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Thursday, January 27, 2005

Wine - for an 18thC Taste

Wine and other bottles from the Fortress Louisbourg archaeological digs on display in the museum

Recently, I asked Patrick Chazallet what might be wines, both white and red, that I could recommend to drink to approximate the taste of wines in the 18thC. He had an interesting reply:

"With the 18thC the wines were extracted very little (not much color, few tannins), because of the type of vine from which they were drawn. The wines were not very good either, the bottle was not generalized and they were often oxidized. To prevent being too bad, they were often aromatized with spices. It was the period when one gradually stopped using these spices, but they were still in use. Moreover more often one sweetened them.

They were always manufactured in the abbeys, except in Bordeaux where some English and Dutch bought properties.

Thus no current wine will resemble them. You can come close with:

« wines at base of the type of vine Pineau d' Aunis, and cabernet which one finds in names Coteaux of the Dormouse and Jasnières, close of the city of LeMans in Sarthe (north of the Loire Valley)

« wines at base of the type of vine Chinon and Bourgueil relatively light red wines made from the Cabernet Franc, 'Breton' (center of the Loire Valley)

« wines of the Beaujolais containing Gamay; a light dry red table wine made from the same grape used for French Beaujolais gamay rosé (south of Burgundy)."

So if I have a variety of gamay beaujolais, cabernet, and chenin blanc in my cave, I should be able to have a wine to go with most of my meals, although my cave is not as extensive as Voltaire's, who "ordered casks of wine, bottles by the thousand, corks as many as three thousand at a time. Beaujolais was his favorite wine; on one occasion he topped off the casks with Burgundy, which has not, I think, been done in recent years." Wheaton, p.216.

1983 Wheaton, Barbara Ketcham. SAVORING THE PAST : The French Kitchen And Table from 1300 to 1789. Touchstone, New York, NY.

Coming soon . . . more on the history of wine in the 18thC and a separate posting on champaign.

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