A while ago a colleague sent me some pictures of a an old bottle of Madeira that they’d “bought at a charity auction… No clues (about what it is) as it’s completely waxed and has maybe been redone.”
Having stared intently at the photos of the label, and delved into my archives, I concluded that it was a bottle of 1810 Rumo da India Madeira.
The Dutch East India Company used to pick up casks of Madeira wine and take them to India. The intense heat and constant movement of the ships had a profound effect on the wine and led to Madeira becoming a fortified wine that is heated in “estufas” (heated chambers or lofts) to replicate the conditions of the long journey south.
This bottle is probably one of the very oldest surviving examples of Madeira wine that made the trip to India and back in cask.
The wine was bottled at some point and I understand that these bottles were later recorked and rewaxed by the Araujo family (which has no connection to Araujo Estate Wines in Napa Valley, California.)
There is a possible link for Arden Fine Wines’ bottle to the legendary “Three Emperors Dinner” that was held at Café Anglais in Paris, France, on 7th June 1867.
The dinner was hosted by King William I of Prussia, who had requested a special meal from chef Adolphe Dugléré for which no expense was to be spared.
King William’s “Emperor” guests were Tsar Alexander II of Russia and his son the Tsarevitch (who later became Tsar Alexander III). The dinner was also attended by Otto von Bismarck, who was at this time merely the Minister President of Prussia, and who became Chancellor of the North German Confederation on 1st July 1867.
Café Anglais’s cellar master Claudius Burdel (who later owned the Café) oversaw the selection of the wines.
The banquet consisted of 15 courses (five starters, six main courses and four deserts) with eight wines, served over eight hours, and cost 400 francs per person, which equates to over €9,000 today.
The eight wines included Château d'Yquem 1847 (a famously great vintage of d’Yquem); Château Margaux 1847; and Château Lafite 1848.
Also noted on the wine list was “Madère Retour de l'Inde 1810”. This might be the same wine that I have in a bottle labelled as “1810 Rumo da India Madeira”.
Even if this is not the Madeira that was served at the June 1867 dinner, it is a wine fit for an Emperor.