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Earlier this week, I enjoyed an anniversary overnight with my husband in the Finger Lakes. Here’s the view from our room, across the vineyard and down to Seneca Lake. We had a lovely time and returned with two cases of wine. 🙂

I’ve been visiting Finger Lakes wineries since my just-out-of-college days, when my wine knowledge was next to nil. I can honestly say that at most Finger Lakes wineries, there’s very little wine snobbery. Staff are friendly, happy to answer questions and help you discover what you like. I highly recommend taking a tour.

Finger Lakes winemakers have been working with reds for a while, with some success, but I still tend to prefer European reds. IMHO the Finger Lakes wineries are at their best with white wines. I love their Chardonnays and especially those that have undergone what is called “malalactic fermentation” which basically transforms fruity acidity to a rich, buttery acidity. Yum! Especially with rich seafood dishes. I’ve now tried Rieslings from other places and still think the Finger Lakes Rieslings are unmatched, as did Tim Patterson, a wine writer in Wines & Vines: “My due diligence completed, there was only one rational conclusion: The distinctive character of Finger Lakes Riesling comes from where the grapes are grown. It’s the terroir, stupid. There’s only one growing area on the planet (so far) that regularly yields the distinctive balance of acid, alcohol, and texture that marks this bounty from this part of Upstate New York.” These Rieslings are full of flavor, great with many foods or by themselves.

But enough about what I like. What did they drink during the Regency? When I first started reading Georgette Heyer’s books, I hadn’t a clue as to what some of the wine terms meant. Here’s a rundown, since some of these terms are no longer in common use.

“Hock” refers to white wine from Germany; the term comes from the name of the town Hochheim in the Reingau region. “Claret” is red Bordeaux, from that region in France (blends which may include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and other grapes). Burgundy was from Burgundy (made from blends including Pinot Noir), although now the term is sometimes used to denote a wine that may or may not be similar to the French wine.

Regency characters might also drink fortified wines, with a high alcohol content because they have distilled alchohol added. These included Madeira (made in the Madeira Islands, part of Portugal), port (from Portugal) or sherry (from Spain).

I don’t know if homemade wines were commonly drunk by the haut ton, but the gentry made such wines based on fruits and herbs. There’s a recipe for “Mrs Fowle’s Orange Wine” in The Jane Austen Cookbook, by Maggie Black and Deirdre Le Faye. It would be an interesting experiment to try. I suspect the result was pretty strong, since the last steps involve adding brandy.

Do you enjoy wine and what are your favorites? Have you ever tried wine-making?

But before we chat, here are the winners of the LADY DEARING’S MASQUERADE Kindle ebook giveaway:




Danielle Gorman


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I’m doing research on servants at the moment and wanted to share with you some of the fascinating facts I’ve found. Butlers, for instance, while invariably doddering in fiction, were the COOs of the Regency household, replacing the house steward, except in the households of Dukes with huge tracts o’ land, of whom there are dozens, invariably all hot and single, in our world. (Sorry, I couldn’t find the appropriate image. I hope this will do.)

The word butler and bottle have the same derivation. Butlers looked after the wine and wine cellars and were frequently wine experts, as well, if not better informed than their masters.

But the butler did more than inspect, gently brush away the cobwebs, filter, and decant.

Take this excerpt from The Complete Servant (1825), written by two career servants, Samuel and Sarah Adams:

To convert White Wine into Red
Put four ounces of turnesole rags into an earthen vessel, and our upon them a pint of boiling water; cover the vessel close, and leave it to cool; strain off the liquor, which will be of a fine deep red inclining to purple. A small portion of this colours a large quantity of wine. This tincture may either be made in brandy, or mixed with it, or else made into a syrup, with sugar, for keeping.
In those countries which do not produce the tingeing grape which affords a blood-red juice, wherewith the wines of France are often stained, in defect of this, the juice of elderberries is used, and sometimes log-wood is used at Oporto.

Turnesole, by the way, is a sort of lichen that’s been used since at least Chaucer’s time as a dye. It must have been a great comfort to know that if you were caught out during the beef course you could always go out and scrape a few rocks. But it also suggests that the sophisticates of the ton were incredibly ignorant about what they drank, and the Adamses are entirely ignorant about how red versus white wine is made.

This surprised me in a “the more you find out the less you know” way. Have you had an experience like this, recently? Or come across something bizarre in your research, or found a fact in a book that is so bizarre you suspect it’s true?

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