Liberty Hall's Historic Madeira Wines Fetch Historic Prices at Auction

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Proceeds to be Used to Provide Handicap Access. Museum to Establish Permanent Exhibition of Wines & Spirits in Conjunction with Cork Association.

"The fact that we can taste today what our forebears tasted over 200 years ago is amazing, and we are proud that natural cork for centuries and even today plays such an important role in preserving wine and making this miracle possible," says João Rui Ferreira, President of the Association.

The Liberty Hall Museum at Kean University auctioned off through Christie's Auction House a portion of its collection of centuries old wines and spirits, raising funds to provide handicap access to the museum. The entire collection, discovered during a 2016 museum renovation, includes over 40 demijohns (wicker covered 5-gallon bottles) and 6 cases of Madeira dating back to 1796, and over 300 bottles of various spirits from the 1800s – all collected by the Kean family over their 185-year residence at Liberty Hall. The remainder of the collection will be used to establish a permanent exhibition entitled “History in a Bottle: the Kean Collection of Historic Wines & Spirits”, opening in Spring 2019.

The highest price realized was for a demijohn of 1846 Madeira that sold for $39,000. Prior to the auction, the bottles were opened to be recorked and the wine was sampled and found to be in perfect condition, perfectly preserved under the 100+ year old original cork. New, custom made natural corks were provided by the Portuguese Cork Association, which worked with Christie's and Madeira winemaker Francisco Alberquerque on the recorking, and which is partnering with the museum to establish the History in a Bottle exhibition.

“The wines and spirits that were auctioned and will be exhibited in the museum are not just relics – inside is living history. The fact that we can taste today what our forebears tasted over 200 years ago is amazing, and we are proud that natural cork for centuries and even today plays such an important role in preserving wine and making this miracle possible. What’s more, Madeira is a product of Portugal and was the drink of choice of colonial and post-colonial America, making it all the more fitting that we at the Portuguese Cork Association be part of this wonderful project”, says João Rui Ferreira, President of the Association.

“Our mission is to offer all museum visitors a journey through time as we recreate American history through the experiences of one iconic family. The auctioned items are a portion of a collection that will be part of the ‘History in a Bottle’ exhibition. The exhibition will help us fulfill our mission in a unique way – by connecting what graced this family’s table over time to changes in a dynamic and growing country”, said Bill Schroh, JR. Director of Museum Operations. “We were all nervous when they first opened the bottles, as we weren’t sure what we would find. But I guess the corks did their job and the auction proceeds prove that”.

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About APCOR:
The Portuguese Cork Association (APCOR) exist to promote natural cork and its products. APCOR is the employers’ association of the cork sector that represents, promotes and carries out research in the Portuguese cork industry. It was created in 1956 and is based in Santa Maria de Lamas, in the council of Santa Maria da Feira, at the heart of the cork industry around 30 kilometers from Porto, Portugal’s second largest city. Membership of the association is open to all companies operating in the fields of production, marketing or export of cork products. The organization advocates on behalf of the Portuguese cork industry worldwide and is the driving force of an industry based on tradition, innovation and sustainability.

About Liberty Hall Museum:
Liberty Hall Museum, originally constructed in 1760, was built as a country getaway by the then
prominent New York lawyer, William Livingston. Livingston would go on to serve in the First and Second Continental congresses, become New Jersey’s first elected governor and sign the United States Constitution. The Kean family was the second generation to live at Liberty Hall, taking over the original estate in 1811. Multiple generations of the Keans continued to live at the estate until 1995, while the home was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1973. The family has worked to preserve and enhance the estates invaluable character.

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Colangelo & Partners
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