Wine

From Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia

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-[[Thomas Jefferson|Jefferson]] claimed, in 1818, that "in nothing+[[Thomas Jefferson]] claimed, in 1818, that "in nothing
have the habits of the palate more decisive influence have the habits of the palate more decisive influence
than in our relish of '''wines'''."<ref>Article based on James A. Bear, Jr., [http://tjportal.monticello.org/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?BBID=6122 ''Monticello Keepsake,''] November 2, 1984.</ref> than in our relish of '''wines'''."<ref>Article based on James A. Bear, Jr., [http://tjportal.monticello.org/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?BBID=6122 ''Monticello Keepsake,''] November 2, 1984.</ref>
-His own habits had been formed over thirty years before-+His own habits had been formed over thirty years before--at the tables of Parisian ''philosophes'' and
-at the tables of Parisian ''philosophes'' and+
in the vineyards of Burgundy and Bordeaux. in the vineyards of Burgundy and Bordeaux.
-Before his journey to France in 1784 Jefferson,+Before his journey to France in 1784, Jefferson,
like most of his countrymen, had been a like most of his countrymen, had been a
consumer of Madeira and port, with the occasional consumer of Madeira and port, with the occasional
glass of "red wine." As he recalled in glass of "red wine." As he recalled in
-1817, "The taste of this county (was) artificially+1817, "The taste of this country (was) artificially
created by our long restraint under the created by our long restraint under the
English government to the strong wines of English government to the strong wines of
Line 18: Line 17:
toasts that customarily accompanied them. He toasts that customarily accompanied them. He
chose to drink and serve the fine lighter wines chose to drink and serve the fine lighter wines
-of France and Italy, and hoped that his countrymen+of France and [[Italy]], and hoped that his countrymen
would follow his example. would follow his example.
-[[Image:wineglasses.jpg|thumb|right| Jefferson's Wine Glasses]]While it is often difficult to distinguish the+[[Image:wineglasses.jpg|thumb|right| Jefferson's Wine Glasses]]
-wines Jefferson preferred or the sake of his+While it is often difficult to distinguish the
 +wines Jefferson preferred for the sake of his
own palate from those he purchased for the own palate from those he purchased for the
comfort of his dinner guests, the quotations comfort of his dinner guests, the quotations
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countrymen. countrymen.
-''1803.'' Writing to a correspondent in Spain,+'''1803.''' Writing to a correspondent in Spain,
Jefferson confessed that a certain pale sherry Jefferson confessed that a certain pale sherry
had "most particularly attached my taste to it. had "most particularly attached my taste to it.
Line 39: Line 39:
once a day." once a day."
-''1806.'' Jefferson described a recent shipment+'''1806.''' Jefferson described a recent shipment
of Nebbiolo, a sparkling wine of the Italian of Nebbiolo, a sparkling wine of the Italian
Piedmont, as "superlatively fine." This importation proceeded from his memory of drinking Piedmont, as "superlatively fine." This importation proceeded from his memory of drinking
Nebbiolo in Turin in 1787, when he described Nebbiolo in Turin in 1787, when he described
it as "about as sweet as the silky Madeira, as it as "about as sweet as the silky Madeira, as
-astringent on the palate as Bordeaux, and as brisk as Champape. It is a pleasing wine."+astringent on the palate as Bordeaux, and as brisk as Champagne. It is a pleasing wine."
When paying a bill for three pipes of When paying a bill for three pipes of
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Monticello to ripen. Monticello to ripen.
-''1815.'' By this time, after years of war had+'''1815.''' By this time, after years of war had
prevented importation, Jefferson's stock of prevented importation, Jefferson's stock of
aged Lisbon and leftovers from the President's aged Lisbon and leftovers from the President's
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I hope to order it to Marseilles. There is a 3d I hope to order it to Marseilles. There is a 3d
kind of wine which I am less able to specify to you with certainty by it's particular name. I kind of wine which I am less able to specify to you with certainty by it's particular name. I
-used to meet with it at Paris under the general+used to meet with it at [[Paris]] under the general
term of Vin rouge de Roussillon; and it was term of Vin rouge de Roussillon; and it was
usually drunk after the repast as a vin de usually drunk after the repast as a vin de
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may be many kinds of wine of Roussillon; but may be many kinds of wine of Roussillon; but
I never saw any but of that particular quality I never saw any but of that particular quality
-used at Paris. I am certain it will be greatly+used at [[Paris]]. I am certain it will be greatly
esteemed here, being of high flavor, not quite esteemed here, being of high flavor, not quite
so strong as Pacharetti or Madeire or Xeres, so strong as Pacharetti or Madeire or Xeres,
-but yet of very good body, sufficient to hear+but yet of very good body, sufficient to bear
well our climate." well our climate."
-[[Image:Curbatch6-0004_v.jpg|thumb|left| Madeira decanter excavated by archaeologists at Monticello.]]The Hermitage, which he had regularly imported while President, was described by Jefferson+[[Image:Curbatch6-0004_v.jpg|thumb|left| Madeira decanter excavated by archaeologists at Monticello.]]The Hermitage, which he had regularly imported while President, was described by Jefferson in 1791 as "the first wine in the world
-in 1791 as "the first wine in the world+
without a single exception." The Bellet from without a single exception." The Bellet from
Nice he called "the most elegant ''every day'' wine in the world." The Roussillon, which he Nice he called "the most elegant ''every day'' wine in the world." The Roussillon, which he
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in the Madeira weaning process. in the Madeira weaning process.
-''1816.'' "For the present I confine myself to+'''1816.''' "For the present I confine myself to
the physical want of some good Montepulciano the physical want of some good Montepulciano
. . . ,this being a very favorite wine, and . . . ,this being a very favorite wine, and
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wines a necessary of life with me." Jefferson wines a necessary of life with me." Jefferson
had imported this red Tuscan wine as had imported this red Tuscan wine as
-President and had declared all 1805 shipments "most superlatively good."+President and had declared an 1805 shipment "most superlatively good."
-''1817.'' Jefferson gave the state of North Carolina+'''1817.''' Jefferson gave the state of North Carolina
credit for producing "the first specimen of credit for producing "the first specimen of
an exquisite wine," Scuppernong, and praised an exquisite wine," Scuppernong, and praised
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Writing to his agent in Marseilles about a Writing to his agent in Marseilles about a
recent shipment of Ledanon, a wine produced recent shipment of Ledanon, a wine produced
-near the Pout du Gard, Jefferson declared it+near the Pont du Gard, Jefferson declared it
"excellent" and said it "recalled to my memory "excellent" and said it "recalled to my memory
what I had drunk at your table 30. years ago, what I had drunk at your table 30. years ago,
-atld I am as partial to it now as then." Elsewhere-+and I am as partial to it now as then." Elsewhere
he described this ''vin de liqueur'' as having he described this ''vin de liqueur'' as having
"something of the port character but "something of the port character but
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for a bonne bouche." for a bonne bouche."
-''1819.'' No single letter provides a better statement+'''1819.''' No single letter provides a better statement
of Jefferson's drinking habits, his tasting of Jefferson's drinking habits, his tasting
vocabulary, and his efforts to convert his fellow vocabulary, and his efforts to convert his fellow
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Lunel of France, Pacharetti doux of Spain, Lunel of France, Pacharetti doux of Spain,
Calcavallo of Portugal, le vin du Cap &c. 2. Calcavallo of Portugal, le vin du Cap &c. 2.
-Acid wines, such as the Vins de Graves, du+''Acid'' wines, such as the Vins de Graves, du
Rhin, de Hocheim &c. 3. ''dry'' wines, having Rhin, de Hocheim &c. 3. ''dry'' wines, having
not the least either of sweetness or of acidity in not the least either of sweetness or of acidity in
them, as Madere sec, Pacharetti sec, vin them, as Madere sec, Pacharetti sec, vin
d'Oporto, &c. and the Ledanon which I call a d'Oporto, &c. and the Ledanon which I call a
-chy wine also. 4,. ''silky'' wines, which are in+dry wine also. 4,. ''silky'' wines, which are in
-truth a compound in their taste of the dry+truth a compound in their taste of the ''dry''
-wine dashed with a little sweetness, barely+wine dashed with a little ''sweetness'', barely
sensible to the palate: the silky Madeira which sensible to the palate: the silky Madeira which
we sometimes get here, is made so by putting we sometimes get here, is made so by putting
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of this quality for example in the Ledanon, of this quality for example in the Ledanon,
and a great deal of it in the vin and a great deal of it in the vin
-d'oporto, which is not only dry, but astringent+d'Oporto, which is not only dry, but astringent
-approaching allmost to bitterness. Our vocabulary+approaching almost to bitterness. Our vocabulary
of wines being thus explained, I will observe of wines being thus explained, I will observe
that the wine of Nice sent me by Mr. that the wine of Nice sent me by Mr.
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which is sweet and astringent, would resemble which is sweet and astringent, would resemble
the wine of Bellet sent me in 1816. by Mr. the wine of Bellet sent me in 1816. by Mr.
-Spreafico. If he has ally wines of this quality,+Spreafico. If he has any wines of this quality,
I would thank you to add samples of 2. or 3. I would thank you to add samples of 2. or 3.
bottles of each of those he thinks approaches bottles of each of those he thinks approaches
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perfection. perfection.
-''1826.'' With the exception of a "sufficient"+'''1826.''' With the exception of a "sufficient"
quantity of Scuppernong, all the wines on quantity of Scuppernong, all the wines on
hand in the Monticello cellar at the time of hand in the Monticello cellar at the time of
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heritage but his tastes were international. High heritage but his tastes were international. High
in flavor but low in alcohol, the wine of France in flavor but low in alcohol, the wine of France
-and Italy was the perfect accompaniment to+and [[Italy]] was the perfect accompaniment to
-social pleasure and the "true restorative corm+social pleasure and the "true restorative cordial," as he designated both wine and friendship.
-dial,n as he designated both wine and friendship.+
==Footnotes== ==Footnotes==
<references/> <references/>
 +
 +==See Also==
 +*[[Vineyard]]
==Further Sources== ==Further Sources==
-*De Treville, Lawrence R. [http://tjportal.monticello.org/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?BBID=3684 Jefferson and Wine: Model of Moderation.] The Plains VA: Vinifera Wine Growers Association, 989.+*De Treville, Lawrence R. [http://tjportal.monticello.org/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?BBID=3684 ''Jefferson and Wine: Model of Moderation''.] The Plains, VA: Vinifera Wine Growers Association, 1989.
-*Hailman, John R. [http://tjportal.monticello.org/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?BBID=17561 Thomas Jefferson and Wine.] Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2006.+*Gabler, James M. [http://tjportal.monticello.org/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?BBID=5044 ''Passions: The Wines and Travels of Thomas Jefferson.''] Baltimore: Bacchus Press, 1995. Especially useful appendices at the end, including a listing of Jefferson's favorite wines which are still available today, and an annotated listing of wines in the White House cellar.
-*See selected sources on Jefferson and wine in the [http://tjportal.monticello.org/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?SAB1=wine%3F+vine%3F+grape%3F&BOOL1=any+of+these&FLD1=Title%2C+Author+%26+Subject+%28TASS%29&GRP1=AND+with+next+set&SAB2=jefferson+thomas&BOOL2=all+of+these&FLD2=Subject+%28SKEY%29&GRP2=AND+with+next+set&DB=local&SEQ=20070722133224&CNT=50&HIST=1 Thomas Jefferson Portal]+*Hailman, John R. [http://tjportal.monticello.org/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?BBID=17561 ''Thomas Jefferson on Wine''.] Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2006.
 +*Stanton, Lucia. [http://tjportal.monticello.org/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?BBID=153876 ''Research Report: Chateau Lafite 1787, with initials "Th. J."''] Unpublished report, Thomas Jefferson Foundation, 1985.
 +*[http://tjportal.monticello.org/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?SAB1=wine%3F+vine%3F+grape%3F&BOOL1=any+of+these&FLD1=Title%2C+Author+%26+Subject+%28TASS%29&GRP1=AND+with+next+set&SAB2=jefferson+thomas&BOOL2=all+of+these&FLD2=Subject+%28SKEY%29&GRP2=AND+with+next+set&DB=local&SEQ=20070722133224&CNT=50&HIST=1 Look for sources in the Thomas Jefferson Portal]
[[Category:Food and Drink]] [[Category:Food and Drink]]

Current revision

Thomas Jefferson claimed, in 1818, that "in nothing have the habits of the palate more decisive influence than in our relish of wines."[1] His own habits had been formed over thirty years before--at the tables of Parisian philosophes and in the vineyards of Burgundy and Bordeaux. Before his journey to France in 1784, Jefferson, like most of his countrymen, had been a consumer of Madeira and port, with the occasional glass of "red wine." As he recalled in 1817, "The taste of this country (was) artificially created by our long restraint under the English government to the strong wines of Portugal and Spain." The revolution in his own taste in wine followed swiftly on the breaking of the bonds of British colonial government. Thereafter Jefferson rejected the alcoholic wines favored by Englishmen as well as the toasts that customarily accompanied them. He chose to drink and serve the fine lighter wines of France and Italy, and hoped that his countrymen would follow his example.

 Jefferson's Wine Glasses
Jefferson's Wine Glasses

While it is often difficult to distinguish the wines Jefferson preferred for the sake of his own palate from those he purchased for the comfort of his dinner guests, the quotations that follow should help to identify some of his personal favorites, as well as to illustrate the standards of reference for his taste in wine and his efforts to redeem the taste of his countrymen.

1803. Writing to a correspondent in Spain, Jefferson confessed that a certain pale sherry had "most particularly attached my taste to it. I now drink nothing else, and am apprehensive that if I should fail in the means of getting it, it will be a privation which I shall feel sensibly once a day."

1806. Jefferson described a recent shipment of Nebbiolo, a sparkling wine of the Italian Piedmont, as "superlatively fine." This importation proceeded from his memory of drinking Nebbiolo in Turin in 1787, when he described it as "about as sweet as the silky Madeira, as astringent on the palate as Bordeaux, and as brisk as Champagne. It is a pleasing wine."

When paying a bill for three pipes of Termo, a Lisbon wine drier and lighter than ordinary port, Jefferson said that "this provision for my future comfort" had been sent to Monticello to ripen.

1815. By this time, after years of war had prevented importation, Jefferson's stock of aged Lisbon and leftovers from the President's House was exhausted. Writing to a Portuguese wine merchant in Norfolk, he said that "disappointments in procuring supplies have at length left me without a drop of wine. I must therefore request you to send me a quarter cask of the best you have. Termo is what I would prefer; and next to that good port. Besides the exorbitance of price to which Madeira is got, it is a wine which I do not drink, being entirely too powerful. Wine from long habit has become an indispensable for my health, which is now suffering by it's disuse."

For his major supply he wrote to Stephen Cathalan, the American agent at Marseilles:

"I resume our old correspondence with a declaration of wants. The fine wines of your region of country are not forgotten, nor the friend thro' whom I used to obtain them. And first the white Hermitage of M. Jourdan of Tains, of the quality having 'un peu de la liqueur' as he expressed, which we call silky, soft, smooth, in contradistinction to the dry, hard or rough. What I had from M. Jourdan of this quality was barely a little sweetish, so as to be sensible and no more, and this is exactly the quality I esteem. Next comes the red wine of Nice, such as my friend Mr. Sasserno sent me, which was indeed very fine. That country being now united with France, will render it easier for you I hope to order it to Marseilles. There is a 3d kind of wine which I am less able to specify to you with certainty by it's particular name. I used to meet with it at Paris under the general term of Vin rouge de Roussillon; and it was usually drunk after the repast as a vin de liqueur, as were the Pacharetti sec, & Madeire sec: and it was in truth as dry as they were, but a little higher colored. I remember I then thought it would please the American taste, as being dry and tolerably strong. I suppose there may be many kinds of wine of Roussillon; but I never saw any but of that particular quality used at Paris. I am certain it will be greatly esteemed here, being of high flavor, not quite so strong as Pacharetti or Madeire or Xeres, but yet of very good body, sufficient to bear well our climate."

 Madeira decanter excavated by archaeologists at Monticello.
Madeira decanter excavated by archaeologists at Monticello.
The Hermitage, which he had regularly imported while President, was described by Jefferson in 1791 as "the first wine in the world

without a single exception." The Bellet from Nice he called "the most elegant every day wine in the world." The Roussillon, which he continued to import, was evidently bought for the sake of his guests as an intermediate stage in the Madeira weaning process.

1816. "For the present I confine myself to the physical want of some good Montepulciano . . . ,this being a very favorite wine, and habit having rendered the light and high flavored wines a necessary of life with me." Jefferson had imported this red Tuscan wine as President and had declared an 1805 shipment "most superlatively good."

1817. Jefferson gave the state of North Carolina credit for producing "the first specimen of an exquisite wine," Scuppernong, and praised its "fine aroma, and chrystalline transparence." Writing to his agent in Marseilles about a recent shipment of Ledanon, a wine produced near the Pont du Gard, Jefferson declared it "excellent" and said it "recalled to my memory what I had drunk at your table 30. years ago, and I am as partial to it now as then." Elsewhere he described this vin de liqueur as having "something of the port character but higher flavored, more delicate, less rough."

Speaking of the French wines of Hermitage, Ledanon, Roussillon, and Nice, he stated that he was "anxious to introduce here these fine wines in place of the Alcoholic wines of Spain and Portugal; and the universal approbation of all who taste them at my table will, I am persuaded, turn by degrees the current of demand from this part of our country, and that it will continue to spread de proche en proche. The delicacy and innocence of these wines will change the habit from the coarse and inebriating kinds hitherto only known here."

He added that he would order the white Hermitage only occasionally, it "being chiefly for a bonne bouche."

1819. No single letter provides a better statement of Jefferson's drinking habits, his tasting vocabulary, and his efforts to convert his fellow Americans than one written on May 26 to Stephen Cathalan:

"I will explain to you the terms by which we characterise different qualities of wines. They are 1. sweet wines, such as Frontignan & Lunel of France, Pacharetti doux of Spain, Calcavallo of Portugal, le vin du Cap &c. 2. Acid wines, such as the Vins de Graves, du Rhin, de Hocheim &c. 3. dry wines, having not the least either of sweetness or of acidity in them, as Madere sec, Pacharetti sec, vin d'Oporto, &c. and the Ledanon which I call a dry wine also. 4,. silky wines, which are in truth a compound in their taste of the dry wine dashed with a little sweetness, barely sensible to the palate: the silky Madeira which we sometimes get here, is made so by putting a small portion of Malmsey into the dry Madeira. There is another quality of wine which we call rough or astringent, and you also, I believe, call it astringent, which is often found in both the dry & silky wines. There is something of this quality for example in the Ledanon, and a great deal of it in the vin d'Oporto, which is not only dry, but astringent approaching almost to bitterness. Our vocabulary of wines being thus explained, I will observe that the wine of Nice sent me by Mr. Spreafico in 1816. was silky and a little astringent and was the most delicious wine I ever tasted, and the most esteemed here generally. That of 1817. was entirely dry, moderately astringent and a very good wine; about on a footing with Ledanon. That of 1818. last received, has it's usual astringency indeed, but is a little acid, so much so as to destroy it's usual good flavor. Had it come in the summer I should have suspected it's having acquired that acidity by fretting in the hold of the ship, or in our hot warehouses on a summer passage, but it was shipped at Marseilles in October, the true time for shipping delicate wines for this country. I will now say why I go into these details with you. In the first place you are not to conclude that I am become a buveur. My measure is a perfectly sober one of 3. or 4. glasses at dinner, & not a drop at any other time. But as to these 3. or 4. glasses Je suis bien friand. I go however into these details because in the art, by mixing genuine wines, of producing any flavor desired, which Mr. Bergasse possesses so perfectly, I think it probable he has prepared wines of this character also; that is to say of a compound flavor of the rough, dry, and sweet, or rather of the rough and silky; or if he has not, I am sure he can. The Ledanon, for example, which is dry and astringent, with a proper proportion of wine which is sweet and astringent, would resemble the wine of Bellet sent me in 1816. by Mr. Spreafico. If he has any wines of this quality, I would thank you to add samples of 2. or 3. bottles of each of those he thinks approaches this description nearest. . . . I have labored long and hard to procure the reduction of duties on the lighter wines, which is now effected to a certain degree. I have labored hard also in persuading others to use those wines. Habit yields with difficulty. Perhaps the late diminution of duties may have a good effect. I have added to my list of wines this year 50. bottles of vin muscat blanc de Lunel. I should much prefer a wine which should be sweet and astringent, but I know of none. If you know of any, not too high priced I would thank you to substitute it instead of the Lunel."

Unfortunately Henri Bergasse, a producer of blended wines, did not make the desired wine and the death of Cathalan prevented a personal response to Jefferson's request for the perfect "rough and silky" wine. Cathalan's successor sent samples of several wines and from these Jefferson selected a Clairette de Limoux, which he found "much to our taste" and continued to order, but which does not seem to have satisfied his personal quest for perfection.

1826. With the exception of a "sufficient" quantity of Scuppernong, all the wines on hand in the Monticello cellar at the time of Jefferson's death came from southern France: red Ledanon, white Linoux, Muscat de Rivesalte, and a Bergasse imitation red Bordeaux. This cellar list and the preceding letters seem to confirm evidence of family members and visitors to Monticello that, at least in his later years, Jefferson drank wine at table only after the completion of the meal, in the English manner. His habits still reflected his British heritage but his tastes were international. High in flavor but low in alcohol, the wine of France and Italy was the perfect accompaniment to social pleasure and the "true restorative cordial," as he designated both wine and friendship.

Footnotes

  1. Article based on James A. Bear, Jr., Monticello Keepsake, November 2, 1984.

See Also

Further Sources