Rare stash of Madeira wine discovered by US museum

10th July, 2017 by Lauren Eads

A US museum has discovered a stash of Madeira wines dating back to the late 1700s, making them almost as old as the country they were found in.

A selection of old Madeira, not those discovered.

Staff at the Liberty Hall Museum at Kean University in New Jersey found three cases of Madeira wine from 1796 and 42 demijohns from the 1820s while working on a six-month restoration project of its wine cellar, reported NJ.com.

The monetary value of the haul has not been made public, but the museum believes it to be the largest known collection in the US, and one of the most extensive in the world.

It is thought to be the largest collection of old Madeira wines discovered in the US, with many of the bottles thought to have been shipped to the early residents of Liberty Hall, once home to the Livingston and Kean families,  ahead of John Adams’ presidency.

“We knew there was a lot of liquor down here, but we had no idea as to the age of it,” Liberty Hall President John Kean told NJ.com. “I think the most exciting part of it was to find liquor, or Madeira in this case, that goes back so far. And then trying to trace why it was here and who owned it.”

The US was a thriving export market for Madeira in the 1700s and into the1800s, so much so that it was used to toast the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Its high alcohol content meant that it could survive the long voyage, maturing while on route aboard boats crossing the Atlantic.

However an outbreak of powdery mildew in 1851 halted its growth. The Madeira wine industry recovered, but was soon after hit by Phylloxera, and later Prohibition, which dented its growth in the US.

The industry survived by forming the Madeira Wine Association, renamed the Madeira Wine Company in 1981, a collective of producers on the island, today owned by Blandys.

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