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Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada
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Extracts of Matters of Historical Interest from "The Huissier, News For and About the Fortress of Louisbourg Heritage Presentation Staff" By The Fortress of Louisbourg Heritage Presentation Staff
(August 2, 2006)
The Wines of Duquesnel
by Anne Marie Lane Jonah and Susan Lane, July, 2006
The inventory taken in 1744 of the possessions of the recently deceased commandant of Île Royale, Jean Baptiste Louis Le Prévost Sieur Duquesnel et de Changy, the source that allowed Fortress Louisbourg historians to recreate his apartments in the King’s Bastion Barracks, provides us with indications of the man and his tastes. His wine is an interesting clue to many aspects of his life and function. As governor he was expected to entertain, so he had not only wine he liked, but also wine that he thought his guests would like.
The wine he had reflected popular as well as refined 18th century taste. He had one of the rarest and most prized wines of the era, a liqueur wine from “le Cap de Bon Espérance,” (the Cape of Good Hope). He also had barrels of common wine and of robust “vin de Navarre” from northern Spain. This range of wine was the inspiration for the new evening event at Louisbourg, the “18th Century Wine Tasting.” The possibilities from this inventory are vast, but wine has changed a lot since the 18th century, so not everything he had can be found today, for example, the wine produced today in the Cape of Good Hope is not at all like that of the 18th century.
The wine tasting evening at Louisbourg this summer combines wines inspired by Duquesnel’s inventory with 18th century recipes. The first wine, a white Bordeaux, Chateau Bonnet Entre Deux Mers Bordeaux 2004, reflects the taste of the time. Bordeaux was one of the most common wines in Duquesnel’s cellar. Wines of Bordeaux became popular in the 18th century as consumers sought more complex and flavourful wines. At the same time Bordeaux controlled the trans-Atlantic trade in wine, assuring its market. Bordeaux wines, both white and red, were fashionable among the bourgeoisie, the wealthy merchants, and were the most popular wines in New France.
Champagne was very popular in New France but was not to be found in Duquesnel’s cellar. It may have been his taste, or perhaps the wine made him homesick. His chateau, Changy, was in the Loire Valley, near the Champagne region. His wife had chosen to remain in France with their two daughters. She was from a naval family like Duquesnel, and her father had been lieutenant du roi in Martinique, but she was not interested in the colonial life Louisbourg offered, so he came here alone. The tasting includes a white wine from the Loire region, Les Clissages D’or Muscadet Serre et Maine Sur Lie 2004, produced with methods similar to those used in making champagne. Like champagne, it goes very well with oysters, which Duquesnel definitely liked. We use this wine to toast Madame Duquesnel.
Duquesnel’s kitchen and pantries indicate that he had an extensive stock of foods and spices. The kitchen staff at Grandchamps, inspired by his inventory and 18th century recipes, has created a selection of foods that complement the wines. The “traditional Louisbourg” pork and chicken pie is perfect with the two whites, as is the oyster, and light cheeses offered. We also offer gougères, a cheese puff pastry, originally from Burgundy, and a traditional French accompaniment to wine.
Duquesnel was not always on the cutting edge of wine fashion; he had several bottles of a “Clairet de Provence,” a rosé in today’s terms. These wines had been very popular in earlier eras but were quite out of date by the 18th century. Perhaps he developed a taste for them as a naval officer based at Toulon, Provence, where his eldest daughter was baptized. Rosés are enjoying a comeback, perhaps Duquesnel was in fact way ahead of his time, so we offer a modern rosé, Domaine de Gargoulet (Côtes de Provence) 2003. This wine goes perfectly with a “Saumon aux fines herbes,” a period French recipe: salmon baked in a basil and garlic flavoured crust, with a complex “Light Italian” sauce. The sauce recipe, which is made with ham, mushrooms, also produces a country style pâté perfect with all the light wines.
Duquesnel did not confine himself to French wine; he had many examples of imports. Two we reflect in the tasting are Chianti, as he had “vin de Florence,” the city at the centre of the Chianti region, and “vin de Navarre:” Burchino Chianti Superiore DOCG 2002 and Bodegas Nekeas Crianza Navarra Spain 2002. Navarre wine was very popular in Louisbourg. The strong rustic wine from Spain had overtaken whites and rosés in popularity in the 18th century. This wine was common in the French Basque region near the Spanish border, so the many Basques in Louisbourg brought and shared their enthusiasm for this hearty wine. Horyl’s Sausage Company prepared a “boudin noir,” blood pudding with a natural casing for the event. This strong flavoured sausage, traditional in many European cuisines, paired perfectly with the earthy Navarre wine. (Chianti goes with everything.) At the July tasting the Louisbourg gardeners provided fresh parsley and pansies to complement the service of all the various dishes at the last tasting. This style of presentation is perfect for the 18th century, and impressed the diners.
The end of the evening reflects some of Duquesnel’s more unusual selections. Liqueur, sweet wine, was very fashionable among the French elite in the early 18th century. Duquesnel had “liqueur de framboise” in his cellar. As Jost vineyard has a Nova Scotia raspberry wine, we duplicated his 18th century treat. It combines perfectly with a taste of bitter chocolate, another of Duquesnel’s favourite flavours. The finish is a dark English ale, Theakston Old Peculiar. Dark beers are not a particularly French taste but they were in Louisbourg being enjoyed by some of the merchants and officers; Duquesnel had his own supply.
Duquesnel’s inventory contains enough regions and varieties to create many interesting combinations, complemented with 18th century French recipes. Duquesnel’s cellar reflects a man who had traveled and had sophisticated tastes, or understood the importance of making a good impression well enough to hire a knowledgeable valet. His naval career took him through the French Atlantic world, and his taste in wine and food reflects his travels and his era.