by Fred McMillin
for February 12, 1998

What to Pour at a
Lincoln State Dinner—1861


The glassware purchased by the Lincolns for State dinners at the White House included six different wine glasses, one for each course.

...Jane Spillman in "White House Glassware."

The Rest of the Story

You are the White House sommelier. Mary Todd Lincoln asks you what wine to serve with the beef course, i.e., what to pour into the red wine glasses?

Piece of cake. Let's listen to author Hugh Johnson: "For the whole decade of the 1850's, the United States was Bordeaux's best customer. It was the Civil War that ended this era of American thirst for Bordeaux's claret." Consequently, you recommend the best Bordeaux red that the budget will permit. So, on Lincoln's Birthday, I'm having the best claret MY budget allows. Here's a nice affordable one.

The Wine

1994 Chateau Plagnac, Medoc, Bordeaux
Location—Near the village of Begadan, North Medoc
Size—74 acres
Soil—Fine gravel
Varietals—60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot
Tasting Notes—It's ready to enjoy now.
Importer—Seagram Chateau & Estate Wines
Contact—Angela Freire, (707) 255-7667
Price- $15 range


The term "claret" was first used in a message from the King of England on Nov. 18, 1251. For more about the term, see the Dec. 26, 1997 issue of WineDay.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

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