December 25, 1627: On this day Vincenzo II Gonzago, Duke of Mantua and Montferrat in northern Italy, died. His death brought the direct line of the House of Gonzago to an end and triggered a dispute between the French and Spanish crowns to acquire the Duchy of Mantua. This resulted in the outbreak in 1628 of the War of the Mantuan Succession between the French and Spanish. One of the unexpected by-products of this conflict was that the arrival of large contingents of soldiers into northern Italy triggered one of the worst outbreaks of the plague ever seen in the country. To stop the spread of the Great Plague of 1629–31 the Florentine government promoted the idea of wine and food being served through Buchette del Vino, narrow doorways in the outer walls of buildings through which the occupant could hand a glass of wine with limited contact with the individual outside. Over 140 of these ‘wine windows’ are still visible across Florence today, a part of the wine heritage of Italy in the early modern period. For more information, see R. A. Stradling’s ‘Prelude to Disaster; the Precipitation of the War of the Mantuan Succession, 1627–29’, in Historical Journal, Vol. 33, No. 4 (1990), pp. 769–785. See also Guido Alfani and Marco Percoco’s ‘Plague and long-term development: The lasting effects of the 1629–30 epidemic on the Italian cities’, in The Economic History Review, Vol. 72, No. 4 (2019), pp. 1175–1201.

December 25, 1972: On this day, Andre Mack was born. Mack is an award-winning Sommelier and owner of Maison Noir Wines. He taught himself graphic design and creates all of the labels and goods. He also wrote Small Thyme Cooks, a coloring and activity book. Mack is the first African-American to be crowned Best Young Sommelier in America by the elite gastronomic society Chaîne des Rôtisseurs in 2003.

December 25, 1995: On this day, Macau Wine Museum was established. The wine museum in Macau, a small peninsula in mainland China across the Pearl River Delta from Hong Kong, would be worth a visit if you ever find yourself there. This 1,400 square meter area is separated into three sections that focus on historical significance, a wine cellar, and exhibitions that bring this fascinating country’s wine history to life through maps, words, and images. Macau’s culture is a fusion of Portuguese and Chinese influences because it was a Portuguese overseas territory until 1999. As a result, this museum has 1143 distinct types of wines, 1,115 Portuguese and 28 Chinese, the oldest of which is an 1815 Port wine. Examples of winemaking from Portugal and the People’s Republic of China are displayed at the exhibit. One of its most distinctive characteristics is a set of mannequins that are dressed in traditional Portuguese garb. The entrance is free.

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