Madeira 1792 / On August 7, 1815, a British warship, the HMS Northumberland, taking Napoleon to St. Helena for his final exile
stopped at Madeira to take on supplies. Napoleon was persuaded to purchase a pipe of Madeira (A pipe is a barrel
containing a little less than 600 bottles). The pipe was never opened by Napoleon as he developed a severe
gastric complaint and his doctors forbade him to drink any alcohol. After the ex-Emperor’s death in 1821, there
was a dispute over payment of the pipe and it was returned to Madeira where it lay with Blandy’s until 1840. Most
of the wine - an estimated 400 bottles - was then used to make the famous solera of 1792, but some bottles -
perhaps 200 - were filled using only the wine from Napoleon’s pipe. These bottles are immensely rare, with only a
few still in existence – this cache of 12 is probably the largest holding extant anywhere. Occasionally bottles from
the 1792 solera come on to the market, but an opportunity to buy even a single bottle of the unadulterated
vintage 1792 wine is a very rare event indeed.
A bottle of this wine was opened as a special honour for Sir Winston Churchill on a visit to Madeira in 1950. Sir
Winston insisted on serving each guest himself, asking "Do you realise that when this wine was vintaged Marie
Antoinette was still alive?".
In 1792 the French revolution was reaching its climax – in August the Tuileres Palace was stormed and Louis XVI
arrested and taken into custody. In 1792 Mozart had been dead for less than a year and Rossini was born. George
Washington was President of the United States.
The bottles are in excellent original condition with very good levels - top shoulder or base of neck - but no longer
have any labels or stencilling at all. This is typical of this bottling in particular, and 18th century vintage Madeira
in general - those bottles that are found labelled usually have more modern labels applied afterwards, by Christies
amongst others. The bottles were purchased in the late 1980's by a senior and highly respected member of the
British wine trade, who personally vouches for their provenance as follows:
"These wines were personally removed by me many years ago from the cellars of Abbey Leix in Ireland, the then
home of Viscount de Vesci. I have seen the cellar records to confirm that the details are correct – 1792 Blandy’s
To the best of his knowledge the bottles were purchased by the de Vesci’s in the mid nineteenth century directly
from Blandy’s and never touched until he purchased them from the family over a decade ago. He's tasted one of
the bottles, and says it is absolutely superb, the finest Madeira he's ever drunk. Of course it's a pity there isn't a
trace of the original stencil or label still remaining, but this isn't at all unusual for bottles of this age. The
provenance - critically important for wines more than two centuries old - is extraordinarily well documented. The
bottles themselves are hand-blown black glass with deep punts, and quite clearly late 18th /early 19th century.