1st November 1846
“The Cask Amontillado” novel by Edgar Allan Poe is first published.
For some reasons wine is often featured in horror and thriller stories, with notable exceptions. This one, written by seminal horror author Edgar Allan Poe, is very enjoyable, but also pretty short. It is a bit difficult to write about it without spoiling it. It makes just a 10 minutes read and can be found for free here if you are interested. In fact, it involves a cask of Amontillado.
Wine lovers will find some interesting references, Italians may grin to the following quote:
“Few Italians have the true virtuoso spirit. For the most part their enthusiasm is adopted to suit the time and opportunity, to practise imposture upon the British and Austrian millionaires.”
3 November 1916
The Jönköping, a schooner transporting 3,000 bottles of Champagne to the Russia Imperial Army in St. Petersburg is sunk by a German submarine.
It was not an easy time for the Russian Empire, fighting the Great War alongside the Allies against the Central Empires. The Jönköping had left Gävle heading for Finland, which at the time was part of Russia. The ship was sunk by U22 near Rauma bringing along 4400 bottles of 1907 Heidesieck Champagne “Goût Americain”, 67 large barrels of Cognac and 17 regular barrels of wine. Thousands of bottles of aged Champagne lost forever! Or is it?
In 1997 the ship was found and the two finders (the Swedish Claes Bergvall and Peter Lindberg) formed a salvage company to recover it, allegedly to turn it into a museum. The first attempt failed (though the divers managed to get some bottles) and they came back again the following year only to discover that another team, led by Finnish Peter Freyckman, was there trying to do the same thing! There was some tension between the two crews, but eventually the Swedish managed to assert their right and on 24th July the ship was successfully lifted.
The recovered bottles were reportedly in good condition and the wine inside still decent after more than 80 years. Some were auctioned by Christie’s in October of the same year, with one selling for $4,068, the highest price ever reached by a bottle of Champagne (at least according to Heidsieck & Co).
7 November 1577
Francesco Scacchi is born in Fabriano (Marche, Italy)
A famous physician from the same region where I was born, Francesco Scacchi is especially remembered for his work “De Salubri Potu Dissertatio” (“How to drink well”). This fame is due because in chapter 21 he describes how some wines, under certain conditions, would referment in bottle and result in a fizzy wine (to put it simply, his explanation is much more exotic). For this reason the writing has been used by some of my fellow Italians to point out how “Italians invented sparkling wines first and well before the Champenoises”. Sigh. Do we really need this kind of pride?
In this case the claim is especially silly: Francesco Scacchi does not describe the “traditional method” (refermentation by liqueur de tirage addition), but the “ancestral method” (spontaneous refermentation after bottling) which was well known since Roman times. He even adds that in his time this practice was often employed by the Gauls, the French!
Finally, Scacchi, as a doctor, advises against drinking this kind of wine stating that they are bad for the stomach, they hinder digestion and they prevent urination.
For more information I recommend this book.
16 November 1934
The Confrérie des chevaliers du Tastevin is founded by Georges Faiveley et Camille Rodier in Nuits-Saint-Georges (Burgundy, France)
The Confrérie is one of the most well known associations of the World of wine and the spiritual heir of the Ordre de la Boisson (established in 1703). It includes different kinds of people like scientists, athletes, musicians, actors, politicians and businessmen.
Their mission is the promotion of Burgundian food culture and in particular Burgundian wine. They do this by organizing events, the most famous being the “Tastevinage”, a blind tasting plus dinner taking place at the Château du Clos de Vougeot in March and November. The one in November is bigger and more famous, because also part of the “Trois Glorieuses” (with the Hospices de Beaune auction and the Paulée de Meursault).
The Château du Clos de Vougeot, the official headquarters, is not owned by the organization, it has been leased in 1944 for 99 years. The Confrérie does not own any vineyard.
Becoming a Chevalier du Tastevin is not easy. Aspirants must be introduced by two members of the confraternity; the criteria of evaluation include social merits, talent, courage, scientific intelligence, love for France and fulfillment of human values.
27 November 1339
The Arte dei Vinattieri compiles its first statute.
The “Arti” (“Guilds”) were corporations formed in Florence since the 12th century. They grouped different kinds of artisans and professionals (physicians, lawyers, butchers, blacksmiths and so on) and intervened in many aspects of their respective businesses, protecting the interest of the members, arbitrating internal controversies and acting as an embryonic welfare system for their associates.
Tavern keepers had their own corporation as well, the Arte dei Vinattieri, formed in the 13th century. Their earliest statute that we know of was published on this day in 1339 and successively integrated until 1364. The document regulated opening and closing time, it obliged the members to fetch wine only from “partner producers” at a fixed price (established by the consuls), it forbade gambling and the sale of salted bread to induce thirst and it determined a minimum distance from churches and convents to run a shop.
Notably, in 1385 one Giovanni di Piero Antinori became a member of the guild. Yep, the Antinoris’ wine history can be traced back to 634 years ago.
For a long period the Arti were very influential and they had a remarkable political power.
However in the 16th corporativism started to decline: the guild were reformed and grouped into “universities”, losing much of their political weight. The Arte dei Vinattieri became part of the Università dei Linaioli. It was finally suppressed in 1770.