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There's carrots intill 't, and neaps intill 't
For there's carrots intill 't, and neaps intill 't,
A dainty dame she cam' our way,
That turn my stomach sae brawly.'
Letter of Mr. Ballantyne.
THE following letter is extracted from The Times of December 24, 1807. It is evidently written by a person of much experience in the wine trade, and contains some very curious and interesting information:
TO THE WINE DRINKERS OF BRITAIN.
DEAR SIRS,There are many of you enjoying the happiness of living in this convivial island, who absolutely have, on an average of the last six years, drank of Portugal wine alone 38,973 pipes per annum, for which duty has been paid; and 11,000 butts of sherry and upwards, for the last two years: and I suppose, in this year, you have kept up to the same quantity, exclusive of madeira, teneriffe, claret, hock, rhenish, mountain, &c.
Knowing, from long experience, that many of you enjoy it not so much as you ought, by the long and ill-founded prejudice against the wine-merchants, and in hopes of lessening that prejudice, and giving you a better relish for it, I make the following declaration, which, if deficient in point of elegance, shall not be so in point of fact.
On my return from Jamaica, 1767, with some judgment in making sugar and distilling rum, but much more, of naval affairs (having been clerk of His Majesty's naval
stores), I engaged as clerk with Mr. Robert Halcrow, of Mark Lane, who, previous to his death, gave me a share of one branch of his business. He was a general merchant, and a great importer of wine, and had one ship in the Oporto and another in the Lisbon trade. I became very anxious to discriminate between the different qualities in all sorts of wines, and was assisted by an excellent cellarman, whose father was the wine-cooper to all the merchants of York. I made acquaintance with Mr. Tailleur, a very old wine-merchant, and a sensible and scientific man, who informed me of all the methods of managing wines for fifty years preceding that time; and also with Mr. Christopher Smith, a very old wine-merchant, who told me, when he had come to a state of manhood, and to drinking wine at taverns, it was eightpence per quart, served up in a curious pewter measure, which turned round upon a little swivel with a spout, and if ten were in company one glass served them all.
The taverns were then like what paltry ale-houses are now, having old wainscot tables, covered with coarse blue-and-white cotton stuff; and the call was only for red or white,-but frequently the red was called claret, and the white, sherry. Sherry was then generally, like other white wines, kept in a state of fermentation by sweet malaga, meade, cyder, or honey; pale wine was but just coming home on the lees, with which was mixed Spanish or small French wine; and a similar mixture was made of the various sorts of white wines. The dexterity of the wine-cooper then, was making the most palatable at the lowest prices. But, much as both these gentlemen could give of the knowledge of wine, I got more from lectures on the art and mysteries of vintners delivered in Gresham College, by one of the professors, long before their time. Now, all wine comes in so clean and so perfect a state, that the wine-cooper's skill of former days is not required.
I believe it was not before the year 1750 that first growth claret, properly prepared and of proper age. came
MR. BALLANTYNE'S LETTER.
to England from Boulogne, to Mr. Stewart of York Buildings, and Mr. Allen of Mark Lane. It was managed at Boulogne by the house of which my relations, John and James Ballantyne, had the chief charge for more than fifty years. But of late years, the Forsters, the Johnstons, and two or more houses at Bordeaux, can ship it in the same excellent condition as formerly from Boulogne. As late as 1770, when I was at York, Newcastle, and Durham, in the east, and Manchester in the west, I found all the five northern counties supplied from Edinburgh and Leith.
From 1767 to 1774 no pale wine was bottled but for immediate use; only draft wine was used in the principal taverns, with most of which I was acquainted, and many inns in the vicinity; and it was often very bad, not from the tricks generally of the vintners, but their bad management. When a good pipe in draught was grown flat, a hogshead was filled, and, in time, put in draught; and lastly, reduced to a half-hogshead; and those casks were seldom clean. Now, I do affirm, that during these seven years we made no mixture of any kind; but if Lisbon was too thin, and not rich enough, we applied a portion of Calcavello-Lisbon, at a much superior price; and with white port (being subject to ferment in summer and grow foul in winter) we mixed a little fine teneriffe, which improved its flavour and prevented any further fermentation.
When a pipe of port became too old for our customers, we enriched it to their taste with newer wine; for at that time superannuated port was not esteemed. I think three years of the above had passed before I had seen a butt of sherry; but when I did, I recommended it in preference to white port.
A man of quality recommended to me Mr. Duff, our late consul at Cadiz, to whom I sent orders from several friends, and white port soon became despised; although it had been in such esteem, that, even as late as 1782, I got orders in one week for shipping 80 pipes. Now it is forgotten ; sherry has prevailed: but I begas many of you as have given up your affection for your