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Spill the Wine: Juniata Historian Tells Story of Madeira

(Posted March 24, 2008)

James Tuten, assistant professor of history

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- The social and economic history of Madeira wine will be on the menu for a lecture on "Have Some Madeira, M'dear: The Unique History of Madeira Wine and its Consumption in the Atlantic World" by James Tuten, assistant professor of history at Juniata College at 4:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 2, in Neff Lecture Hall in the von Liebig Center for Science on the Juniata campus.

The lecture is free and open to the public. The talk is part of the Bookend Seminar Lecture Series, which features afternoon lectures each month by Juniata faculty.

Tuten will outline the history of madeira wine, a fortified wine that originated in the Portugese islands of Madeira. The wine is made by exposing the bottled wine to heat over a long period of time. Originally, the wine was fermented and achieved its unique flavor by storage in the hot, humid holds of trade ships during long, tropical voyages.

Tuten, whose research interests center on the rice plantations of the South, will focus the first part of his talk on how Madeira wine transformed itself from common rotgut to a highly prized gourmet wine, commonly served at the tables of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and coastal Southern planters.

Using Madeira as a model, Tuten will illustrate how trade goods and "good taste" were spread through the eastern and southeastern United States. He also will tell how the upper classes' fascination for Madeira waned due to viticultural problems and how Madeira continues to be prized today at elite clubs and gourmet tastings.

Tuten came to Juniata in 1998 from Emory University. He earned a bachelor's degree in fine arts and United States history in 1990 from the College of Charleston in South Carolina and went on to earn a master's degree in history in 1992 from Wake Forest University in North Carolina. He earned a doctoral degree in history in 2003 from Emory University in Atlanta, Ga.

He served as an instructor in history from 1998 to 2000 and was assistant provost from 2001 to 2006. He also was a teaching associate at Emory from 1994 to 1996. He teaches courses on the New South, Contemporary America, and Civil War and Reconstruction. He has published articles on maderia wine, most notably in the journal American Nineteenth Century History and the cooking journal Slow.

Tuten earned a number of summer research grants from both Emory University and Wake Forest University and a fellowship from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Emory University. He also was a member of the Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society and the Omicron Delta Kappa Academic Honor Society at the College of Charleston.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.