Amidst stacks of old books and lore at Hanzell Vineyards, a few old mid-century magazines have gathered dust, yellowing over time. The Wine-Butler, the "official organ" of the Guild of Sommeliers, published through the 1950s and 1960s--I do not know when the last issue hit the stands--is a trove of insights into the British wine trade of the time, and the minds of sommeliers. Like us, the sommeliers of the time struggled to make sense of a growing world of wine, and paged eagerly through each issue hoping to glean new information. The publication served both the British Guild of Sommeliers and the American Society of Bacchus, and there were monthly comminiqués from the Irish Branch. Ads showcased a silhouetted, aristocratic couple, lost in each other's charms, and implored the reader to "discover the sunshine!" in a glass of Australian wine. In these days, Blue Nun could "go right through the meal!" and a cru classé Bordeaux estate, Château Olivier, actually had to bother with print advertisements.
Following are a few of my favorite advertisements and some print excerpts from issues published between 1960 and 1963. A collection of magazines, available as digital pdf files, is available here: "The Wine-Butler" Archives
June 1961:"America is--I exaggerate slightly--in the minds of millions of Europeans, a country full of sky-scrapers. This, of course, is not so. There are multitudes of country towns and small villages, wonderful little hamlets around which agriculture on large and small scale is carried on, and in some parts of the States, vineyards have been planted. And I can assure you that the American Vintner takes as much pride in his products as his brethren in Europe."
September 1961:"The vineyards of the Gironde are making normal progress, but optimism is tempered by the prospect of not more than half a normal crop in red wines...So, for the fifth year out of six, the 1961 vintage will be below average in quality."
August 1962:"A lighted handle was held by one devoted assistant below the Impériale and the clarity of the "pour" watched from above by the one then pouring. Suddenly he gave a cry--the lees were coming forward. The bottle was titled back and found to contain about a half-magnum of cloudy wine and sediment, no drop of which had escaped into the magnum. The magnums were labeled 1, 2, 3, 4 and each corked as soon as filled. At the same time a magnum of Lafite '34 was decanted. In a glow of anticipation and achievement, the party trooped down to join the others in the dining room, where, after an avocado pear with crab filling, a very fine saddle of lamb, expertly prepared by the chef, made its appearance in style, and the party got down to the serious matter of the Lascombes and the Lafite."
February 1963:Paris Sommelier: "What wine would you like with dessert? A Champagne not too dry and not too sweet would be, I believe, a happy and fit Grand Finale."English customer: "You have the soul of a poet, my friend, hence your disregard of cash considerations. Champagne is too dear."Paris Sommelier: "You flatter me, sir, but a bottle of Champagne costs no more than a bottle of Yquem."
Between skyrocketing sales of Cyprus wines and a pretty frank dismissal of 1961 Bordeaux, a crystal ball this magazine is not...
This is AWESOME! The ads especially. Also the quote," . . .the 1961 vintage will be below average in quality."
I'm telling you, that Benedictine girl is a dead-ringer for a Dan Clowes character.
The Benedictine girl is pretty cute, but her little facial mole appears slightly out of position...
This is amazing.