Thursday, 20 February 2014

King Alfonso XIII Promotes Sherry in England

I've been delving into that wonderful old book by Jose de las Cuevas "Biografia del Vino de Jerez", which is full of fascinating anecdotes, such as that which follows:

One day in 1906, the following conversation took place between King Alfonso XIII and his majordomo, Don Joaquin Maria Rivero, a member of a very old Sherry family:

"I hear the Sherry business is going badly?"
"It has been for some considerable time now."
"Do you think that if Sherry were to be made more fashionable in England, it would remedy the situation?"
"Yes sir."
"Well, I shall take advantage of my next trip to do what I can for the wine of Jerez. I shall ensure that His Majesty Edward VII takes an interest in it, and that it appears daily on his table. That should do it, you'll see."

Earlier, in May, the King had married the Princess Victoria Eugenia of Battenberg, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, whom he had met on a state visit to England in 1905. Anyway, on the night of the 18th of July, five cars left the palace of San Ildefonso during the night. They left in stages, and at 2 am the first car left, carrying Sr. Palomino, sub inspector of Royal Palaces; at 3 am the next car left, with Count Grove and Mr. Bryden, the Queen's doctor; at 3.30 am la Duquesa de San Carlos, el Marques de la Mina and Prince Felipe de Borbon left in another car. At 7 am, the next departure was a huge powerful car, probably a Hispano Suiza, driven by the King wearing goggles with the Queen at his side, her large Edwardian hat veiled as was the motoring custom then. In the rear seats were Prince Ranier and the Duque de Santo Mauro. The final car was driven by the Duque de Arion with the Marques de Viana.

Alfoso XIII and Victoria Eugenia
All the cars drove to San Sebastian and on to Santander where they would catch the ship to England. The King, dressed in white and wearing an "empire builder" pith helmet, waited impatiently for the delivery from Sr. Rivero in Jerez of 80 cases of Sherry and 80 cases of Domecq Jerez Brandy.

When their Majesties arrived in England, home of the Cowes Regatta and clay pigeon shooting, Sr. Rivero set about the distribution of the Sherry and Brandy. Four cases for Lord Leith, four cases for Lord Lancaster etcetera. Later, with the agreement of the Marques de Viana, they prepared for the wine to be introduced onto the menus for royal banquets.

The menus below show where the Sherry and Jerez Brandy were placed in the order of the meals, though not precisely which dish was married with which wine, if indeed they were. It is not how we would do it now, but it is fascinating to contemplate those potential marriages. Still, Sherry was now, finally - and rightly - jostling with the most illustrious of its European counterparts.

Menu for 6th August 1906:                                                                     Wine:
Consomme with profiteroles                                                                Jerez 1849
Poultry soup                                                                                 Rhine Johannisberg
Pigeon a la Italiana                                                                     Jerez CZ - Vina el Barco
Turbot in sauce Dieppoise                                                          Mouton Rothschild 1878
Croquettes Victoria                                                                      Bourgogne Romanee
Beef stew a la Flamenca                                                            Champagne Ayala 1898
Cold ham Rocchel                                                                 Jerez Macharnudo Seco 1780
Quail in vine leaves                                                                   Moscatel Victoria Eugenia
Peas a la Francaise                                                                      Conac Domecq Jerez
Lily cake
Ice Cream Empress

Then, there's another menu hosted by Alfonso XIII for Edward VII and the Princes on the 10th August 1906. (Barely time to digest the first menu!):

Menu:                                                                                                     Wine:
Consomme three fillets                                                                        Jerez 1847
Fueldes soup (?)                                                                            Chateau d'Yquem
Salmon truffles with Mesalina sauce                                      Jerez Amontillado Alfonso XIII
Quails a la Turque                                                                      Mouton Rothschild 1878
Beef a la Chirry (Sherry?)                                                           Champagne Ayala 1898
Montes Frios Duck in Cumberland sauce                                    Jerez Macharnudo 1780
Salad Parisienne                                                                        Moscatel Viejo de Espana
Genova cake                                                                                Conac Domecq Jerez
Pineapple ice cream

These totally selfless efforts by the King to promote Sherry and Jerez Brandy paid off, and sales did begin to grow again in England. Conac was the word used for brandy then, but  is rightly no longer legal. Anyway, I do hope it helped their digestion!

I have done not a little research into some of these dishes, but unfortunately can come up with very little to explain what they were. Things have changed quite a bit in over 100 years - not least in the quantities eaten!!

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