Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Wine sales...Wine info.....then and now!

Received an email from one of my wine friends in California with a link to a well done video on the sixties scene. Have a look and be sure to have your sound on. Sums it up quite well. They forgot one important bit of information, though. One of the best vintages in Bordeaux just happens to be 1964 and 1966 was an outstanding Champagne vintage. It got me thinking though. About wine sales then and now, about wine information then and now. Pictured here is Simon Berry, standing
(photograph courtesy

in front of the oldest wine shop in the world.
Berry Bros & Rudd Ltd. dates back to 1698.
Step back in time and read a good summation of the firm's history.
I wonder what it would have been like to buy a good bottle of wine 300 years ago? No internet sales, of course but Berry Bros have kept up with the times and now sell wines world wide through their internet sales. Today internet sales are commonplace. But nothing really replaces buying in person from a reliable shop with knowledgeable staff. They can specialize and have access to some real gems. One interesting wine shop that sells wine on line and has a fine, entertaining and informative blog is Nick's Bordeaux Undiscovered Wine Shop.
The internet has also been a boon for anyone wanting information on wine. As I mentioned in my September 9 blog post, put "wine" into Google and you will be kept busy with 177,000,000
entries. Again Berry Bros has plenty of good information and now that it is easy to post a video on my blog, I have one of their info series in video format here that took a little time to download but is of very high quality. I certainly view many wine sites and blogs and there is a wealth of info out there. But there is something special about a good wine book, a good glass of wine and a comfortable chair to while away a little special time. Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson come to mind immediately.
When I first got seriously interested in wine ( and I don't mean quaffing Mateus in college) there was no internet. Most of my wine information came from books and belonging to several wine societies and organizations. One of my favourite books was, and I still use it as a reference text today, the 1976 edition of Alexis Lichine's New Encyclopedia of Wines & Spirits.

Then and now! I wonder what the future will hold for the world of wine. Any thoughts, anyone?


Peter May - The Pinotage Club said...

I wonder what it would have been like to buy a good bottle of wine 300 years ago?

But could you have bought a bottle 300 yrs ago? Wasn't it illegal to sell wine in bottles since the bottles were not standard sizes. Wine was shipped and sold in barrel and bottled by the owner. I wonder when BBR first sold wine in bottle?

Wilf G.K said...

Thank you for your very interesting comment, Peter. I will be checking with BBR to see if they can give me the answer. I'll let you know.

Wilf G.K said...

Peter, I contacted BBR and being the service oriented organization they are, I received a quick response.Simon Berry's answer follows.
Good question! I doubt if it would have been illegal as such (there were far fewer, far better laws back then) but simply impractical and too expensive - no matter how expensive the wine, the price of glass meant that the bottle was always considerably more expensive. As a result, all bottles had medallions that told you who owned the bottle rather than what was inside. The bottle would have been used many times.

300 years ago it was likely that most wine was sold in cask and the bottle used to transport the liquid from the cask to the table. Bottles were short and squat, and not designed to lie on their sides for storage. About 250 years ago the practise began to come in of having your bottles delivered to your merchant, who would bottle them for you (but still re-usable bottles). The earliest bottle in our collection with the wine name on the outside was from c 1800, and it was from Constantia! The modern habit of bottles with paper labels wasn't universal until about 1860
So there you have it, Peter.