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220-year old pristine cork-sealed madeira wines discovered in Liberty Hall Museum, NJ

14 May / 2019

A selection from one of the biggest early collections of Madeira Wine in the United States, was sold at Christie's New York on december 7.

Further proof of cork’s incredible sealing capacity was provided by the discovery of almost three cases of Madeira wine from 1796 and approximately 40 demijohns from the 1820s, which were sold at Christie’s New York on December 7.

Madeira wine was the favourite of Founding Fathers such as James Madison and Thomas Jefferson.

The wines had been hidden behind an extra wall built in the basement of in the Liberty Hall Museum, at Kean University, New Jersey, probably erected during the Prohibition era. They were uncovered during restoration works conducted in 2015.

The contents had been preserved by the incredibly time-resistant cork seals.

The December 7 auction, which also included a collection of pre-prohibition whiskeys, included a selection of demijohns that were recorked in October 2018, in partnership with APCOR, the Portuguese Cork Association, and catalogued by Francisco Albuquerque, Winemaker for the Blandy's Madeira Wine Company, S.A., and Edwin Vos, Head of Wine at Christie’s.

The lots include Lenox Madeira, imported by the Late Robert Lenox Esq. via Philadelphia in 1796, bottled in the Summer of 1798, Re-bottled in June 1888 (estimate: $6,000-8,000 per bottle); Madeira 1846, Old Sercial in demijohn, recorked in 1871 and in October 2018 (estimate: $35,000-55,000 per 5-gallon demijohn.

Much of the discovered Madeira is still labelled with handwritten tags and can be referenced in the thousands of Liberty Hall documents dating more than 200 years.

Edwin Vos, Head of Wine, Continental Europe, Christie’s comments: “The journey from discovery to the uncorking, tasting, and cataloguing of these century-old vintages has presented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our specialist team and an extremely rare buying opportunity for collectors.”

Francisco Albuquerque, Winemaker for the Blandy's Madeira Wine Company, S.A., highlighted the longevity and quality of Madeira wine, preserved by their cork closures: “These vintages are approximately 200 years-old and yet they still retain the nuanced qualities and notes found only in Madeira coupled with the finish of time. This auction offers a remarkable opportunity to not only own a piece of history, but to experience it.”

Joao Rui Ferreira, President of The Portuguese Cork Association added: “The relationship between wine and cork is one of the oldest and longest relationships in history, and this collection of Madeira dating back to the 18th and 19th century exemplifies this. No other material has the ability to preserve the contents for 200 plus years and have it be possible to enjoy today.”

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