Thomas Jefferson Papers

Memorandum from Thomas Jefferson to William Alston on Wine, 15 August 1818

Memorandum to William Alston on Wine

White Hermitage wine costs about 4. or 4½ francs the bottle. the best crop is that of M. Jourdans, who has always furnished me. it is a little silky. but he furnishes Majr Butler with that which is quite dry, which is preferred by some, according to taste, and is a superlatively fine wine.

The best claret (except the 4. crops) is furnished by M. Bergasse of Marseilles at 1. franc the bottle, ready bottled & 2 or 3. years old, ready for drinking.

Apply for the above to M. Cathalan Consul of the US. at Marseilles, who having been in the habit of furnishing them to me annually for 30. years past, will understand at once the particular kind or crop called for.

Mr Appleton of Leghorn can procure the best crop of the Florence wine called Montepulciano, which if put into good black bottles well cimented will come perfect. I have not lost 1. bottle in 100. in this way, whereas in the flask one half is generally lost.

this costs 25. cents the quart bottle when put on board the ship. it is certainly the first of all the Italian wines.


MS (Peter Manigault, Charleston, S.C., 1986; photocopy in ScHi: Alston-Pringle-Frost Papers); entirely in TJ’s hand. Not recorded in SJL.

William Alston (ca. 1757–1839), planter and public official, served as a captain in the 2d South Carolina Regiment of the Continental army, 1779–81, and rose to colonel in the South Carolina militia after the Revolutionary War. He sat in four successive sessions of the South Carolina House of Representatives, 1776–84, before declining to serve a fifth term in 1785. Alston represented Prince George Winyah Parish in 1788 at the state ratification convention, where he voted in favor of the new federal constitution. Following a special election, Alston entered the state senate in 1788 and served during six sessions, 1788–94 and 1810–13, refusing a final election in 1814. He was a presidential elector for both TJ in 1800 and James Madison in 1812, held local offices, including tax inquirer and collector, and was a founder of the Georgetown Library Society, of South Carolina. Alston was a leading rice planter and among the prominent racers and breeders of thoroughbred horses of his day. In 1791 he hosted George Washington at his Clifton residence. Alston befriended TJ at Warm Springs in 1818. Over his lifetime he amassed landholdings totaling nearly thirty thousand acres, and at his death in Charleston he left an estate valued at well over half a million dollars, including 723 slaves (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; BDSCHR description begins Walter B. Edgar and others, eds., Biographical Directory of the South Carolina House of Representatives, 1974– , 5 vols. description ends , 3:35–8; Heitman, Continental Army description begins Francis B. Heitman, comp., Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army during the War of the Revolution, April, 1775, to December, 1783, rev. ed., 1914, repr. 1967 description ends , 70; Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds., The Diaries of George Washington [1976–79], 6:123–4; 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 , 2:1363, 1377; Edgefield [S.C.] Advertiser, 11 July 1839).

In American usage at this time, claret could mean any light red wine. The 4. crops were Margaux, Latour, Haut-Brion, and Lafite, generally acknowledged to be the premier Bordeaux wine estates (John Hailman, Thomas Jefferson on Wine [2006], 36–7, 152–3).

Index Entries

  • Alston, William; identified search
  • Alston, William; wine for search
  • Appleton, Thomas; and wine for TJ’s friends search
  • Bergasse, Henry search
  • Bordeaux; wine estates of search
  • bottles search
  • Butler, Pierce; wine preferences of search
  • Cathalan, Stephen (Étienne) (1757–1819); and wine for TJ’s friends search
  • claret (wine) search
  • Hermitage (wine); TJ recommends search
  • household articles; bottles search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; Memorandum to William Alston on Wine search
  • Jourdan, Mr. (French winemaker) search
  • Montepulciano (wine); TJ recommends search
  • wine; claret search
  • wine; Hermitage search
  • wine; Montepulciano search