221-Year-Old Wine Discovered at Kean University’s Liberty Hall Museum

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David J. Del Grande / NJ Advance Media / AP

We’ve seen them in shipwrecks, but this old bottle of booze was hidden right under its owners’ noses.

Wine, spirits and history buffs will be salivating at a recent discovery in Union, New Jersey: a museum director at Kean University’s Liberty Hall Museum discovered 221-year-old shipping crates containing wine and other decanters, dating back almost as far as the American Revolution. The uncovering is believed to be the largest known collection of 18th century Madeira wine in the United States.

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Three cases were found by Liberty Hall Museum director, Bill Schroh, who is speculated to be the first person to clean out the cellar in one hundred years. Why anyone would wait this long to loot the stash of a Revolution-era rich family’s booze cabinet, we do not understand.

According to NJ.com, this aged alcohol jackpot turned up during a renovation project the museum, currently owned by the Kean family, which once inhabited it. The home was also home to William Livingston, the first governor of New Jersey. Some of the crates are believed to have belonged to a family who would have been living there, and perhaps anticipating a celebration, prior to John Adams’ presidency.

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Among the cases, one bottle in particular was tested, its label and wax seal still intact. The wine came from a company called Madeira, and dates back to 1796. Further, since the labels were preserved, researchers were able to trace the bottle’s history back to Portugal, as well as its arrival on U.S. shores in Philadelphia, where Robert Lenox, whose name is still on the bottle, rebottled it.

Lenox was a millionaire merchant from New York who owned land in Harlem (hence the name of the neighborhood’s main drag, Lenox Avenue). Apparently, the original 13 colonies were major importers of the Madeiran wine produced in Portugal during that time period.

According to Madeira, the wine company, which is still in operation today, the bottle, could be worth between $10,000 and $25,000, and could potentially sell for even more at an auction.

Why sell vintage wine when you can drink it? After tasting a sample from one of the bottles, one member of the Kean family described the wine as tasting similar to a sweet sherry. 

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