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Ye Olde Wine Shoppe

When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to do on the weekends was to go to garage sales. I liked looking at all the stuff that other people had (which I didn't) but perhaps more importantly, I loved that I could buy it for a nickel. Or something like that. I'm sure my mother did, too, since we couldn't exactly afford shopping sprees at ToysRUs.

I don't know when was the last garage sale I visited, but I'm pretty sure there wasn't anything there for a nickel. It's easy to get nostalgic about what amazing things we used to be able to buy for ridiculously little money. Perhaps for this reason I still really enjoy an occasional flip through reproductions of the old Sears Roebuck catalog where you could get an entire bureau of drawers for a bit more than a dollar.

So it probably comes as no surprise that I'm fascinated by the 1909 inventory list from UK wine merchant Berry Brothers and Rudd that Jamie Goode just posted on his blog. It's quite a treat to look through this little catalog it and see what was available before the first World War in England, and how things were priced. Jamie points out one of the most interesting facts -- that German Riesling was either popular enough or hard enough to get that it was priced comparable to many of the top Bordeaux wines of the time.

It's pleasantly comforting to see familiar names on this wine list, and mouthwatering to contemplate buying a case of Domaine Romanee Conti for less than $150. In these tough economic times, when many wine lovers, myself included, have cut back on wine expenditures, this list is almost cruel.

I was particularly intrigued by the category in one of the margins labeled as "Sparkling White Medoc." Did Bordeaux make sparkling white wines as recently as the turn of the century? That was news to me.

In any case, the list is an interesting little diversion if you care to take a few minutes to check it out.

Thanks to Jack at Fork & Bottle for the tip.

Comments (7)

Dylan wrote:
11.21.08 at 8:43 AM

It is sad looking at that. I remember even when I was 10, I was so jealous of my dad's tales of his youth for food, car prices, movie tickets, and so forth. It's an interesting glimpse back in time looking at that list. However, no matter how tempting the past, I wouldn't trade now for anything.

11.21.08 at 12:23 PM

www.wine-searcher.com finds quite a few Cremant De Bordeaux Blancs, in fact I remember being offered a bottle a few years ago, but it was an e-mail offer from someone unknown, and the price seemed ridiculous. Anyway, they seem to produce it even at this very moment!

The Corkdork wrote:
11.21.08 at 9:30 PM

Thanks for pointing folks to Jamie's great blog, if they haven't been before. I was inspired to put up an amazing old wine list from a hotel menu from July 1861 that my great-great uncle saved. It is up at the Corkdork if anyone wants to check it out. The prices are amazing and some of the descriptions are very interesting too.


Henri`` wrote:
11.21.08 at 10:10 PM

I cant understand this exaltation of wine - after all its just grape juice with alcohol - apart from that it is just complete emotion and perception - sad really!! If there is more to it please enlighten without crap about emotion or perception pleaae

Brian wrote:
11.23.08 at 6:03 PM

Actually, by turn of the century standards, it is depressing to see that even back then DRC, d'Yquem and the rest were out of reach to mere mortals. 12 pounds a bottle was a fortune back then.
A fun read though. My favorite was the listing for Lafite that listed the year as "probably..."

Chris Robinson wrote:
11.23.08 at 8:19 PM

Surely the wine called "Larose", which I assume became Chateau Gruaud Larose, specifically offered "in bottle" raises issues. What other container did they offer then? In cask? If you run a 5% annual cost index on these wines some of them are at today's prices!!

Alder wrote:
11.23.08 at 8:43 PM


I suppose, without any real knowledge, that some of these wines were offered in bulk form, meaning you bring your container in, and they fill it up.

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