Day 4 – Jefferson’s Favorite Wines Available Today
Thus far in the series, I’ve touched on Jefferson’s first wine of record (claret), his most purchased wine (Madeira), and today a list of his favorite wines that are available today (in most cases).
In the spirit of full disclosure, I planned to post this list later in the series, but moved this up in the rotation due to a slight change of schedule because of the disappointment that was Hurricane Earl.
To that end, I hope that you will find this list as interesting as I did, and perhaps look for one of these bottles in your local bottle shop. The source for this list and resulting information came directly from James Gabler’s book, Passions: The Wines and Travels of Thomas Jefferson.
Clos de Vougeot
Vosne-Romanee: Jefferson did designate the order of rank but one did then exist, Romanee-Conti, La Tache, Richebourg, and Romanee St. Vivant
Volnay: Jefferson considered Volnay the equal in flavor to Chambertin but relegated it to fourth place because it was lighter in body, lacked longevity, and did not bear transportation as well. However, it had two distinct advantages over the wines of Chambertin and Close de Vougeot – it cost only one quarter as much and was ready to drink after one year. Jefferson never identified a particular vineyard from which he purchased his Volnay wines, but veinyards of special recognition then were Cailleret and Champans.
Montrachet: Jefferson called Montrachet the best white wine of Burgundy. Many would argue that Montrachet still retains this distinction today.
Meusault: Goutte d’Or. The main exporters of Goutte d’Or to the United States are Domain des Comets Lafon, Domain Francois Gaunoux, Louis Latour, and Domaine Rene Emanuel.
Cote Rotie: Although the red wines of Cote Rotie were recognized for their color, strength, bouquet, taste and ability to age, Jefferson made the comment they were not yet of such high ‘estimation as to be produced commonly at the good tables of Paris.’
Chateau Grillet: Jefferson called this the best white wine of the northern Rhone.
White Hermitage: Jefferson so esteemed dry white Hermitage ‘marked with a touch of sweetness’ that he called it the ‘first wine in the world without exception.’
Provence and Languedoc
Bellet (near Nice): Jefferson was particularly fond of the red wine. Today red, white and rose wines are made from the vineyards of Bellet and exported to the United States.
Frontignan: A sweet white wine.
Vin Blanc de Rochegude: Likely the ancestor of today’s Beaumes-de-Venise.
Muscat de Rivesaltes from Rousillon.
I find this particular category the most fascinating. Most wine enthusiasts are likely familiar with these names.
Chateaux Haut-Brion, Lafite, Latour, Margaux: Jefferson called these four wines ‘first growths.’ Behind them he listed chateaux that we know dtoday as Rausan-Segla, and Leoville (now, Leoville-las-Cases, Leoville-Poyferre, Leoville-Barton).
Chateau d’Yquem. No surprise here.
Monsieur Dorsay’s in Ay and non-sparkling. I believe Monsieur Dorsay’s small Ay vineyard is now owned by Bollinger.
Brauneberg, followed in quality by Wehlen, Grach, Piesport, Zelting and Bernkastel.
Italy – Piedmont
Nebiule the precursor of today’s Nebbiolo grape, which makes some of Italy’s best wines – Barolo, Barbaresco, Gatinara and Ghemme.
Italy – Tuscany
Montepulciano. Also Chianti, Carmignano, Artimino and Pomino.
Dry pale Sherry
Madeira ‘of the nut quality and of the very best.’
In looking through the inventory of Jefferson’s White House wine cellar as noted in his Memorandum Books, nearly all of the aforementioned wines occupied space in Jefferson’s White House cellar between 1801 and 1809. Although Jefferson enjoyed a broad range of wines throughout his life, all of the wines in his cellar at the time of his death, with the exception of some Scuppernong, were from southern France – red Ledanon, white Linoux, Muscat de Rivesalte, and a Bergasse imitation red Bordeaux. (Monticello.org)
Source: Passions: The Wines and Travels of Thomas Jefferson, James M. Gabler
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