RED boxes of Sun-Maid raisins are almost synonymous with raisins in the UK.
But this is how boxes of raisins would have looked to British buyers a century and a half ago, according to an exhibition at the new Museo de La Mar in Denia.
Documents shown to the Olive Press from a 1908 geography book state that ‘Denia was the centre of a thriving raisin trade, almost exclusively exported to England’ at the time.
Denia’s municipal archeologist Josep Gisbert said British buyers ‘devoured’ the dried muscatel grapes in ‘cakes, puddings and with lamb’.
“It was a period of rich cultural exchange between both Denia and the UK,” Gisbert told the Olive Press.
“The 200 British boats coming each year allowed a bourgeoisie to thrive in Denia and elevate it to the advancement of other port cities such as Menorca and Malaga.”
Gisbert added that Denia copied the lithographic printing techniques used for packaging raisins in Andalucia.
The colourful illustrations depicted women in typical Victorian attire for the UK market.
“The ostentatious Victorians particularly liked gold ornamentation at the time,” Gisbert added.
Documents in the exports to English ports reached 274,467 quintals in 1874 – almost 30,000 metric tonnes.
Gisbert explained that Denia also benefitted from British manufacturing prowess, with the Anglo-Spanish Gas Company Ltd installing the first-ever gas lighting in 1904.
“This golden age for Denia came to a dramatic end in the early 20th century as plagues decimated Marina Alta vineyards,” Gisbert said.
“Denia’s succulent, large grapes contained seeds, but after the plagues the Corinthian seedless raisins became king.”