On clearing out a cupboard I came upon some old trade price lists from the early 1960s, and just had to share them with you. They show just how much the wine trade has changed since then! In Britain, of course, even the money has changed: these prices are wholesale and in pounds, shillings and pence. German wines still had a market but there were very few Italian wines. The only New World wines were fortified ones form Australia and South Africa. Unfortunately Spanish wines were restricted to imitations of big French names like Graves or Chablis, (bottled as such in the UK one must point out, as most wines still were) but a lot of fine French wine is listed.
“Empire Wines” were still available: mainly “Sherries” from Cyprus, South Africa, and Australia, whose Emu winery was producing something called “Sir John’s Sherry Sack.” Hmmm! Another feature - or should I say horror - is “British Wines” which were poor imitations of Port and Sherry. Then there is Tarragona, a fortified (then) red from Cataluña which was popular till the late 1970s.
JG Thomson was an Edinburgh merchant established in 1709 and based in the ancient and beautiful Vaults in Leith (now home to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society). There are two pages of Sherry in the list which include their own brands, along with Bertola, Domecq, Duff Gordon, Findlater (a London shipper), Garvey, González Byass, MacKenzie, AR Ruiz, Sandeman and Williams & Humbert. Now that’s a good list! MacKenzie’s Fino “El Catador” is priced at £0/19/6 (just under £1- but more like £18 at today’s value). It is heart rending, though, to see how many brands – let alone bodegas – which no longer exist.
Another list, that of D Cameron & Co (the long gone Scottish division of what was then Gilbey Vintners – now Diageo) from 1964/5, and it also contains some modern “no-no’s” like “Viña Paceta Rioja Claret” and “Emu Australian Burgundy”, however the (proper) Sherry is more interesting. Gilbeys had huge stocks of Sherry in Jerez, and owned brands such as Royal Tan, Aperitif, Bonita, Listan Pale and Rustan Brown. The list is padded out with wines from producers such as Harvey, Domecq, Osborne, Reál Tesoro, González Byass and Williams & Humbert. Again, a good list.
|Ad from 1950 (foto:gracesguide.co.uk)|
I myself had a modest wine merchant business in the 1980’s and we stocked a large range of Sherry from González Byass, Osborne, Bobadilla, Harveys, Williams & Humbert, Hidalgo, Garvey, La Guita, Barbadillo and the full range of Lustau Almacenistas. The most expensive Sherry was the Almacenista Amontillado de Jerez ½ from Rosario Benítez Girón at £8.99. Those were the days. Now It is a real hassle to find an interesting Sherry without going to the fountain head (as Byron put it) – Jerez.