How the wealthy saved their wine from the Great Fire Of London

This year marks the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London, and new reports have shown how the wealthy saved their fine wine from one of the most devastating fires in British history.

Great Fire of London

The 1660s was a disastrous decade for London, which was then the capital city of the Kingdom of England. In 1665, London was hit by the worst outbreak of the bubonic plague in England since the Black Death in the 14th Century, which wiped out around a third of Europe’s human population.

The city was then besieged, Historic UK writes, with the Great Fire of London in 1666. Starting in the King’s Bakery on Pudding Lane, the fire engulfed large parts of London, with only a fifth of the city left standing by the time it was quelled. One reason we know so much about the Great Fire of London today is that one of the era’s most famous diarists, Samuel Pepys, wrote an account of the blaze.

Pepys’ diaries

that one of Pepys’ entries reveals how the wealthy, such as himself, buried their fine wine underground to save it from the fire. Writing on the 4th September 1666, Pepys chronicled the attempts of Sir W Batten, who was a navy colleague of the diarist, to save his wine.

Explaining, Pepys wrote: “He dug a pit in the garden and laid [the wine] there… In the evening, Sir W Pen and I dug another pit and put our wine in it, and I my Parmesan cheese and my wine and some other things.” Believe it or not, the plan actually worked, with Pepys noting in his 14th September entry that the wine had been dug up and was now back in his cellar where it belonged.

The wealthy buried fine bottles such as Chateau Haut Brion underground when faced with the Great Fire of London, because this is a great way to store wine. It is vital that when you buy a luxury wine, you store it away from light, humidity and high temperatures, hence the popularity of wine cellars.

Taste for Haut Brion

So at this point you might be wondering, what wine was so good that Pepys and his comrade felt the need to save it from the Great Fire of London? We don’t exactly know, however there is a clue in his diary entry for 10th April 1663. Writing on this date, Pepys said that a wine he called ‘Ho Bryan’ “hath a good and most particular taste that I never met with.” What is Ho Bryan?

Modern historians believe that Ho Bryan translates as Haut-Brion, as in Bordeaux-wine Chateau Haut Brion. Chateau Haut Brion is a robust red wine, which is still produced in the vineyard of the same name today. If you want to find out why Pepys (probably) believed that this wine was so amazing, why not buy the Chateau Haut Brion 1996, a brilliant vintage, from the Ideal Wine Company today.


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