A Historical Wine Company

In 1727 Marc Jacobs of Edinburgh made the remarkable decision to begin producing his own brand of wines. It was mostly remarkable because there was no opportunity of grapes growing with in 700 miles of Edinburgh. In fact, you would have to travel far more than 1000 miles from Marc Jacobs house to find any land suitable for growing decent wine grapes.

Remember, the 18th century was also before the industrial revolution, and transporting products around the world was a precarious and uncertain business. But nevertheless Mr Jacobs decided that he wanted to produce his own brand of wines and obviously he was a very determined man.

His first action when setting up his wine company, was to charter two sailing ships. They were to journey around the western coast of France, into the Mediterranean to southern France. There his friend and colleague André Philippe owned 400 acres of prime vineyard.

The question that most scholars ask at this point is, why set up the wine Company in Edinburgh when the grapes are over 1000 miles away in the south of France? To answer this question, we should look at the history of France at that time. Although there was not a prohibition, the taxes on most luxury products were close to 80%. It simply was not financially viable to produce wine in the south of France without giving just about every penny to King Louis.

The two sailing vessels sailed from Edinburgh to the south of France continuously for the next 75 years. Jacobs of Edinburgh produced an estimated 1.8 million bottles of wine in that time. Although this may not seem much by modern industrial standards, given the logistics involved in this fantastic process, it was a great achievement.

At its peak the Jacob’s wine company employed over 120 people. And in addition to wine, the Jacobs factory also produced whiskey, and, strangely, confectionary. The site is of the old factory near Bridge Street is still a tourist attraction to this day, and fittingly a wine bar now stands approximately where the entrance to the factory was once situated.

Jacobs himself died in 1767, his son was a member of the local clergy and would not take ownership or responsibility for the company due to his beliefs. Jacob’s grandson Isaac took over the running of the wine company, and it remained in the Jacobs family until 1962 when it was sold to a large wine distribution network.

Although many people know this story, they may not even aware that André Philippe was head of the French side of this arrangement for the entire 75 years that the two ships worked. He lived to the ripe old age of 102, surviving the two Jacob’s wine company ships by a full six years.

At auction in 1984, one of the last bottles of Jacob’s wine fetched £3.7 million. It is estimated that its current value would be closer to £14 million ($20,000,000). It is widely considered that although the bottle does contain almost as much liquid as it did nearly 200 years ago, that the actual wine inside would be undrinkable, possibly quite poisonous.

As a history lesson, or even an object lesson in determination, Marc Jacobs story stands out. And he is rightly remembered for his famous wine company. willamette wine tours

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