label  is la Roche which is where Côte-Brune of Côte-Rôtie lie.  Near the Boucherey label is the Côte-Blonde.  On the slopes indicated by the hatching, appear little squiggly lines representing the location of the vineyards.

According to Mannie Berk, Duncan McBride’s General Instructions for the Choice of Wines and Spirituous Liquors (1793) is the first book in English to examine the wines of Côte-Rôtie.[2]  McBride writes that Côte-Rôtie “is a red wine, not so deep in colour as Claret.  When it may happens to be of a good vintage, and that, by skilful treatment, it is brought to a proper maturity, it will be found a very wholesome wine.”


[1] (Carte de France levee par ordre du Roy). No. 88 (Saint-Etienne – Saint-Marcellin. 1767).  Rumsey Collection. URL: http://www.davidrumsey.com/
[2] McBridge, Duncan. General Instructions for the Choice of Wines and Spirituous Liquors (1793). Fascimile edition reissued by The Rare Wine Co. 1993.

An Image of Cote-Rotie from 1914

September 21, 2016 Leave a comment

"Commune d'Ampuis. - Crus de Cote-Rotie: Cotes Blonde et Cote Brune." 1914 [1]

“Commune d’Ampuis. – Crus de Cote-Rotie: Cotes Blonde et Cote Brune.” 1914 [1]

Mannie Berk’s Cote-Rotie Offer includes some fantastic images of Cote-Rotie and extracts from Larmat’s 1940s atlas of the region.  In his article he summarizes how Cote-Rotie fell into decline over the first half of the 20th century.  Mannie illustrates this decline using a postcard from the 1940s which shows that much of Cote-Rotie had become en friche or fallow as vines were replaced by trees and bushes.

In this post I present an image of Cote-Rotie in 1914.  This image captures the begining of the decades long decline of the region.  In viewing the highest resolution image at the Bibliothèque nationale de France most of the slopes are still planted with vines but trees are starting to spread amongst the terraces.


[1] Deville, J.  Les vins du Rhône : crus principaux du Beaujolais et du Lyonnais. 1914. Bibliothèque nationale de France. URL: http://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb320267055

“[Y]ou have it in your power, before you place your order, to ascertain the expense”: The wine lists of La Grande Taverne de Londres from 1795 and 1803

Antoine Beauvilliers was a former chef of the Court of Provence who opened up La Grande Taverne de Londres in 1782 or 1786, the first prominent fine restaurant in Paris, and subsequently published the cooker book L’Art du Cuisinier in 1814.  Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin wrote in Physiologie du goût (1825) that for more than 15 years Beauvilliers was the most famous restaurateur in Paris.  He was the first to combine an elegant dining room, smart waiters, superior cooking, and a choice wine cellar.  As it was a fine restaurant, there were hundreds of dishes to select from.  Beauvilliers’ wine cellar, to which he kept the key in his pocket, kept pace by offering several dozen selections.

L'embarras du choix. Gatine, Georges Jacques. 1812. #1866,0407.901. The British Museum

L’embarras du choix. Gatine, Georges Jacques. 1812. #1866,0407.901. The British Museum

The bill of fare or menu was printed on a single sheet the size of a double folio.  Francis William Blagdon, an English journalist, remarked it was “the size of an English newspaper”.  The modern concept of a restaurant dates to the late 18th century in Paris so the novelty of both the restaurant and the menus are apparent amongst travelers during this period.  The menus, with wine list, were reproduced at least two times in English in 1795 and 1803.  That makes these restaurant wine lists the earliest that I know of.  As a comparison, the New York Public Library’s menu holdings begin in the 1850s.

Courier and Evening Gazette (London, England), Wednesday, August 5, 1795; Issue 944. 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.

Courier and Evening Gazette (London, England), Wednesday, August 5, 1795; Issue 944. 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.

In researching the 18th century history of Cote-Rotie and Hermitage I thought it interesting that the 1795 menu includes the former wine but not the later.  The 1803 menu includes both.  In this version both red Cote-Rotie and red Hermitage are priced the same.  The white Hermitage, regarded as superior to the red, is more expensive.

Blagdon, Francis William. "Paris as it was and as it is, Volume 1". 1803.

Blagdon, Francis William. “Paris as it was and as it is, Volume 1”. 1803.

Other additions include the specific wines of Chateau Lafite and Chateau Latour.  Whereas Clos Vougeot was of an average price in 1795, it becomes the second most expensive wine in 1803 and the only wine with a specific vintage being 1788.  The selection of these wines is interesting because this is a time when most wine was typically sold in cask to be bottled later.  Chateau Lafite begin bottling some of their wine with the 1797 vintage and James Madison was ordering Clos Vougeot by the bottle in 1811.  I wonder if Beauvilliers bought these wines in bottle.  I should add that if you desired to drink from several bottles of wine, you would only be charged for a half bottle of each if the level did not drop below the moeity.

“I am very well satisfyed with the Cote Rotie”: A brief look at Cote-Rotie and Hermitage in the late 18th century

Thomas Jefferson visited Cote Rotie and Hermitage during his tour of Southern France in 1787.[1]  He wrote in detail about the vineyards, the best estates, and of course prices.  New first quality Cote Rotie sold for 150lt per piece whereas new first quality Hermitage sold for 225lt.  If the Hermitage was old the price increased to 300lt.  The increase in price reflects not only quality but also, perhaps, additional powers.  A year earlier in 1786, Abigail Adams 2nd, daughter of John Adams and Abigail Adams, wrote to her brother John Quincy Adams about three gentleman who joined her for Sunday dinner.[2]  One was suffering from a “disagreeable situation of the mind” which he called the “blue devils”.  She reported that he felt much better after drinking Hermitage and Madeira with their dinner.

There is little written about this period in the history of Cote-Rotie and Hermitage.  John Livingstone-Learmonth writes in The Wines of the Northern Rhone (2005) that documented Cote-Rotie history jumps from the 16th to the mid-nineteenth century!  However, there is more written about Hermitage perhaps because the wines were better regarded and by 1765 the main vineyard owners were aristocratic or noble families.  During this period Hermitage was shipped to Burgundy and Bordeaux.  In Bordeaux, the Hermitage wine was used in blending but it was also exported primarily to England.

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After visiting Cote-Rotie and Hermitage in 1787, Baroness Elizabeth Craven sent bottles of Hermitage back to England via Marseilles.[3]  She wrote that the best Cote-Rotie came from Mr. de la Condamine.  This sentiment was shared that very same year by Thomas Jefferson who mentions him first in his list of seven best producers.  Baroness Craven continues that the “grapes being almost broiled by the sun” produced a wine “of a red and strong kind – reckoned very fine”.  But it was not to her taste.  It was the Hermitage that she enjoyed, particularly the white which she found “so much better than the red”.  Priced at 3 livres per bottle she had it shipped home.

Some of the Cote-Rotie and Hermitage which left Bordeaux made it to the American shores before Thomas Jefferson ever set foot in the region.  We know this because Charles Carroll of Annapolis wrote his son Charles Carroll of Carrollton about sending some wine on March 20, 1772.[4]  In this letter Charles Carroll of Annapolis requested that his clerk William Deards send 10 or 12 dozen bottles of “Cask Wine th[a]t came from France”.  Of this he wanted 3 or 4 dozen each of Cote Rotie and Burgundy.  Charles Carroll of Annapolis was sure to clarify that “Let Him take Care not to send Hermitage insted of Cote-Rotie, you like the Hermitage, I am very well satisfyed with the Cote Rotie”.

We do not yet know where the Cote-Rotie and Hermitage was sourced from.  We do know that in 1774 and perhaps in 1773, Charles Carroll of Carrollton was ordering Claret by the hogshead from the firm of Lawton and Browne in Cork, Ireland.  It is possible they were the source since Cote Rotie and Hermitage were also shipped from Bordeaux.

For those who did not order these wines by the cask, white Hermitage, red Hermitage, and Cote-Rotie were available by the bottle from merchants along the east coast of America. Some of this wine came straight from Bordeaux and even from Cap-Francois in the French colony Saint-Domingue which is now Haiti.  My favorite advertisement occurred for one period in 1774 when you could buy “Best Bourdeaux Claret, in Hermitage Bottles.”

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[1] “Notes of a Tour into the Southern Parts of France, &c., 3 March–10 June 1787,” Founders Online,National Archives, last modified July 12, 2016, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-11-02-0389. [Original source: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 11,1 January–6 August 1787, ed. Julian P. Boyd. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1955, pp. 415–464.]

[2] “Abigail Adams 2d to John Quincy Adams, 9 February 1786,” Founders Online,National Archives, last modified July 12, 2016, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/04-07-02-0010. [Original source:The Adams Papers, Adams Family Correspondence, vol. 7, January 1786 – February 1787, ed. C. James Taylor, Margaret A. Hogan, Celeste Walker, Anne Decker Cecere, Gregg L. Lint, Hobson Woodward, and Mary T. Claffey. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005, pp. 33–46.]

[3] Craven, Elizabeth.  A journey through the Crimea to Constantinople. 1787. Hathi Trust Digital Library.

[4] “Extracts From The Carroll Papers”, Maryland Historical Magazine, Volume 19. 1919.