Can You Really Drink a Wine Today Where the Grapes Were Grown When Abraham Lincoln Was Running For President?

As we became more and more obsessed with wine, we began discovering older wines – wines from the years we were born (for the record, we are not that old…), and wines from famous old vintages (for example 1961). Wine is magical – is there any other substance you would willingly consume that was made decades ago?

Wine is magical – is there any other substance you would willingly consume that was made decades ago? Click To Tweet

This, of course, started an obsession. Are there wines that taste great today that were made before, say, the 1960s? Of course, simply drinking anything that is fifty-years old is amazing. (Thank goodness for the alcohol and acidity in wine, two of the greatest natural preservatives, which let you drink such an old liquid.)

But how do you realistically venture into wines older than fifty years old?

The answer is Madeira. This Portuguese island off the coast of Africa made wine hundreds and hundreds of years ago that was meant to be shipped on long sea voyages. This was the wine equivalent of Indian Pale Ale, but on steroids. So Madeira, beyond having the life-sustaining properties of other wines – alcohol and acidity – was also heated (i.e., Pasteurized) to make it survive longer. And, being fortified, its stronger alcohol helped, even more, its fountain of youth properties.

So, of course, we had to try this elixir of youth. A few years ago we started with a 1908 D’Oliveiras Boal Madeira. To give the wine’s age a little perspective, the grapes in this wine were harvested when Teddy Roosevelt was President! How was it? Amazing. It was as alive as any wine made today, with a fascinating and rich array of aromas and a still powerful taste.

1875 Madeira 10KBottles

But is 1908 old enough? How much older can you go? Next, was a bottle of 1875 Moscatel Madeira, a bottle which we bought to celebrate our (warning, shameless plug ahead) wine book, Is There Apple Juice in My Wine being released. How long ago was 1875? This wine was either only harvested, crushed, and fermented in the daylight, or the winemaking was done by candlelight as the light bulb hadn’t really been invented yet. Was the bottle from 1875 dead? Hardly. The wine was still vibrant and exciting, having been harvested a mere 143 years ago, and then spending the next hundred years in oak, before finally being bottled in the 1970s.

Is 1875 old enough?

How much older can you go? By 1875, the Civil War in the United States was over. The French were in their Third Republic. It had been almost two decades after Louis Pasteur discovered what fermentation actually was – bringing winemaking from mysticism to science. Could we possibly drink a bottle of wine from before that era?

Abraham Lincoln 10KBottles

Seeing that just obtained a cellar that contained two bottles of 1860 Madeira, we jumped on the opportunity to purchase them before anyone else could beat us to the punch. Now just how long ago is 1860? Okay, 159 years ago automatically sounds like a long time ago, but let’s put it into perspective on just how long ago that was. That was the year that Abraham Lincoln ran for President. That was when Napoleon III was the Emperor of France. This wine was made before Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, and Mahatma Gandhi were even born, let alone became great men. This is a wine from five generations ago, yet we can still drink it.

So, how was a wine that predated the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln’s presidency? Stay tuned…..

Photo Credit: Abraham Lincoln – the White House

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