Henry V and St Crispin's Day - Holidays and Wine

St. Crispin's Day - October 25th
One of my favorite plays and movies of all time has to be Henry V, originally written by Shakespeare. I love the Kenneth Branagh movie version, with its power and glory, as well as its realistic portrayal of war and hardship. Many scenes in the movie truly touch me as 'human' - a quality that can be lost sometimes when Shakespeare is treated as a museum piece. What wines go along with this work of art?

Henry V begins with the king in England, preparing for the coming war, and his soldiers preparing to follow him. During one planning meeting, the king says:

"... Uncle of Exeter,
Enlarge the man committed yesterday
That rail'd against our person. We consider
It was excess of wine that set him on;
And on his more advice we pardon him."

What kinds of wine were the English drinking in these days? Well, despite the war, much of it was French. Until the Hundred Years' War began, England was a huge consumer of Gascony wines - Bordeaux being of course premium. In the middle 1300s they also began to get wines from Italy and Greece. The home wines, therefore, were an interesting selection of the various imports.

When Sir John dies a bit later in the story, Nym comments, "They say he cried out of sack." Sack was the British name for Sherry, created in Jerez, Spain. Sherry was very popular in England during the 1500s and 1600s.

Luckily for history, when Henry V made his famous march through France in 1415, he did so in lands far, far removed from the vineyards. After taking Harfleur and trudging through the French countryside, they hit the battle of Agincourt, where they lost few men while routing and killing thousands of French soldiers. Then, on to Calais. The vineyards of Bordeaux were never in danger, nor was Champagne, which was still making non-sparkling wines at this time!

What should you drink to celebrate this victory of literature and history? The three historical choices were Bordeaux (white or red, white was more expensive at the time), Vernaccia (whites from the north from Italy), and Malmsey (sweet, rich wines from from Greece).

To find the equivalent in your modern day wine shop, you can certainly find plenty of Bordeaux, many from Chateau that existed in the time of Henry V. For Malmsey, grab a Madeira - the sweetest styles are a good representation. The Vernaccia came from the region of Alto Adigge, or Sudtiroler, in northern Italy. If you can find a white from this region, you're all set!

Wine and Holidays
Wine in History

All content on the WineIntro website is personally written by author and wine enthusiast Lisa Shea. WineIntro explores the delicious variety and beautiful history which makes up our world of wine! Lisa loves supporting local wineries and encouraging people to drink whatever they like. We all have different taste buds, and that makes our world wonderful. Always drink responsibly.