Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The bright side of transport costs: port wine

The area (Porto) itself is one of the oldest wine-growing regions in the world - officially demarcated back in 1756, a century before Bordeaux.
And port itself was created almost by mistake. To stop wine going bad on its sea journey to England, British traders fortified it with brandy.
The new sweet taste and extra kick was an immediate hit with those who could afford it.

1 comment:

Benjamin Guilbert said...

I'm not sure that "chance" or "error" had anything to do with this. Indeed, most - if not all - the expensive wines of the early modern period, those that were not drunk within a few kilometers but transported over miles and miles, were typically either very sugary (Malvoisie wines from Greece) or with a strong alcohol content (Hungarian ones). Both techniques were used to avoid the wine from turning sour during the trip. Even so a high proportion of the cargo would be lost during any singificant transportation (up to 50%). The invention of spirit and the spread of this sort of strong liquor brought a new solution, adding some to any wine that needed transportation. That's how you got Madeira wine, Xeres, Sherry and all. That's also how the settlers from Brazil to New York and from Jamaica to India got to enjoy European wine whereas before the transport was simply impossible.
There actually would be an interesting study to make on the sugar and alcohol content of European wines, and I'm ready to bet that this variable would be highly correlated with the age of the vineyards and/or the price of the bottles. Lesser wines (i.e. those the closest to large captive markets) have disappeared. Just a handful managed to survive thanks to true R&D such as champagne, whose producing region was specially famous for the wine it gave to the mousqueteers of the king of France (not a good sign quality-wise).

Happy New Year Leo!