What if someone suddenly discovered 19 liters of 14th-century Madeira Wine and the rare liquid was better than ever? The improbability is very high, but it happened in a cold winery in the Bronx, in the United States. The discovery, made last year during a renovation of the Liberty Hall Museum in New Jersey, is now auctioned at Christie's. It's December 7th in New York.
It all started when a Portuguese wine-grower found a jug of wine from the dried Madeira of 1846. After the analysis he realized that the liquid was spicy, acidic, tasty, containing a penetrating acidity and fresh, spicy aromas that remained even in a empty glass. Another wine from the same period, a half-dry greengrocer in amber colors with the aroma of apricot, tobacco and rose petals, opulent, fruity with several layers that makes you want to drink more. The two wines are more than 170 years old. The auctioneer will offer them along with some full size bottles of Madeira Wine dating back to 1796.
The Liberty Hall Museum, originally built in 1772, has been enlarged and transformed into a 50-room residence by the famous politically active Kean family, owner of the property since 1811. When John Kean inherited the house 12 years ago, he began to transform it into the museum he currently runs. And one day, behind a dirty, cobwebbed wall, he came across one of Madeira's greatest collections of the eighteenth and fourteenth centuries. The discovery contained about 42 bottles and two dozen bottles of Lenox Madeira, imported by the late Robert Lenox in 1796, and probably hidden during Prohibition.
"I knew that wine deteriorated in hot environments, so I figured the wine from the bottles would be spoiled for having spent so many years in the attic," John Kean confessed. "I was ready to give it to the employees to make lamps." However, a museum guide decided to look up Google information on old Madeira wines and about some of the names on the bottles. It was that guide who convinced his boss that the wines could have some value.
Christie's was informed of the discovery and Edwin Vos, wine director of Europe's auctioneer and specialist in Madeira wines, visited the site and proposed an auction. "There are not many old Madeira wines available," he said. "This is the most underestimated fine wine in the world." Some were sold at Christie's first auction in 1766.
For many years, Madeira Wine was a prestigious drink for wealthy Americans. According to legend, Madeira Wine was used in the toast during the signing the Declaration of Independence. It was also popular in Washington long before bourbon became the favourite drink of congressmen. Now it is also this piece of tradition that is rescued.