Watching the trails and joys of the fictional Grantham family for three seasons, I have marveled at the picturesque setting and pondered the identities of wines poured for the Grantham’s elaborate dinners.
A book published in 1908 entitled “A Guide for Edwardian Servants: The Up to Date Waitress” by Janet McKenzie Hill provides the following insight into food and wine served at stately homes like Highclere.
Usually a different wine was poured with each course. Champagne was proffered when guest were summoned to dine and remained on the table throughout the meal. Claret, a French red from Bordeaux, was poured throughout the meal in a house of unlimited means.
If a different wine was offered with each course, then with oysters a Sauternes was served. With soup, pale sherry. With fish, hock — now known as riesling.
With the entrée, claret or Burgundy, likely pinot noir. With the roast, Champagne. With game, Burgundy again. With cold dishes and hot or cold sweets, Champagne. With cheese, Port.
If interested in replicating a “Downton”-era wine dinner, hire head cook, Mrs. Patmore and her assistant Daisy along with Carson, the butler, to oversee pouring these suggested wines, available locally, and don’t forget to hire a crane to lift your guests from their chairs assuming they go the distance.
For Champagne Veuve Clicquot, Bollinger, Moet, Pol Roger and Krug were favored. Veuve Clicquot is available in the $50 range at both Tyson Fine Wines and Things in Golden Springs and The Wine Cellar on Quintard.
With oysters, Sauternes, a golden-colored sweet wine made from Semillon grapes grown in Bordeaux. Then as now a 375 ml bottle is pricey. Chateau Haut-Mayne 2009 Sauternes is $23.50 at Tyson’s and Chateau Roûmieu Lacoste Sauternes is $24.99 at The Wine Cellar.
With soup, a pale sherry like fino or manzanilla. Neither type is sweet. Manzanilla would likely have been the Edwardians’ choice. Tyson’s has Bodega Hidalgo Manzanilla 500 ml for $21.50.
With fish, a German riesling. Look for Monchhof Robert Eymael 2011 at Tyson’s for $13.75 or St. Christopher Piesporter Spatlese Riesling for $16 at The Wine Cellar.
For the entrée, often consisting of puff pastry stuffed with meat or sweetbreads (animal glands), a claret like Deyrem Valentin Cru Bourgeois Margaux 2001 from Bordeaux at Tyson’s for $34.25 or Louis Jadot 2009 Pinot Noir for $17.99 at our wonderful new Publix at Oxford Exchange.
For the course following the entrée known as the remove, or “relevé,” consisting of roast beef, poultry or a meat pie all served with vegetables, offer the Veuve or the Louis Jadot Pinot. For the roast game course following the relevé including such things as pheasant, quail or duck, serve the Bordeaux.
With dessert return to Champagne, and with cheese serve Port from one of the major Port producers like Taylor established in 1692. Taylor 10-year-old and 20-year-old Port is available at Tyson’s for $31.50 and $52.75 respectively.
If you should want to eliminate courses or wines from the above menu, do not eliminate claret and Port.
These two wines are historically important to the British elite who, when deprived of their supply of Bordeaux due to wars between France and England, turned to Portugal for wines and, in the process of fortifying these wines to preserve them over their lengthy voyage to England, invented an entirely new type of wine — Port.
From the mid-15th century onward, Port became an important wine in Great Britain, so important in fact many Port houses are still owned by British founding families.
Contact Pat Kettles at email@example.com.
Quick guide to a ‘Downton’ affair
Upon Arrival — Champagne
With Oysters — Sauternes
With Soup — Pale Sherry
With Fish — Riesling
With Entrée — Claret
With Relevé — Champagne or Burgundy
With Dessert — Champagne
With Cheese — Port