Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to John Adlum, 20 April 1810

To John Adlum

Monticello Apr. 20. 10.


Your favors of Feb. 15. & Mar. 13. were recieved in due time, but were not acknoleged because I was daily in expectation of the cuttings which should have accompanied the latter. on the 15th inst. I recieved yours of the 10th & concluding the bundle of cuttings had been rejected at some post office as too large to pass thro’ that line, I had yesterday, in despair, written my acknolegements to you for the kind service you had endeavored to render me. but before I had sent off the letter, I recieved from the stage office of Milton the bundle of cuttings & bottle of wine safe. yesterday was employed in preparing ground for the cuttings, 165. in number, & this morning they will be planted. their long passage gives them a dry appearance, tho I hope that out of so many some will live and enable me to fill my ground. their chance will be lessened because living on the top of a mountain I have not yet the command of water, which I hope to obtain this year by cisterns already prepared for saving the rain water. supposing the wine may require some time to settle, it has not been opened; but I have invited some friends to come & try it with me tomorrow. however the putting sugar into it may change the character of this batch, the quality of the bottle you sent me before satisfies me that we have at length found one native grape, inured to all the accidents of our climate, which will give us a wine worthy of the best vineyards of France. when you did me the favor of sending me the former bottle I placed it on the table with some of the best Burgundy of Chambertin which I had imported myself from the maker of it, and desiring the company to point out which was the American bottle, it was acknoleged they could discover no sensible difference.1 I noted Cooper’s recipe for making wine which you mention in your letter, and regretted it because it will have a tendency to continue the general error in this country that brandy always, & sugar sometimes are necessary for wine. this idea will retard & discourage our progress in making good wine. be assured that there is never one atom of any thing whatever put into any of the good2 wines made in France. I name that country because I can vouch the fact from the assurance to myself of the vignerons of all the best wine cantons of that country which I visited myself. it is never done but by the exporting3 merchants, & then only for the English & American markets where by a vitiated taste the intoxicating quality of wine, more than it’s flavor, is required by the palate.

I pray you to accept my thanks for your kind attention to my request. it was made with a view to encourage the example you have set, of trying our native grapes already acclimated, rather than those which will require an age to habituate them to our climate, & will disappoint & discourage those who try them; and with my thanks I tender the assurances of my great esteem & respect.

Th: Jefferson

RC (CLjC); at foot of text: “Majr J. Adlum.”PoC (DLC); endorsed by TJ. Enclosed in Adlum to TJ, 5 June 1822, and TJ to Adlum, 13 June 1822. Extracted in American Farmer 4 (1823): 343. An undated extract running from “the quality of the bottle” to “the best vineyards of France” and attributed only to “a personage of the very highest authority on all subjects of this nature” appears in Joseph Milligan’s revised edition of John Gardiner and David Hepburn, The American Gardener (Georgetown, 1818; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library [1829] description ends , 6 [no. 276]), pp. 338–9.

In December 1803 TJ received one hundred bottles of burgundy of chambertin from the maker through Fulwar Skipwith, an American commerical agent in Paris (MB description begins James A. Bear Jr. and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 2:1100, 1116).

1Remainder printed in American Farmer.

2Preceding three words interlined.

3PoC: “exportin.”

Index Entries

  • Adlum, John; and wine search
  • Adlum, John; letters to search
  • brandy; French search
  • Cooper, Joseph; wine made by search
  • food; grapes search
  • France; wines from search
  • French brandy search
  • grapes; fox search
  • grapes; vine cuttings search
  • Milton, Va.; stage office at search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); cisterns at search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); viticulture at search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); water for search
  • Skipwith, Fulwar; commercial agent at Paris search
  • wine; brandy added to search
  • wine; burgundy search
  • wine; French search
  • wine; sent to TJ search
  • wine; sugar added to search