A bottle from the past

Detta inlägg finns på svenska på min blogg Aqua Vitae – välkommen!

Anna Oswaldson Vin & Sprithistoriska Museet showing the bottle

The other day I posted a story on my wine blog Aqua Vitae, this an English version of that post, though a bit shortened,  about an odd find. It’s not every day I find common denominators between my interest in wine and in archaeology – this was such an occasion!

At the Historical Museum of Wines and Spirits (Vin & Sprithistoriska museet) in Stockholm an interesting bottle surfaced. It was originally found in the 1940s by a diver and later donated to the museum. The bottle is complete and from the 1790s – interestingly enough with a seal which reads: CON STANTIA WYN which makes an identification possible. The bottle comes from the South African wineries Groot Constantia. Groot Constantia is the oldest winery in South Africa founded in 1685. When I did some research on the winery I found a link to Sweden – in 1712 it was bought by a Swedish adventurer, a captain Oloff Bergh and his wife Anna de Koningh. Oloff Bergh was born in Gothenburg in 1643 and got eleven children with his Anna who took over the winery in 1716 when Oloff died. She managed it until her death in 1734. Here ends the Swedish connection until the bottle was refound at the museum. The most plausible explanation is that it came to Sweden via the East India Company and ended up on the bottom of the sea in the Stockholm archipelago.

A nice little story – it could very well end there, but now I want to taste the wine – of course today’s wines haven’t all that much in common with the wines of the 1790s but still its produced in the same place. The wine is normally available in Sweden but the importer seems to be out of stock at the moment.

I’ll come back to this issue as it opened up for several interesting questions and it became obvious to me that my knowledge of the history of wine have some big gaps. I was oblivious to the fact that wine was produced in South Africa at that time, that there were an export market from the new world at this point and that they were shipped in bottles – I believed they be shipped in oak barrels and tapped on bottle on site. There are finds of similar bottles, or rather pieces of bottles in the USA and in Germany so its not a single bottle. Well I’ll get back to you on this as I find more background material.

Magnus Reuterdahl

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About Magnus Reuterdahl

I am an archaeologist/Osteologist from Sweden. My main intrest lays in north Euorpean archaeology in, preferbly the prehistory of the late iron age and the neolithic periods. I've also got a strong intrest for Chinese archaeology, especially the neolithc Yangshao culture. I also write about cultural heritage and cultural history. Mitt namn är Magnus Reuterdahl, jag är arkeolog och osteolog och arbetar företrädesvis i Sverige även om jag gjort ett par vändor till Kina. På den här bloggen skriver jag om mitt yrke, om fornlämningar, kulturarv och kulturhistoria m m. View all posts by Magnus Reuterdahl

7 responses to “A bottle from the past

  • A few words on prehistoric and historic wine imports, etc. « Testimony of the spade

    [...] och Sprithistoriska museet (the Wine and Spirits Historical Museum) collections a couple weeks ago, read more here. Since then, I been reading up a little on wine imports in prehistoric and historic times, read [...]

  • François Audouze

    I have drunk recently a 1791 Constantia of South Africa. If this bottle were to be tasted, I would be happy to be a “witness” of taste, as I have an experience of wines of this age. Of course I would pay my share of the cost of such an event, but as I report on all what I drink,including thousands wines of more than 50 years, and hundreds before 1900, I would be happy to bring the testimony of such a wine. The bottle that I have drunk had a different shape.
    Please contact me

  • Magnus Reuterdahl

    Dear François Audouze

    I’ve been reading your articles with great pleasure and interest over the years in Swedish and international wine press, thanks so much for sharing those amazing experiences. I’m sorry to say that this bottle was empty so there is unfortunately nothing to taste but just a beautiful bottle with a history that caught my interest. According to your reply you’ve recently drunk a 1791 Constantia of South Africa, is it published on-line or in an article? If not what did it taste like?

    I wrote a bit more on it here
    http://inventerare.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/a-few-words-on-prehistoric-and-historic-wine-imports-etc/

    Best wishes

    Magnus Reuterdahl

  • What does a Groot Constantia ca 1790 taste like? « Testimony of the spade

    [...] does a Groot Constantia ca 1790 taste like? By Magnus Reuterdahl I got a comment on a recent post on the ca 1790 Groot Constantia bottle from François Audouze. I’ve read his columns in [...]

  • Hur smakar Groot Constantia ca 1790? | Aqua vitae – livets vatten

    [...] Jag fick en kommentar från François Audouze, som förr skrev fantastiska krönikor i Livets Goda om viner vi dödliga bara kan drömma om (tyvärr verkar man dock plockat bort honom från skribentlistan), angående Groot Constantia. Uppenbarligen är flaskan inte fullt så unik som man kunde tro – han drack nyligen en från 1791! Läs mer här och se bilder på flaskan mm (se även nyare inlägg!). [...]

  • Mariëlla

    Wine was produced in South Africa from 1659, the first harvest. Cuttings were brought on the Dutch East India Company ships as early as 1652/53, but the were not succesful. The Constantia Estates date from 1679, and were owned by Simon van der Stel, governor of the Cape.
    Constantia was a very highly sought after wine, that commanded big prices. It was only for the happy few, and I didn’t come across it much in Dutch sources. But it was imported, probably in small quantities.
    I don’t know if the grape variety at the time was muscat too.

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