Pop Culture and Wine: Downton Abbey

Pop Culture and Wine: Downton Abbey

An evening of dancing, jewels and tuxedos, and fine dining on silver and crystal… the twilight of Edwardian-era aristocracy, a romantic image made popular by the successful series Downton Abbey. This weekend the period drama will close on its 4th season, and with more than a few zealous viewers here in the office, we could think of no better time to dwell on our own reveries of grandeur.

Our fantasy of high living would center on an Edwardian wine cellar bursting with the finest wines the early 20th century had to offer. While the series itself offers fewer details than we’d like – we’ve seen Thomas filch a bottle of Lafite in the first season, and a tabled laid with Cheval Blanc, Haut-Brion and Coutet Sauternes – we can use historical reference to build our own cellar and even find some recommendations for the modern collector.

We can safely say that a well-kept cellar would include plenty of Bordeaux wines from first and second growth chateaus (Classification of 1855). Michel Dovaz called the 1900 Margaux one of the great vintages of the 20th century, and it would have been a good time to stock up – the 1910’s were by contrast a terrible decade for Bordeaux. Today the 1900 vintage is a little past it’s prime, but you can stock your cellar with Bordeaux futures – Hart Davis Hart has 2010 vintage that have been stored in perfect cellar conditions – and your future soirée attendees will thank you.

the-butler-counting-the-wineNo respectable British estate would go thin on champagne selection, but the first decade of the 20th century was a rough one for champagne growers. Bad weather and the arrival of the phylloxera epidemic decimated early vintages, and the infamous champagne riots broke out in 1910-1911. While the 1911 vintage is widely recognized as one of the greatest for champagne in the 20th century, little was produced and even less exported due to the outbreak of war in 1914. While Carson was filling the cellar with champagne, he could have done worse than to fill it with such a venerated year. In our own cellar you can find Veuve Clicquot, magnums of Krug, and even a bottle of 1975 Bollinger Rosé.


After claret and champagne, the meal would be concluded with a toast of port. The British are credited with having a great love of port, a side-effect of their tumultuous relationship with France and the resulting fluctuations in French wine imports. If one were reading over Carson’s shoulder, one might find such noteworthy vintages as 1900, 1904, and 1908 logged in the Downton cellar. At Hart Davis Hart you can find such fine selections as magnums of 1977 Graham Vintage Port and case quantities of 1977 Dow’s Vintage Port.

So this Sunday don your finest evening attire (read: pajamas) and settle into the parlor (couch) to enjoy a night of British melodrama and fine wine. We’ll be doing the same. Cheers!

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