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Question
front of bottle
front of bottle  
I was given a bottle of DER LACHS Branntwein-und Liqueur fabrik von Isaac Wed-Ling Wwe. & Eydam Dirck Hekker, gegr. Anno 1598 with raised fish symbols and Der Lachs lettering on the side. The bottle is still sealed with the Star of David on the cap and L W L also on the cap. It does not state the proof on the label. Also in raised letters on the base of the bottle say 18 11 and what appears to be the letter e with a crown attached to the top. I was wondering how much this might be worth or if it would be better to just drink it.

Answer
HI Christine

Wow!  This is a wild bottle!  

First of all, let's clarify what it is.  It is brandy, not wine.  In fact, the Dutch/German term Branntwein (which means wine that has been "burnt" or distilled wine) is where we get the English term for Brandy.  

The alcohol levels in brandy vary from about 35% to 50%, and they are so high that the liquid doesn't change much once it goes into the bottle.  The good news is that this bottle will taste pretty much the way it tasted when it was bottled, and should be perfectly safe to drink.  The bad news is that it hasn't appreciated in value the way some fine wines do.  My guestimate is that it might sell for $50 or so if you listed it in an auction.

How old is it?  It is bottled in Danzig--which was the German name for the city we now call Gdansk.  And that means that it was bottled before the end of World War II, when Gdansk became a purely Polish city. (the 1598 date is when the company was founded, not when the brand was bottled!)  And given the star of David and other clues, I would estimate that this was also bottled before Danzig/Gdansk was a "Free state" between the two world wars.  So my guess is that it comes from around 1900 or so.

In those days Danzing (not Gdansk) was part of the new German Empire--which started in 1871

Hope that helps.  And I hope you find a fun occasion to open this bottle and celebrate the fact that it is probably 100 years old.  A museum might have more interest in this than a wine connoisseur--but you'll have to work your way down that road on your own!

Paul Wagner

Wine

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Paul Wagner

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Wines of the world, wine a food matching, wine and food service questions. I currently teach Wine courses at Napa Valley College, am an international wine judge, written many articles for publication, and have been a guest speaker at way too many wine conferences to remember. 25 years in the business. With Liz Thach and Janeen Olsen, I authored the definitive book on wine marketing: Wine Marketing & Sales, Strategies for a Saturated Market by The Wine Appreciation Guild, which won the Gourmand International Award in 2008 for the best wine book for professionals! With Rick Kushman of Capital Public Radio, I host a radio show and podcast called Bottletalk at rickandpaulwine.com, where I answer questions about wine and food on the air.

Experience

30 years in the business.

Organizations
Society of Wine Educators, Academy of Wine Communications, American Wine Society

Publications
Vineyard and Winery Management Magazine, Fine Wine Journal, les Amis du Vin Journal, Society of Wine Educators Journal, and more.

Education/Credentials
I have taught at Napa Valley College for the last twenty years.

Awards and Honors
Spanish National Wine Fair: A lifetime dedicated to wine award. Espaderino della Castelania di Soave in Italy.

Past/Present Clients
Wineries include Caymus, Wente, Parducci, Shannon Ridge, Paul Dolan Wines, Vigilance, and others. Wine regions include the Union des Grand Crus de Borcdeaux, Union des Grands Crus de St. Emilion, Consorzio di Chianti CLassico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Consorzio di Franciacorta, Rioja Alavesa, and others.

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