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Robin Garr

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Charles Dickens' liquor log

by Robin Garr » Sat Sep 28, 2019 12:02 pm

Handwritten in spidery blue ink, Dicken's liquor log reveals a cellar well stocked with liquor and Sherry. Sotheby's recently sold the historic little volume to a collector for £11,875.

“Charles Dickens kept casks of sherry, pale and dark brandy, whiskey, and rum. His personal alcohol use was pretty normal for the time ... (the Victorians liked to drink). He didn’t keep gin, which was considered a drink of the poor.”
https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/d ... c6d125f910
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Tim York

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Re: Charles Dickens' liquor log

by Tim York » Sun Sep 29, 2019 7:16 am

It doesn't look as if Dickens was a wine lover. As far as I can read the manuscript, it's all strong stuff, the least alcoholic being sherry. I wonder if his liking for the hard stuff partly explains his succumbing to a stroke at the age of 58.
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Peter May

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Re: Charles Dickens' liquor log

by Peter May » Sun Oct 06, 2019 1:10 pm

Tim York wrote:It doesn't look as if Dickens was a wine lover.


I don't think that illustration showed the entire contents - https://museumcrush.org/dickens-drinkin ... by-museum/

Among the drinks that could be found in Dickens’s cellar from 1865 were one 50 gallon cask of ale, one 18 gallon cask of gin, a nine gallon cask of brandy and a nine gallon cask of rum. The cellar also included dozens of bottles of champagne, Chablis, Sauterne, Metternich hock, claret, L’eau d’or and Kirsch.
- https://museumcrush.org/dickens-drinkin ... y-museum/- https://museumcrush.org/dickens-drinkin ... by-museum/


the cellar book page shown at that URL lists, among others
4 doz champagne
5 doz Chablis
5 doz Sauternes
5 doz claret
1 doz Metternich hock
6 doz claret - St Julian
4 doz claret - Leoville

180 bottles of claret!

We visited the Charles Dickens Museum in a house he lived in in London. It's a short walk from St Pancras/Kings Cross stations.
His wine cellar is in the basement, off the scullery. (floor 1 if you use the interactive tour on the museum website
https://dickensmuseum.com)
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Re: Charles Dickens' liquor log

by Tim York » Wed Oct 09, 2019 6:53 am

Thanks for digging that up, Peter.

It's interesting how lacking in precision many 19th century drinkers were about their wines. There are no vintages given and "Léoville" is the only item which is narrowed down somewhat but there is no differentiation between the three present day divisions which were already separate entities by about 1840. "Claret" might be a generic bottling by a London merchant but it might equally be an assortment from different châteaux. "Chablis" was a term used by the UK trade to describe loosely any white Burgundy; there is an amusing story in André Simon's Vintagewise to that effect.

By the time we get to Professor George Saintsbury (1845 - 1933 and author of Notes on a Cellar Book), serious wine lovers were much more precise both about vintage and place of origin.
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Re: Charles Dickens' liquor log

by Peter May » Wed Oct 09, 2019 12:48 pm

In those time I understand most claret was bottled by UK shippers who imported in barrel.

Chateau bottling didn't take off until the first growths (with d'Yquem) led the way in 1924-5, and it took years before it became standard with lower classed growths.

Many years ago I bought a Ch Batailley (5th growth) bottled by Averys. They used their own standard printed label with 'Batailley' added with a rubber stamp. I can't find my old records but I think the vintage was '50s

I think The Wine Society only stopped on-site bottling in the 1960s
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Re: Charles Dickens' liquor log

by Peter May » Wed Oct 09, 2019 12:50 pm

Tim York wrote:
It's interesting how lacking in precision many 19th century drinkers were about their wines.


They didn't have Cellar Tracker :)
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Re: Charles Dickens' liquor log

by Tim York » Wed Oct 09, 2019 2:16 pm

Peter May wrote:In those time I understand most claret was bottled by UK shippers who imported in barrel.

Chateau bottling didn't take off until the first growths (with d'Yquem) led the way in 1924-5, and it took years before it became standard with lower classed growths.

Many years ago I bought a Ch Batailley (5th growth) bottled by Averys. They used their own standard printed label with 'Batailley' added with a rubber stamp. I can't find my old records but I think the vintage was '50s

I think The Wine Society only stopped on-site bottling in the 1960s


I broke my wine teeth on English bottled claret with designated château names, mainly from the 1952 and 1953 vintages, and many were very good indeed, especially from the latter vintage. I also seem to recall that most of the clarets which my father bought from the Wine Society up to the late 60s were their own bottlings, including my favourite Château Cantemerle.

Some Belgian wine merchants, especially Vandermeulen, were famous for their own bottlings of famous clarets and Burgundies up to about the same time; these are still sometimes found in auctions. I believe that Grafé-Lecocq of Namur still offers own bottlings. It was said that Vandermeulen had recipes for "improving" wine, such as a dollop of port here or a bit of cassis there. Of course no English wine merchant would have done such a thing. :wink:
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