Wednesday, November 14, 2012

California Sparkling Wine, 1879

From "Facts About Champagne and Other Sparkling Wines", 1879.

In California the manufacture of sparkling wines is carried on with considerable success, and at the Vienna Exhibition the Buena Vista Vinicultural Society of San Francisco was awarded a medal for progress for the excellent samples it sent there.

The society was originally organised by Colonel Haraszthy, the pioneer in recent times of Californian viticulture. It commenced manufacturing sparkling wines with the assistance of experienced workmen from Epernay and Ay; but the endeavours, extending over some three or four years, were attended with but indifferent success, very few cuvées proving of fair quality, whilst with the majority the wine had to be emptied from the bottles and distilled into brandy. The son of Colonel Haraszthy subsequently succeeded, in conjunction with Mr. Isidor Landsberger, of San Francisco, in discovering the cause of these failures, and for ten years past the wine has been constantly improving in quality owing to the increased use of foreign grapes, which yield a vin brut with a delicate bouquet and flavour approaching in character to the finer champagnes.

The wine is perfectly pure, no flavouring extracts or spirit being employed in the composition of the liqueur, which, is composed merely of sugar-candy dissolved in fine old wine. A French connoisseur pronounces sparkling Sonoma to be the best of American sparkling wines, “clean and fresh, tasting, with the flavour of a middle-class Ay growth, as well as remarkably light and delicate, and possessed of considerable effervescence.” The Sonoma valley vineyards produce the lightest wines of all the Californian growths, some 211 of the white varieties indicating merely 15° of proof spirit, and the red ones no more than 17½°.

The vintage takes place towards the end of October, and the grapes are gathered by Chinese laborers, who will each pick his 12 to 14 cwt. of grapes a day for the wage of a dollar. Light wooden boxes are used for holding the grapes, which are stripped from their stalks on their arrival at the press-house, and then partially crushed by a couple of revolving rollers. An inclined platform beneath receives them, and after the expressed juice has been run off into cask they are removed to the press, and the must subsequently extracted is added to that forced out by the rollers. When white wine is being made from black grapes the pressure is less continuous, and the must is of course separated at once from the skins.

The fermentation, which is violent for some ten or twelve hours, ceases in about a fortnight, providing a temperature of from 70° to 75° Fahr. is maintained in the vaults. The wine is racked at the new year, and again before the blending and bottling of it in the spring.

The Californian sparkling wines not only find a market in the eastern States, but are sent across the Pacific to the Sandwich Islands, Japan, China, and even to wine-producing Australia, which has not yet succeeded in producing sparkling wines of its own.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Wines of Italy, 1911

From a major British encyclopedia, 1911 edition.

The vine is cultivated throughout the length and breadth of Italy, but while in some of the districts of the south and centre it occupies from 10 to 20% of the cultivated area, in some of the northern provinces, such as Sondrio, Belluno, Grosseto, &c., the average is only about 1 or 2%. The methods of cultivation are varied; but the planting of the vines by themselves in long rows of insignificant bushes is the exception.

In Lombardy, Emilia, Romagna, Tuscany, the Marches, Umbria and the southern provinces, they are trained to trees which are either left in their natural state or subjected to pruning and pollarding. In Campania the vines are allowed to climb freely to the tops of the poplars. In the rest of Italy the elm and the maple are the trees mainly employed as supports. Artificial props of several kinds—wires, cane work, trellis work, &c.—are also in use in many districts (in the neighbourhood of Rome canes are almost exclusively employed), and in some the plant is permitted to trail along the ground.

The vintage takes place, according to locality and climate, from the beginning of September to the beginning of November. The vine has been attacked by the Oidium Tuckeri, the Phylloxera vastatrix and the Peronospora viticola, which in rapid succession wrought great havoc in Italian vineyards. American vines, are, however, immune and have been largely adopted.

The production of wine in the vintage of 1907, which was extraordinarily abundant all over the country, was estimated at 1232 million gallons (56 million hectolitres), the average for 1901-1903 being some 352 million gallons less; of this the probable home consumption was estimated at rather over half, while a considerable amount remained over from 1906. The exportation in 1902 only reached about 45 million gallons (and even that is double the average), while an equally abundant vintage in France and Spain rendered the exportation of the balance of 1907 impossible, and fiscal regulations rendered the distillation of the superfluous amount difficult.

The quality, too, owing to bad weather at the time of vintage, was not good; Italian wine, indeed, never is sufficiently good to compete with the best wines of other countries, especially France (though there is more opening for Italian wines of the Bordeaux and Burgundy type); nor will many kinds of it stand keeping, partly owing to their natural qualities and partly to the insufficient care devoted to their preparation.

There has been some improvement, however, while some of the heavier white wines, noticeably the Marsala of Sicily, have excellent keeping qualities. The area cultivated as vineyards has increased enormously, from about 4,940,000 acres to 9,880,000 acres, or about 14% of the total area of the country.

Over-production seems thus to be a considerable danger, and improvement of quality is rather to be sought after. This has been encouraged by government prizes since 1904.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Price of Wine, Christmas 1900

Wine History: The Price of Wine in 1900
The Price of Wine in 1900.
Here's an ad from the Alexandria Gazette, December 31, 1900, that is a snapshot of wine prices at the time. "Very Old Sherry Wine" is $1.50/gallon on special; "Extra Dry Sweet Catawba Wine" is on $0.90/gallon!

After inflation, this is $33/gallon and $19.80/gallon respectively.

At least it is relatively cheap to taste for oneself what "Extra Dry Sweet" means...

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The French Wine Law of 1891

From "Scientific American Supplement", December 12, 1891

The French wine law (Journ. Officiel, July 11, 1891) includes the following provisions:

Sect. 1. The product of fermentation of the husks of grapes from which the must has been extracted with water, with or without the addition of sugar, or mixed with wine in whatever proportion, may only be sold, or offered for sale, under the name of husk wine or sugared wine.

Sect. 2. The addition of the following substances to wine, husk wine, sugared wine, or raisin wine will be considered an adulteration:

1. Coloring matters of all descriptions.

2. Sulphuric, nitric, hydrochloric, salicylic, boric acid, or similar substances.

3. Sodium chloride beyond one gramme per liter.

Sect. 3. The sale of plastered wines, containing more than two grammes of potassium, or sodium sulphate, is prohibited.

Offenders are subject to a fine of 16 to 500 francs, or to imprisonment from six days to three months, according to circumstances.

Barrels or vessels containing plastered wine must have affixed a notice to that effect in large letters, and the books, invoices, and bills of lading must likewise bear such notice.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Instructions for Racking Wine, 1861

Instructions for Racking WineExcerpted from "The Culture of the Grape, and Wine-Making", Seventh Edition, by Robert Buchanan, Cincinnati OH, 1861.

This being the season of the year when the wine may require attention, the reasons for racking and the manner of effecting it are presented :

This operation is performed to separate the wine from its ferment, in order to prevent further change, either spiritous or acetous — to separate it also from the lees, containing, beside the yeast, cream of tartar, and coloring matter which has accumulated at the bottom of the cask. This process also enables us to avoid the exposure of the surface of the wine to the influence of the air, by which it would suffer more evaporation and be liable to be covered with mould, a white cryptogamic plant which covers the wine and gives it a putrid taste.

To effect the first object, frequent racking is required, say 1st, at the end of December ; 2nd, at the end of February, in March or early April; and then again in the autumn, at the end of October : such is my treatment of the Catawba wine during the first year ; after this, it is only racked in the fall. The latter object is to be attained by keeping the cask always bung full to exclude the air arid prevent alcoholic evaporation or absorption of air, to produce putrefaction.

The bung should be made of clear wood, wrapped with clean linen to insure tightness; a caution should however be had to loosen the bungs in April, when the wine is apt to undergo a fermentative change, and should the bung be too tight, so that the gases cannot drive it out, the bottom of the barrel may have to yield before the pressure, and thus the wine will be lost.

In racking, the first requisite is a good wine-green cask, which has previously contained similar wine; it should be carefully examined to ascertain that it is quite clean and has neither a sour nor other bad smell. After the cask is thoroughly rinsed with clear, fresh water, burn a piece of brimstone paper, one by three inches large, suspended from the bung by a piece of bent wire. This is made by dipping paper into melted sulphur. Then fill the cask, but endeavor to expose the wine as little as possible to the air. Never use a new cask in this process, as the wine will acquire a bad smell and taste from the fresh wood. Neither should you think of taking a barrel that has contained brandy, Madeira, or other wine than good Catawba, as these substances always impart a taste to the wine, and thus destroy the fine flavor of our delicate product.

Casks become what is called wine-green, or fit for old wine, after having had fermented in them sweet cider or grape must.

Empty casks may be kept in good order by being thoroughly cleaned, and after they have been left to dry for a few days, burn a piece of sulphur paper and bung them tightly, this may be repeated every three or four months. The burning sulphur produces sulphurous acid gas, which prevents putrefaction and acidulation, but they should be well rinsed before they are again used.

Special caution is given after racking the wine to keep the cask always bung-full; this requires frequent examination, cay every three or four weeks, when it should be filled up. In a cask that is not kept full, there is more evaporation, and in presence of the atmospheric air, acetous or vinegar fermentation is apt to be commenced, the white mould formed, and the wine is spoiled, never to be restored.

A great many persons believe that the racking of wine is not necessary, they say that it is thereby weakened, because the yeast and all the sedimentary matters gives strength to the wine. The temperature of the must during the first week of the first or quick fermentation is very much increased, the liquid from being clear, becomes turbid, owing to the separation and precipitation of the decomposed and effete ferment, the cream of tartar and other matters which are kept in continual motion by the escaping carbonic acid gas. In the second week the fermentation is moderated, the temperature is reduced; in the third week this reduction is still more observable, and fermentation nearly ceases, until the temperature becomes almost the same as the surrounding air, and cold weather comes on. At the end of December the wine will be nearly clear, and this is the time I recommend for the first racking.

At the end of February, the weather is still colder, and more of these foreign ingredients are separated, hence this period is recommended for the second racking, the wine will then be mellow and nearly clear.

In the middle of April, when the vines begin to push forth their buds, the wine ferments again, but if it has been well racked, it possesses little yeast, and the fermentation will be slow, and more of the sugar will be retained in an unchanged condition, so that the wine is more palatable.

What happens, on the contrary, with wines that have not been racked? With the increasing temperature of the season, in April or May, fermentation commences, and the escaping carbonic gas stirs up all the sediment from the bottom of the cask, bringing it into contact with the wine, which retains a portion of what it had before thrown off, the yeast also, thus mixed, will decompose more sugar, and the result will be a too hard and too astringent wine, that must require years to render it again mellow.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

American Wine-Making Around 1920

The following is excerpted from "Manual of American Grape-Growing", 1919, by U. P. Hedrick, and gives a good general overview of the basic steps in the process of wine-making used in the United States around the turn of the 20th century.

There are four distinct stages in the making of wine after the grapes are grown.

The first is the harvesting of the grapes when they have reached the proper stage of maturity, which is known as "wine-making ripeness." This stage of ripeness is determined by means of a must-scale or saccharometer. The wine-maker squeezes the juice from a number of bunches of grapes into a receptacle into which he drops the must-scale, whereupon the sugar-content of the juice is indicated on the scale, determining whether the proper stage of ripeness has been reached. Suitable varieties of grapes having been grown, it is necessary that they be permitted to hang on the vine until the proper degree of ripeness is developed, after which they are delivered at the winery as free as possible from injury or decay.

The second stage is the preparation of the grapes for fermentation. The grapes are weighed on arriving at the winery and are then conveyed either by hand or more often by a mechanical conveyor to the hopper or crusher. The ancient method of crushing, which still prevails in some parts of Europe, was to tramp the grapes with bare feet or wooden shoes. Tramping has been superseded by mechanical crushers which break the skin but do not crush the seeds. The best mechanical crushers consist of two-grooved revolving cylinders. As the grapes pass through the crusher, they fall into the stemmer, a machine which tears off the stems, discharging them at one end, while the seeds, skins, pulp and juice pass through the bottom to the presses usually on the floor below. There are several types of wine-presses, all of which, however, are modifications of screw, hydraulic or knuckle-joint power. In large wineries, the hydraulic press has almost driven out the other two forms of power and when great quantities of grapes must be handled a number of hydraulic presses are usually in operation. The grape pomace is built up into a "cheese" by the use of cloths and racks variously arranged. The "cheese" is then put under heavy pressure from which the juice or "must" is quickly extracted.

The third stage is fermentation. The "must" is carried from the press into open tanks or vats which hold from 500 to 5000 gallons or even more. The yeast cells which cause fermentation may be introduced naturally on the skins of the grapes; or in many modern wineries the "must" is sterilized to rid it of undesirable micro-organisms and a "starter" of "wine-yeast" is added to start the fermentation. Yeast organisms attack the sugar and must, breaking it up into alcohol and carbonic acid gas, the latter passing off as it is formed. When active fermentation ceases, the new wine is drawn from the pomace and is put into closed casks or tanks where it undergoes a secondary fermentation, much sediment settling at the bottom of the cask. To rid the new wine of this sediment, it must be drawn off into clean casks, an operation called "racking." The first racking usually takes place within a month or six weeks. A second racking is necessary at the end of the winter and a third is desirable in the summer or fall.

The fourth stage is the aging of the wine. Before aging begins, however, the wine usually must be rendered perfectly clear and bright by "fining." The materials used in fining are isinglass, white of egg or gelatine. These, introduced into the wine, cause undissolved matters to precipitate. The wine is now ready for bottling or consumption. Most wines acquire a more desirable flavor through "aging," a slow oxidation in the bottles.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How to Become a Good Wine Taster

Wine Taster
The following is excerpted from "Wine. Classification -- Wine Tasting -- Qualities and Defects", by Prof. G. GBAZZI-SONCINI, 1892, and still works today as a readable and enjoyable discussion as to how to improve one's wine-tasting skills.

The experienced taster, when called upon to give his opinion, looks at and attentively examines the wine. He then agitates it by shaking the glass, and, when necessary, places his hand round the glass in such a way as to warm the wine, thus favoring the volatilization of those matters which affect the olfactory organs; he then tastes it.

Sometimes the simple agitation of the wine by twirling the glass is not sufficient, especially when the sparkling and bouquet are to be particularly noticed. In this case the wine must be more thoroughly shaken, which is done by placing the palm of the left hand over the mouth of the glass, and then striking the bottom of it forcibly against the knee. This causes the wine to give off its odors, and in the case of sparkling wines its carbonic acid, more freely. The method, writes Ottavi, is not very polished or elegant, but accomplishes the purpose very well.

As can be easily seen the wine taster should preserve his senses, that is, those of smell and taste, with their utmost sensibility; this is only done by avoiding excesses of all kinds, for these in course of time are bound to diminish that sensibility, or to destroy it completely. Thus he must abstain from all highly alcoholic beverages, from strongly salted or flavored dishes, from tobacco in any form, and in general from everything that acts too energetically on the organs of the above-mentioned senses.

Physical indisposition, more especially affections of the nasal organs, the mouth, or throat, diminish or destroy all sensibility of the senses of taste and smell.

"Wine should not be tasted fasting, or it will taste weak and insipid; nor after drinking wine; nor with a full stomach. Moreover, the taster should not have eaten anything sour, salt, or bitter, nor anything which might change his taste; but he should have eaten a little, but not yet have digested it." -- Carlo Stefano.

The taster should not attempt to give his opinion of more than a certain number of wines at a time, as after having tasted a certain number the senses become temporarily much impaired and incapable of nice discrimination; nor should he judge of a wine after an abundant repast, as the various flavors of highly seasoned or sweetened foods have a great influence on the palate, and prevent it from judging a wine critically.

It is a well-known fact that after eating sweet fruit a wine seems to be rougher and harsher than it really is, whilst cheese, nuts, artichokes, etc., make it appear smoother and more delicate.

With piquant cheese, like Parmigiano and Roquefort more especially, which Grimod de la Reyniere has called "the tippler's biscuit," all wines seem good, or at least much better than they really are. It is also true that strong and badly tasting wines when drunk undiluted destroy the sensibility of the palate; people habituated to these wines end by being unable to find any taste in the fine wines of delicate flavor which are the delight of the connoisseur.

Tasters who are accustomed only to high-class wines, when they taste ordinary or low-class wines are apt to underrate them, if they do not reject them as altogether valueless, though they may be sound and clean tasting. On the other hand, tasters accustomed to ordinary wines almost always deem the prices paid for high-class wines excessive.

This suggests the importance of habit as a factor in the modifications which the taste may undergo. It may easily happen that the prolonged use of a substance may render the sense of taste obtuse, and that the tongue may become " saturated," as Brillat-Savarin says in one of his happy aphorisms. Thus, when the palate has become habituated to a taste, that which at first was intolerable becomes often pleasing and even necessary. Generally, however, habit educates the sense of taste and renders it acute.

Sometimes a taster is called upon to give an opinion as to the character, the good or bad qualities of a wine of a certain locality or of some particular producer or vineyard; in this case, even though he may be well acquainted with the kind of wine, to be able to give his decision with more confidence, he will carefully provide himself with a wine of the same type as that which he is called upon to judge; he can thus receive material aid by making a comparison.

Naturally, a taster who is used to the wines of a certain locality or country will be more easily able to detect the slightest differences between the wines of that locality, especially those differences in fine wines which distinguish wines produced by different vineyards even in the same locality, and when planted with the same varieties of grapes.

A taster should be very cautious in giving an opinion of a young wine, or of one whose origin is unknown, and of pronouncing on its intrinsic worth; the youth of the wine will often mask defects, which, later, become apparent.

When it is found necessary to taste several wines in succession, it is a good practice to eat a little dry bread between each wine, or to rinse out the mouth with a little fresh water, to neutralize the palate, so to speak.

It is always good to rinse out the mouth with fresh water before commencing to taste.

Before commencing the tasting, or rather the final tasting that on which is based the concluding judgment the wines should be sorted; for example, if the wines are of the same kind, but of different ages, it is best to begin by tasting the weakest, thinnest, or greenest wines, reserving the maturer wines and those which are more 'aromatic, smooth, or alcoholic for the last.

The same is true when there are many and diverse wines, as at an exposition. In this case the tasting proper should be preceded by an arranging of the various wines, a thing which is not done at all, or badly done as a rule, much to the detriment of the exhibitors. This selection should be based not on the labels on the bottles, or on the statements of the exhibitors, but on a preliminary tasting; in this way those who are to judge the wines will not be presented successively with different type's of wine, with wines of different qualities and ages together, and, as is unfortunately the case, sometimes with defective or bad ones.

There are tasters who are ready at any time to pass judgment on a wine; they will even taste directly after smoking. Their opinion, to say the least, is of little value.

A good taster is not always in condition to exercise his art, and for that reason must sometimes refuse to make a tasting when he does not feel in a state to judge critically.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What is a "Claret"?

The following is adapted from "Jack's Manual On the Vintage and Production, Care, and Handling of Wines, Liquors, Etc.", by J. A. GROHUSKO; subtitled "A HANDBOOK OF INFORMATION FOR HOME, CLUB OR HOTEL"; Third Edition, 1910. It presents a straightforward definition of the term "claret" from the 19th century, and gives specific instructions for cellaring, decanting, and serving.

The word "claret" means a wine of clear, red color. It is the English name given to the red wines of France, and particularly those grown in the Bordeaux district.

Chateau wines are those made from grapes of a selected character and grown on vineyards of wealthy gentlemen, who devote much time and money in their careful cultivation, storing and aging. Chateau bottled wines rank very high in the estimation of the connoisseur.

Wines described as bearing the cachet "du Chateau" are simply those which have the crest or coat of arms bearing that name on the label. The caps and corks are likewise branded.

There are hundreds of districts where good wines are grown. To enumerate their varieties would fill volumes, and with a limited space at disposal it is impossible to give more than superficial indication of the best known brands. The wines of France have a recognized classification, according to value.

Clarets do not throw a deposit as quickly as Port wine, but the greatest care must be exercised in decanting them in order that they may be served in brilliant condition; the sediment being extremely fine, with a bitter flavor, it is not easily detected and will entirely spoil the delicacy of the wine if mixed with it.

Clarets moved from one cellar to another, are temporarily put out of condition; it is like transplanting a tree without giving it time to recover and develop in its new soil, therefore, wine always requires to settle down before being consumed.

Old wines particularly need a rest after a journey, and they should always be taken from the cellar direct to the Dining Room. This is important, but it is a very general omission in hotels and clubs.

To acquire the proper temperature, a Claret should be stood up in the Dining Room the morning it is to be consumed, and decanted at least half an hour before serving. A full wine may be kept a little longer, as it improves by contact with the air. Young or cheap Clarets should also be carefully decanted because any sediment coming into the glass destroys the character of the wine.

It is most inadvisable to serve Claret in a decanting basket, it should always be decanted, because the last one or two glasses invariably run muddy. Claret should, if possible, be put on the table at about the temperature of the room in which it will be consumed, to preserve the delicate freshness of the wine. The bouquet escapes when the wine is exposed to sudden heat or warmed to excess; this bouquet is mainly due to volatile vinous ethers which it is most desirable to retain. Clarets of medium quality improve with age, whereas the lightest table wines may be drunk fresh bottled, as is the custom in France; a fine, large, thin and white glass being used, and only two-thirds filled. Sherry and stronger wines are liable to throw a deposit in bottle if kept for any length of time; care should therefore be exercised in decanting them or in fact any wine in which a sediment may be formed.

The sound and natural wines of Bordeaux are refreshing and appetizing, and are the best type of a universal beverage for every day use; no other wines which the world produces are capable of yielding such lasting pleasures to the palate. They have also the additional advantage that when mixed with water do not spoil.

When taken with food they entice the languid palate and are admirably adapted for persons of all ages and conditions, whose occupations tax the brain more than the muscles, and as they contain only a comparatively small percentage of alcohol have but little tendency to inebriate.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Good French Bordeaux Claret in 1815

Bordeaux, FranceThe following is excerpted from "Process for making and preparing Claret Wine for shipping; without which preparation such wines are considered unfit for exportation, being in its natural state about the strength of our common Cider.", The American Practical Brewer and Tanner, by Joseph Coppinger, 1815. It provides an interesting description of how the Bordeaux grapes were trod by foot, fermented, and aged, and of the different "growths" produced.

Claret wine, before the French revolution, was the staple article of export from the great commercial City of Bordeaux, to every part of Europe. And, it may be presumed, will soon again re-assume its wanted importance.

The vintage generally begins, for making this sort of wine, about the middle or latter end of September, and is generally finished in all the month of October. The mode by which the juice is expressed from the grape, is by the workmen trampling them with their bare feet in a large reservoir or cooler, (not the cleanest operation in the world,) which has an inclination to the point where the spout or spouts are placed for taking off the expressed juice, which is conveyed to large open vats, that are thus filled with this juice to within ten or twelve inches of the upper edge; this space is left to make room for the fermentation, which spontaneously takes place in this liquor.

After the first fermentation is over, and the wine begins to purify itself, which is ascertained by means of a small cock placed in the side of the vat, and takes place generally by the middle of February, or beginning of March, in the following year; it is then racked off into hogsheads, carefully cleansed, and a match of sulphur burned in each cask before filling; when thus racked off, it is bunged up, and immediately bought up by brokers for the Bordeaux merchants, and here it is made to undergo the second or finishing fermentation, in the following manner: It may be proper here to remark, that claret wine is generally divided into three growths, first, second, and third; the first growths, namely, Latour, Lafeet, and Chateaux Margo (editor -- now called Chateau Margaux), are uniformly rented for a term of years, at a given price, to English merchants, through whom, or their agents only is there a possibility of procuring any portion of this wine.

The second growths are shipped to the different markets of Europe, North and South America; and the third growth principally to Holland and Hamburgh. In order to strengthen the natural body of claret wine, and to render it capable of bearing the transition of the sea, the first and second growths are allowed from ten to fifteen gallons of good Alicant wine to every hogshead, with one quart of stum. The casks are then filled up and bunged down. They are then ranged three tier high from one end of the cellar to the other, each tier about eighteen inches, with two stanchions of stout pine plank, firmly placed between the heads of each hogshead, from one end of the cellar to the other, until they have reached, and are supported by, the end walls of the building. This precaution is necessary to guard against the force of fermentation, which is often so strong as to burst out the heads of the hogsheads, notwithstanding the precautions taken to secure them in the situation during the summer heats.

The wine cooper, who has the charge of these wines, regularly visits them twice a day, morning and evening, in order to see the condition of the casks, and when he finds the fermentation too strong, he gives vent, and thus prevents the bursting of the casks.

The third, or inferior growth, is exactly treated in same way, with the single exception of having Benicarlo wine substituted for Alicant in preparing them for their second fermentation, as cheaper and better suited to their quality; both these wines are of Spanish growth, and brought to Bordeaux by the canal of Languedoc: they are naturally of a much stronger body than native claret.

Thus mixed and fermented, the claret becomes fortified, and rendered capable of bearing the transition of seas and climates. About the latter end of September, or beginning of October, the fermentation of these wines begins to slacken, and they gradually become fine; in this state they are racked off into fresh hogsheads carefully cleansed, and a match of sulphur burned in each before filling. After this operation, they are suffered to remain undisturbed (save that they are occasionally ullaged,) till about to be shipped, when they are racked off a second time, and fined down with the white of ten eggs to each hogshead; these whites are well beat up together with a small handful of white salt; after this fining, when rested, the hogsheads are filled up again with pure wine, and then carefully bunged down with wooden bungs, surrounded with clean linen to prevent leaking; in this state the wines are immediately shipped.

Here it may be proper to state, that the lees that remain on the different hogsheads that have been racked off, are collected and put into pipes of one hundred and forty, or one hundred and fifty gallons each, and this lee wine, as it is termed, is fined down again with a proportionate number of eggs and salt. After which, it is generally shipped off as third growth, or used at table mixed with water.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Wines of Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egyptian WineExcerpted from "History of Egypt, From 330 B.C. to the Present Time", by S. RAPPOPORT, Doctor of Philosophy, Basel, 1906

Several kinds of wine were made in Egypt; some in the Arsinoïte nome on the banks of the lake Mceris; and a poor Libyan wine at Antiplme on the coast, a hundred miles from Alexandria. Wine had also been made in Upper Egypt in small quantities a very long time, as we learn from the monuments; but it was produced with difficulty and cost and was not good; it was not valued by the Greeks. It was poor and thin, and drunk only by those who were feverish and afraid of anything stronger. That of Anthylla, to the east of Alexandria, was very much better.

But better still were the thick luscious Tæniotic and the mild delicate Mareotic wines. This last was first grown at Plinthine, but afterwards on all the banks of the lake Mareotis. The Mareotic wine was white and sweet and thin, and very little heating or intoxicating. Horace had carelessly said of Cleopatra that she was drunk with Mareotic wine; but Lucan, who better knew its quality, says that the headstrong lady drank wine far stronger than the Mareotic.

Near Sebennytus three kinds of wine were made; one bitter named Peuce, a second sparkling named Æthalon, and the third Thasian, from a vine imported from Thasus. But none of these Egyptian wines was thought equal to those of Greece and Italy. Nor were they made in quantities large enough or cheap enough for the poor; and here, as in other countries, the common people for their intoxicating drink used beer or spirits made from barley.

The Egyptian sour wine, however, made very good vinegar, and it was then exported for sale in Rome. During this half-century that great national work, the lake of Moeris, by which thousands of acres had been flooded and made fertile, and the watering of the lower country regulated, was, through the neglect of the embankments, at once destroyed. The latest traveller who mentions it is Strabo, and the latest geographer Pomponius Mela. By its means the province of Arsinoë was made one of the most fruitful and beautiful spots in Egypt. Here only does the olive grow wild. Here the vine will grow. And by the help of this embanked lake the province was made yet more fruitful. But before Pliny wrote, the bank had given way, the pentup waters had made for themselves a channel into the lake now called Birket el Kurun, and the two small pyramids, which had hitherto been surrounded by water, then stood on dry ground.

Thus was the country slowly going to ruin by the faults of the government, and ignorance in the foreign rulers. But, on the other hand, the beautiful temple of Latopolis, which had been begun under the Ptolemies, was finished in this reign; and bears the name of Claudius with those of some later emperors on its portico and walls.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Glass Wine Bottles at the Jamestown Settlement, 1680

Jamestown Settlement Glass Wine BottlesFrom "New Discoveries at Jamestown, Site of the First Successful English Settlement in America", 1957, US Department of Interior

Old wine and gin bottles comprise a large and important part of the Jamestown collection. Literally thousands of glass fragments from these bottles have been unearthed, and by diligent and patient work a few complete wine and gin bottles have been pieced together.

The glass wine bottles were made in England. The oldest excavated, made between 1640 and 1660, have spherical bodies and tall necks. Those made between 1660 and 1680 have cup-shaped bodies with short necks. Of the period between 1680 and 1700 the neck is very short and the body is wide and squat. Insofar as is known, no glass wine bottles were used at Jamestown before 1640.

The illustration shows some glass wine bottles unearthed at Jamestown ranging in date from 1640 to 1690. Thousands of fragments of these bottles have been recovered.

About 1650 the practice of affixing glass seals or buttons on the shoulders of English wine bottles was begun. The seal was inscribed with a name, or initials, or a date; sometimes a coat of arms or a crest, or other device or ornament. Many of these glass bottle seals have been found at Jamestown. As a rule, only the wealthy and influential planters had seals stamped on their wine bottles.