Monday, December 19, 2005

On my list, I posted this:
From a Gutenberg edition ofTitle: The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction, No. 290Volume X. No. 290. Saturday, December 29, 1827.

The order of taking wine at dinner has not been sufficiently observed in this country. "There is," as the immortal bard beautifully expresses it,"a reason in roasting eggs;" and if there is a rationale of eating, why should there not be a system of drinking? The red wines should always precede the white, except in the case of a French dinner, when the oysters should have a libation of Chablis, or Sauterne.I do not approve of white Hermitage with oysters.

The Burgundies should follow--the purple Chambertin or odorous Romanee. A single glass of Champagne or Hock, or any other white wine, may then intervene between the Cote Rotie and Hermitage; and last, not least in our dear love, should come the cool and sweet-scented Claret. With the creams and the ices should come the Malaga, Rivesaltes, or Grenache; nor with these will Sherry or Madeira harmonize ill. Last of all, should Champagne boil up in argent foam, and be sanctified by an offering of Tokay, poured from a glass so small, that you might fancy it formed of diamond. Literary Pocket-Book.

I commented, "I don't know why a romanee should be odorous, but it doesn't sound good. And why is claret sweet-scented and cool? And is the last bit suggesting that the Tokay is added to the champagne?"

My friend, Bibiana, a wine expert, replied:
I don't think odourous in this text means more than having a pleasant odour that is: smell. Am I correct in thinking that "odour" has a bit of "badsmell"-meaning in it nowadays? It doesn't in French, where the word derives from.

The list of precedence surely reads strange for the reader of today, but it has a certain logic in it, when you think about what kind of wines the writer is writing.Just remember that modern methods of winemaking did not exist. EG the cooling during fermentation. Thus, to stabilize wines for transport etc. one needed a much longer fermentation for white wines. These were not dry and refreshing but rather a bit musty and preferably sweet.The areas where Hock, Chablis and Champagne were grown (The Rheingau areaof Germany for Hock, the region north of Dijon in an elevated part of Northern Burgundy for Chablis and the region around Reims/Epernayin Northern France for Champagne) belong to the coolest winegrowing regions of Europe. Thus their wines contain a strong acidity which then tamed the sweetness to an acceptable level as a tongue-refresher.

As you see in the text, these wines take the place of the sorbet in the menu à la tradition Francaise.Red wines OTOH were dryer than the whites, because the fermentation with their skins did not only extract the red colour but added tannin to the wine which got even more of that from the cask in which it was fermented and aged. So a red wine surely was the better choice with food at that time, especially in a time when eating seafood was considered only for a dietor not noble at all. Most dishes contained of meat - preferably venison. So these recommendations make total sense for me .

Today we still drink the Burgundy-style wines before the Bordeaux (Claret)-style wines.It's quite a rich audience which is addressed here: Chambertin and LaRomanee are two of the Grand-Cru-vineyards in Burgundy's most noble Coted'Or area: top of the tops - still today!! Interesting that the author prefers Muscat de Rivesaltes to Sauternes: he knew his stuff, really!!As for the Champagne & Tokay: in 1827 Tokay was still the "wine of the Emperor" because most wineyards in the Tokay area of Hungaria belonged tothe imperial house of Hapsburg and were served only in Vienna on grand ocassions. I believe that the British got to know the wine during theCongress of Vienna. Because it was and is one of the most intense sweet wines, it makes sense for me to present this extremely rare wine in small,valuable glasses and to use it to lace the Champagne with it.

I have some Christmas food posts to come in the next days.


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