Raising a glass to comets

For the last couple of days I’ve been glued (with brief breaks for the ATP tennis finals) to the gallant adventures of Philae, sitting on the surface of a comet hurtling through space at 83,000 miles per hour after a four billion mile chase lasting ten years. Romance novel heroes take note – that’s dedication.

Watching the footage from the surface of a comet, I was reminded of the Great Comet of 1811 – sometimes known as Napoleon’s Comet, as it was thought by some to portend his invasion of Russia.

1812CometAccording to legend, the comet was responsible for the superlative vintage of 1811 produced by all the major growing regions, to the extent that many wines from that year became known as Comet Wine. I can’t speak as to the quality of the wine – a bottle of Chateau d’Yquem sold recently for £75,000, which is a little more than I usually spend on a bottle from the local off-licence – but certainly those people who know wine speak breathlessly of the quality of wines from that year.

And now I am feeling the need to research Regency-era astronomy and wine-growing. There’s a story there demanding to be told, I’m sure.

 

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