Since time immemorial wine has been praised for its nutritive and restorative qualities, and was much used in the days before proper medicines were available. Sherry was regarded as among the most therapeutic, and featured as “Vinum Xericum” in more than one national pharmacopeia . As the great French microbiologist Louis Pasteur said “Wine is the healthiest and most hygienic of drinks.” Naturally this was promotional gold to the Sherry producers and many set about making it healthier still, with the advice and approval of doctors.
|If it's good enough for the Pope...|
One of the oldest remedies was quinine, an extract from the bark of the Cinchona tree, native to Peru and Bolivia and brought to Europe by the Jesuits. Despite its very bitter taste, it has fever-reducing and painkilling properties, stimulates the appetite and is effective against malaria. Mixed with wine, especially sweet wine, it is much easier to take. (Tonic water is another way). “Vino Quinado” must contain a maximum of 300 parts per million of quinine.
Most Sherry producers made Quina and whole bodegas were filled with the wine, which generally consisted simply of PX blended with quinine, but sometimes there were other ingredients such as iron, gentian, honey, cacao, fruit, even iodine, and the more they contained the more illnesses they could claim to cure. Many brands carried on their labels testimonials of their efficacy signed by doctors or pharmacists of the day and indeed were sold in pharmacies. The placebo effect was unknown in those days.
|Real curative power (foto:gentedejerez)|
Typical descriptions were: Jerez Especial para Enfermos, Jerez Reconstituyente, Aperitivo Reconstituyente, Tónico Reconstituyente, Vino Longevital, Salvavidas or Gran Vino Milagroso, all attesting to their curative powers, and a great many had Christian iconography on the labels, particularly of saints who had performed miracles. Some feature nurses, strong people (eg Hercules, Titan) or pictures of the King and Queen who were seen as between earthly and divine.
|King Alfonso XIII (foto:jerezsiempre)|
During the heyday of Quina from the second half of the XIX century to the mid-1970s, it was consumed by people of all ages, though children were restricted to a spoonful, but nowadays the typical consumer is a person of a certain age, and it is often the only alcohol available in care homes. Production is a fraction of what it was once, mainly due to the vast improvement in medicines but partly due to changing fashions. The Consejo Regulador no longer takes an interest, with quality control now covered by the Ley Española de la Viña y el Vino.