Book Review: Thomas Jefferson on Wine by John Hailman
This book is aimed at two of my passions – early American history, and wine, so I anxiously tore through its pages in a matter of days. I have to commend the book’s author Mr. Hailman, who must have spent countless years assembling all this information, and for his remarkable, almost anal attention to detail, that brings this book alive and allows the reader to go as far into its subject area as they want.
Some people may start skeptical of a book with this title. How much information is really out there, and is it interesting? I had read a little about Jefferson and his wines prior to this book, but I had no idea that: a) he is truly the first American wine expert, b) he predicted that the US would someday have a wine industry comparable to the best in Europe, and perhaps most remarkable, c) that Jefferson predicted in the 1790’s, the top French vineyards, 4 out 5 of which went on to be classified as First Growths, as they still are today, in the famous 1855 appellation rating.
And he gained all this knowledge, made these predictions, and was so dead on in everything he said, you can’t help but wonder how he accomplished all this with the transportation that existed at the time, and the general lack of access to wines that we enjoy so prevalently now. If only Jefferson could walk into a bottle shop today.
Hailman spends a great deal of time in the log books detailing how Jefferson acquired his wine, his relationships directly with the producers in France, and his strict rules on the transportation of wine wines, almost all of which we adhere to today.
The book covers in extensive detail, Jefferson’s drinking habits, and the social drinking habits of the day through letters and correspondence that was sent about the lavish dinners and wine that was consumed at Jefferson’s Monticello estate. They rarely if ever drank to get drunk. It was purely social, to consume the best of the best wine, and if someone became too influenced “by the drink” it was looked down upon.
Hailman covers the letters that were sent between Jefferson, Adams and Washington, who all shared a similar passion for great wine. Details of the varieties of wine they were drinking is included as is excitement when new varieties or regions were discovered as well as good vintages.
For any wine lover this book is an almost surefire hit. For those that also share a passion for American history, there is some excellent insight and detail in this book, that I don’t think you will find anywhere else. Find the book here on Amazon.com.
Have you read this book, or have any other interesting information about Thomas Jefferson and wine? Let us know in the comments below.