Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Victor Adolphus Sasserno, 26 May 1819

Monticello in Virginia. May 26. 19.



I have to acknolege the reciept of your two favors of Aug. 18. and Oct. 14. and also of the 300. bottles of wine of Bellet which you were so kind as to forward to me. my taste for the wine of Nice, and for the particular quality of it which I drank at your father’s house in Nice, and which M. Spreafico sent me in 1816. will, I fear, become a troublesome circumstance to you; and chiefly perhaps because the expressions characterising subjects of taste & flavor in one language have not always terms exactly synonimous in another. to remove this difficulty, I will explain to you the particular terms we use to designate particularly different flavors or characters of wines. these are 1. sweet wines, such as Frontignan, & Lunal of France, Pacharetti doux of Spain, Calcavalla of Portugal, Vin du Cap &c. 2. Acid wines, such as the Vins de Grave, du Rhin, de Hockheim &c. 3. dry wines, which have not the least either of sweetness or of acidity as Madere sec, Pacharetti sec, vin d’Oporto &c. 4. silky wines, which are in truth a compound in their taste of the dry dashed with a little sweetishness, barely sensible to the palate. the silky Madeira we sometimes get in this country, is made so by putting a small quantity of Malmsy into the dry Madeira. there is another quality which is often found in the dry & the silky wines, which quality we call rough or astringent, and the French also, I believe, call it astringent. there is something of this in all the wines of Nice which I have seen, & so much of it in those of Oporto as to approach to bitterness while it is also dry. our vocabulary of wines being thus explained, I will observe that the wine of Bellet sent me by M. 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 dry, a little astringent, and an excellent wine. that of 1818. last recieved 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 it’s 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. with this explanation of the meaning of our terms, I will now pray you, Sir, to send me thro’ mr Cathalan, 150. bottles of the wine of Bellet of the silky quality sent me in 1816. by mr Spreafico, if to be had; and if that was of an accidental recolte, not always to be had, than send it of the dry quality, such as was sent me in 1817.

I have made a remittance to M. Cathalan to cover this demand, and the sooner the wine can reach him, the better will be the chance of it’s arriving here before winter. the importance of this proceeds from the prevalence of North-West winds on our coast, commencing in December, which frequently drive ships, then approaching the coast, to the West Indies, keeping them at sea, and in danger until the winter months are over.

I salute you, Sir, with great esteem & respect.

Th: Jefferson


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