A Rare Stash Of Wines Was Discovered From George Washington’s Era


Talk about buried treasure. A rare collection of wines was discovered in a New Jersey cellar from the time of George Washington’s presidency. Preservationists at the Liberty Hall Museum, located at Kean University, broke through a Prohibition-era wall and a locked wooden cage to discover one of the oldest collections of colonial-era Madeira and possibly the largest collection of wine that dates back as early as 1769. Thomas Jefferson, John Hancock and Benjamin Franklin were all reportedly fans of Madeira wine.

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The wine was imported around 1796 and the museum believes it was purchased by the Kean family to celebrate the presidency of John Adams in 1797.  KASU reports that the staff found cases that were nailed shut. The director of operations at Liberty Hall, Bill Schroh, said, “We figured out they’d been nailed shut for about a hundred years.” He also say that most wines would’ve turned to vinegar after that long, but Madeira is abnormally long-lasting.

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Madeira wine, made in the Madeira Islands off the coast of Portugal, is a sweet, fortified wine with a high alcoholic content. It was popular in the Colonial Era since it shipped well and rarely spoiled. A fortified wine is a distilled spirit that often has brandy added to it.

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Schroh says that “as long as the cork is not wet and the wax seal is not broken, there’s a good chance that it might still be decent-tasting Madeira.” The exact value of the museum’s discovery hasn’t been revealed to the public yet, but according to Christie’s (a British auction house), bottles of Madeira sold for close to $10,000 a piece in 2016.

CNN reports that John Kean (the president of the museum) sampled wine from an 1870 cask of Madeira and compared its taste to sherry. The display is now open to the public and Kean said that “one of the original two-century bottles may be opened when the president of Portugal visits the museum at some point down the road.