We try to learn as much as we can about the provenance of bottles in our auction. On this occasion we uncovered a remarkable piece of London history behind one very special bottle of 1922 Hine Cognac.
Regular readers will know that it is not the first time we have have sold extremely old and rare bottles of Cognac and when compared to a 1777 Hardy Cognac the 1922 vintage Hine is a mere adolescent, but its story is equally remarkable.
South Londoner Mr Spencer Chapman is selling the rare bottle which is virtually all that remains from his great-grandparents’ family store in Bermondsey Street which was forced to close to raise money to help the family through WW2.
J. Chapman & Co was a Motor & Horse Haulage Contractor and wine and spirits distributor based at 96 Bermondsey Street. The site still exists and there is a deli shop there now. The family supplemented their income from haulage using their horse and cart to collect wine from the nearby docks and distribute it throughout London.
Spencer Chapman’s grandfather, John William Chapman, was set to take over the business from his parents when WW2 broke out. The business was sold so that John could join the navy to help the war effort.
John William Chapman was a casualty of WW2. He never returned from the war. John William’s son (Spencer’s father) was a baby at the time and never got to meet his father.
Despite the sale of the shop, this bottle was preserved by each generation of the close knit South London family and was presented to Spencer Chapman’s parents on their marriage.
When Spencer’s father died he had intended to serve it at the wake but the family are not big drinkers and it was decided that instead it should bottle should be sold in memory of the family.
The bottle itself is a Hine Vintage 1922 Grande Champagne Cognac Landed in 1923. This particular type of Cognac, referred to as ‘early landed Cognac’, comes from a cask of the spirit that was transported from France to UK in 1923 so it could then be aged in barrel on UK shores. This one was then bottled by Greens Ltd.
Cognac is such a special type of brandy because it is made by distilling wine from grapes grown in the chalky Cognac region in France. Few vintage Cognacs – let alone early landed ones – remain available today, partly because the regulations for Cognac changed in the interim. This bottle of Cognac is now extremely rare.