Museum discovers two hundred-year-old Madeira wine in cellar

Bourbon bottled in the spring of 1884, American whiskey made in 1871 and cases of Cuban cigars were also found, museum director Mr Schroh tells The Independent. 

Beth Timmins
Wednesday 12 July 2017 14:00 BST
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Courtesy of Liberty Hall Museum
Courtesy of Liberty Hall Museum

Three cases of wine nearly as old as the United States were unearthed during a six-month restoration project at the Liberty Hall Museum in Union, New Jersey.

The cases of Madeira wine date to the summer of 1796 and 42 large demijohn jugs from the 1820s were also discovered.

“We were absolutely blown away when we opened up the cellar, the room got lost with time as it is only one of the house’s 50,” museum director Mr Bill Schroh tells The Independent.

The wine cellar: Liberty Hall Museum
The wine cellar: Liberty Hall Museum

The home of two of New Jersey’s former governors was originally constructed in 1760. New Jersey’s first elected governor, William Livingston built the estate as his country home before he signed the American Constitution.

Mr Schroh tells The Independent that the monetary value of the wine cannot be made public. However, a single bottle of Barbeito Terrantez Madeira dating to 1795 is available for £3622 ($4650) online.

Madeira Wine bottle label: Liberty Hall Museum
Madeira Wine bottle label: Liberty Hall Museum

Originally produced in the Portuguese archipelago of Madeira, the wine was popular in the 1800s and was one of the best to ship due to the fact that it rarely spoils, even centuries later, according to Mr Schroh. Madeira was also the wine of choice for George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

The 221-year-old bottles were shipped to the Elizabethtown house shortly after the American Revolution.

The cellar also contained hooch from when it had been boarded up during the Prohibition era. Mr Schroh says they found bourbon bottled in the spring of 1884, American whiskey made in 1871 and cases of Cuban cigars that have been preserved.

The house was turned into a museum in the 1995 by descendants of John Kean, Liberty Hall President and first Cashier of the Bank of the United States also lived there in the late 1700s.

The unique finds have now been put on display at the Liberty House Museum which plans to continue the excavation.

"In a house that was lived in for over 240 years, you never know what might be hidden," Mr Schroh adds.

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