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rach is near, the wine of which, probably because the fancy of the drinkers has changed, is now pronounced second-rate in quality, though not long ago, even the French celebrated it in their Bacchanalian songs, is still very good, fashion may say what it chooses. Landscapes of greater beauty, joined to the luxuriance of fruitful vine culture, can no where be seen; perhaps there is something to be added, for the alliance of wine and its agreeable qualities, with the noble scenery of the river. The mind will have its associations upon all subjects.
In no part of his history has Mr. Redding devoted more attention to the geological relations of the vine, than when he comes to the consideration of the soil of Germany, and its effect on the cultivation of the grape. He is of opinion, that granite decomposed, and quartz in favourable sites, offer good vine land, and so does sienite. Clay slate, mingled with quartz, is observed to be highly favourable with basalt. Where marl, mingled with pebbles, occurs, the vines succeed best; nearly the same character, but, if any thing, still a better, may be given to dolenite. Variegated sandstone in decomposition does not do well for the vines in dry seasons, though light in its nature; when mingled with clay, or other earths, its produce is tolerable, but it gives no remarkable wine. Shell marl, where the calcareous properties are most prevalent, when mixed with the clay soil, will grow tolerably good vines, and the same when they are reared upon a coarse limestone well worked. Kiffer produces only weak wine. Schistous marl, where it occurs decomposed, yields a fertile soil for the vine. When mingled with round stones or sand it is very favourable, but no remarkable wine is produced from it. It is strange that the Germans dress their vines with strong manures, which the French and Portuguese pronounce to be injurious.
The circle of Coblentz contains 17,000 acres, Prussian reckoning, under cultivation for wine, and the produce of each acre is estimated at about £15 a year. The vintage on the Rhine does not take place until the grapes are perfectly mature, they are then carefully gathered, the bad fruit picked out, and with the stalks put aside. The more celebrated of these wines are all fermented in casks, and then after being repeatedly racked, suffered to remain for years in large fudders, two hundred and fifty gallons, to acquire perfection by time. These huge casks contain each about three hundred and fifty tuns. The wines mellow best in large vessels; hence the celebrated Heidelberg tun, thirty-one feet long by twenty-one high, and holding one hundred and fifty fudders, or six hundred hogsheads; the second of these was built at Heidelberg in 1663. That which preceded it held but one hundred and thirty-two fudders. This tun is decorated with all kinds of fantastical ornaments. Tubingen, Gruningen, and Konigstein (the last 3,709 hogsheads), could all boast of their enormous tuns, in which the white wines of the couns try were thought to mellow better than in casks of less dimensions. These tuns were once kept carefully filled. The Germans always
had the reputation of being good drinkers, and of taking care of the
liquor they loved.”
German wine has the peculiar character of being generous, dry, finely flavoured, and is capable of enduring age, or rather being improved by it to a greater extent than any other. Mr. Redding is prepared, from certain experiments in his own cellars, to deny the justice of the imputations usually thrown out against German wines, as to the excess of acid contained in them, this unfounded notion having been carried into practical life so far as to cause the use of these wines to be prohibited in the case of gouty subjects. But the author also adds, that the gout is a disease scarcely known on the banks of the Rhine, and yet, upon them, the inhabitants drink hardly any other than Rhenish and Moselle wines. A writer, quoted by Mr. Redding, has no hesitation in giving his testimony to the truth of what he himself believes; and the statement of the gentleman is to the following effect: “We, therefore, conceive this to be a vulgar error, for no wine is better to a gouty patient than that of the Rhine; the author can testify this from his own experience, and the testimony (which can be more depended on) of an eminent English physician, who practised at Mayence for many years, and was of opinion that the strong wines of the Rhine were extremely salutary, and that they contained less acid than any other; moreover, they are never saturated with brandy, as the French white wines are."
For the correctness of every word of this statement Mr. Redding is ready, from personal experience, to vouch, and he has felt himself, that if he take more than a glass or two of port, so that the spirit in it be sufficient to stimulate the stomach, then he feels acidity. But such an inconvenience never attends, he declares, the use of sound Rhenish wine. The peculiar advantage now described as belonging to those wines, results, it appears, from the completeness of the process of fermentation.
On the banks of the river Mayne, not far from Frankfort, is the little town of Hockheim, the source of the famous Hock, a title, by the way, which is much too indiscriminately applied to wines which have no fair title to so fortunate an affiliation. The whole eastern bank of the Rhine to Lorch, and which bears the name of the Rheingau, is celebrated for centuries as a centre of wine produce. Its character was partly owing to its having been at first the property of the church, and it is needless to remind the reader that every part of the world gives proof of the success with which the reverend class of wine growers always cultivated the grape. In this delightful spot, grows the vine called the Castle, or Schloss-Johannesberger, once the property of the Prince of Orange. Johannesberg is a town on the right bank of the Rhine below Mentz, and its wine takes the lead of all those produced from the vintages on the borders of the Rhine. The oldest of the Rhenish wines offered to the purchaser is that of 1748, a year distinguished in the annals of the Rheingau, for the most auspicious of vintages on record. Older
wines may be met with, but less frequently. The excellence of the wine in any particular year always depends more upon the warmth of the season, than upon any other cause, and the high price of the wine in corresponding years rates accordingly. The Germans say, the wines of the best body are made on the higher lands, and the worst on the lower ; the last requiring the longest keeping, to render them mellow for drinking. The wines of 1783 bear a very high character. There is something unaccountable in the extraordinary durability of wines grown so far to the North, when the slightest increase of warmth in a season causes such a difference in the quality of the wine. While strong southern wines suffer from age after a certain period of years in bottle, and begin to deteriorate sensibly, the Rhine wines seem possessed of inextinguishable vitality, and set the greater part of rivalry at defiance, as to keeping. It is generally found that wines with the lesser proportion of alcohol change sooner than those which are strong. The Rhenish wines averaging so little in spirit, will endure longer, and continue to improve by age as much as the more potent wines of the South, with double their alcoholic strength.
The Moselle wines, which have been regarded as inferior to those of the Rhine and Mayne, contain, however, the capital vinous liquor called the Brauneberger. They are light wines, with an excellent flavour, and have recently become objects of attention in England.
Switzerland produces wine, but scarcely any of it is exported. The best Swiss wine is that made in the Grisons, and is called Chiavenna: it is a white wine of an aromatic flavour, and is yielded by the red grape. Red wines of good quality are made at Schaffhausen and at Basle, where the title of “ wine of blood” is given to its wine. This title is derived from a sanguinary combat at Birs in the time of Louis XI. of France, when 1,600 Swiss fought 30,000 French, when only sixteen of the former survived, falling more from fatigue than from slaughter by the enemy.
The history of the wines of Portugal is connected with an example of British ignorance on the just policy of commercial laws, such as fills us with surprise, even considering the date of the period when this ignorance was displayed. The Methuen treaty, which is the mild name of the transaction, consisted of an agreement entered into by the British government, whereby it compelled honest Englishmen capable of luxuriating on wine, to drink what Mr. Redding properly calls the "fiery adulterations” of an interested wine company, and, from the coarseness of their wines, exposed to imitations of them without end, from materials some of which had never been in Portugal. These sophistications complained of in 1730, increased after the monopoly was granted to the company. The delusion of encouraging our woollen manufactures, was the bait held out in exchange for the rejection of better wine, and the substitution of a third-rate article. The objections to a treaty of such a nature are obvious enough to every impartial reasoner, and the coarseness of the attempts made to justify its continuation, displayed unequalled ignorance and boldness. The time the treaty was in full force, without any attempt to qualify or annul it, almost affords ground for the belief, that Englishmen formerly never scrutinized beyond the surface of things.
Succeeding companies improved on the corrupt practices of their predecessors, and the worst monument of their guilt is found in the confirmed habit which is now fixed upon England, of being partial to Port, no matter how abundant may be the proofs of its want of genuineness and its unwholesomeness. At this very moment Mr. Redding does not hesitate to state, unequivocally, that five-eighths of the wine brought into England is so coarse, and is such a medley of ill-flavoured heterogeneous vine produce, bad Portuguese brandy, and other matters, that any ingenious person may increase one pipe to three by the addition of unexciseable articles, without any fresh injury to the stomach of the consumer, or to the appearance of the wine, happening. A very bold and searching inquiry is instituted by the author; into the fatal results of the monopoly, which, in an evil hour, was consigned to this commercial company, and its devastating effects are traced over the vineyard districts, over the proprietors of them, and over the wines themselves, which have been sunk so low in their merits. We regret that we cannot follow our author through the statistical survey which he then commences
of the extent and capabilities of the vineyards of Portugal. The grand objection which he so justly entertains on the subject of Port wines, is the mixture of brandy, which forms a regular ingredient of this wine; it is brandied twice a year, and the effect of this addition is this, that in order to drink the wine of Oporto with the genuine virtues of the grape, it must be taken in the fiery state into which it is converted by the brandy, and with respect to the nature of the said brandy; Mr. Redding states that it is the most execrable stuff that can possibly be offered for human consumption. The reason of its inferior quality is at once announced, in the fact that it is generally distilled from figs and dried grapes, or raisins, these ingredients being refuse, of which no better use can readily be made. The merchants even once tried to make it from locust pods, but that scheme failed, and they were obliged to resort to importation for the extra quantity they wanted. That the wines will keep and bear a sea voyage without the addition of brandy, to such an extravagant excess, there can be no doubt. A couple of bottles of good brandy to a pipe, when put on board of ship, would, if such an assertion were true, answer every purpose of preservation. In some years twenty-seven thousand tuns of Port wine have been imported into Great Britain, in every one of which, besides the portion of spirit in the wine, no less than six gallons of brandy have been artificially mingled, making a hundred and sixty-two thousand gallons of ardent spirit. To get rid of this liquid fire, the wine must be kept a dozen years, and ruined in flavour, when it might be drank in half the time by omitting the brandy. If the Oporto charge made against the English taste were true, how comes it, that even down to 1754 the admixture was censured as flagitious and abominable, even by the merchants themselves ? Port wine had then been drank in England for nearly sixty years, and the wines were found warm enough for the taste of Englishmen. The truth is, that quantity being the greatest desideratum, because a good deal of middling wine is more profitable than a small quantity at a high price, brandy aids in making all the growths equal, after being kept a longer or a shorter time, for the inclination of the inferior qualities always is to descend in the market, even below their worth, as the better increase. The mischief is thus easily explained. By this practice, and the ease with which the mass of any people is cajoled, a taste of wine of a most extraordinary kind has prevailed in this country, among the bulk of those in the middling classes who drink wine, and who seem to prefer the juice of the grape the more it resembles the product of the still, rather than of simple fermentation, the very excellence of which consists in the slight interference of artificial efforts for completing its product, after the earth and sun have done their part.
Italy seems to have always disappointed the best calculators, who founded their hopes of the success of vine cultivation on the peculiar climate and soil of that country. England, which imported the oil and silk of that country plentifully, seemed to have no relish whatever for its wines. There is a good explanation for this inferiority in the effects of a bad system of government, which takes away from the husbandman every inducement to take proper steps for improvement. In fact, there is no care whatever bestowed on the cultivation of the vine in Italy, and if there be any good wine of native produce in that country, it is all of nature's, instead of being man's manufacture. The people there prune no vines, make no choice of soil for planting them; they make this sort of plant secondary to other productions, and are free of every description of sound knowledge as to the best way of carrying on the processes of the vintage. The grapes are trodden and are all
thrown together in the most slovenly manner ; ripe and unripe, sound and unsound, are commonly intermingled, and flung into vats that remain uncleaned from the last year's vintage, the press being rarely used. The process of fermentation is conducted in the most careless mode. The must is not suffered to remain without fresh additions, until the vintage is over. Whilst in France they will only suffer the pressure of one day's gathering to ferment together, the Italians will throw in fresh must in the height of the process. That wine so made, whatever may be the defects in cultivating the vine, could ever be of tolerable quality, is not to be expected. There are some landowners, however, who possess excellent wine,