Definition - Various Meanings of Wine - Alcohol - Varieties of Wine - Miller - Professor Mulder - Origin of Wine - Brook of Eshcol - Strabo and Reland - Francatelli's Order of Wines -Classification of M. Batalhai Reis.
In the matter of wine, as in that of beer, it is perhaps as well to commence with a dictionary description or definition. Ogilvie declares it to be the "fermented juice of the grape, or fruit of the vine." It is, however, also the juice of certain fruits, prepared in imitation of wine obtained from grapes, but distinguished by naming the source whence it is derived, as currant wine, gooseberry wine, etc.; and a third meaning of wine - a meaning with which we have happily little to do - is the effect of drinking wine in excess, or intoxication.1
Wines are practically distinguished by their colour, flavour, stillness or effervescence, and what is known as hardness or softness. The differences in quality depend on the vines, the soils, the exposure of the vineyards, the treatment of the grapes, and the mode of manufacture. The alcohol1 contained is the leading characteristic In strong ports and sherries this varies from about 16 to 25 per cent. It is about 7 per cent. in claret, hock, and other so-called light wines. Wine containing about 13 per cent. of alcohol may be assumed to be fortified, as it is called, with brandy or other spirit.
1 In this sense it is apparently used in Gen. ix. 24: "Noah awoke from his wine."
The varieties of wine produced are said to be "almost endless." This great number of wines is in some measure owing to an interesting fact mentioned by Miller in his Organic Chemistry (3rd ed. p. 187), who tells us that a particular variety of grape, when grown upon the Rhine, furnishes a species of hock; the same grape, when raised in the valley of the Tagus, yields Bucellas, in which the palate of a connoisseur may possibly detect the flavour of hock; whilst in the island of Madeira the same grape produces the wine known as Sercial, which, though generally allowed to be a delicious wine, has suggested, it seems, to no skilled palate the flavour either of Bucellas or of hock.
It would therefore be more logical to commence an article on wines with an article on the grapes from which they are produced, but we fear it would be far less interesting. Of the chemical composition of wine, and of its uses in health and disease, on which so many books from the days of old have been already written, we shall, in accordance with our preface, say nothing at all, or very little. Every person who feels himself or herself interested in this latter matter may learn as much as he or she will from the pages of the Lancet, while Professor Mulder has probably written enough about the former to satisfy the most anxious student.
1 From an Arabic word for antimony, applied to the eyes, the name is said to have been transferred to rectified spirits (C2 H6 O). It is a liquid formed by fermentation of aqueous sugar solutions. Spirit of Wine contains about 90 per cent. of alcohol. 55 parts of alcohol and 45 of water form proof spirit. Of alcohol, spirits contain 40-50 per cent.; wines, 7-25; ale and porter, 6-8; small beer, 1-2.
The origin of most things is obscure. Treatises have been composed about that of wine. We have no intention of reproducing aught of them in the present work. Let us be content to suppose that wine had its origin, again like most things, somewhere at some time in the East. The date of its introduction into Greece is no more known than that of its introduction into Italy. A traditional credit is due to Saturn, to Noah, and to Bacchus as early wine manufacturers. Certainly in Palestine they had the advantage of fine grapes. On the well-known historic occasion of Moses sending men to search the land of Canaan, in the time of the first ripe fruit, we learn that when they came unto the brook of Eshcol, they cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes and "bare it between two upon a staff." It has been perhaps somewhat hastily assumed that the fruit was therefore necessarily of a large size. There may have been other reasons for this proceeding than an enormity of weight. But if, as is generally imagined, these grapes were unusually fine and large, wine makers would be clearly benefited thereby. In support of this interpretation of the passage in Numbers, Strabo has declared that some of the grapes in the Holy Land measured two feet in length; and Reland has not hesitated to declare, as if unwilling to be outdone by Strabo, that some bunches are of ten pounds weight.
This prefatory matter could make no pretence to completeness if it omitted an instruction for the service of wines, denoting the order in which they should be drank at the dinner table, which has already been given by an adept. Whether the matter is more admirable, or the style, it is difficult to determine.
"I would recommend," says Francatelli, "all bonvivants desirous of testing and thoroughly enjoying a variety of delectable wines, without being incommoded by the diversity of those introduced for their learned degusta-tion, to bear in mind that they should be drunk in the following order; viz., "When it happens that oysters preface the dinner, a glass of Chablis or Sauterne is their most proper accompaniment."
After soup of any kind, genuine old Madeira, East India Sherry, or Amontillado are recommended as "welcome stomachics." But you are to avoid, as you value your health, drinking punch after Turtle soup, especially Roman punch. With fish, a large variety of wines, such as Pouilly, Meursault, Montrachet, Barsac, and generally all dry white wines, is allowed. With the entrees you are permitted to drink any variety of Bordeaux or Burgundy.
Second course and dessert wines are given at too great a length to admit of reproduction. About these a "question of the highest importance" arises as to which should be preferred. But here Francatelli remembers a fact which might have spared him his vast labour on this service of wines: that "it is difficult, not to say impossible, to lay down rules for the guidance of the palate." The sanguine person, we are told, will prefer the genuine Champagne; the phlegmatic, Sherry or Madeira. The splenetic and melancholy man will be prone to select Roussillon and Burgundy. The bilious will imbibe Bordeaux. In few words, "Burgundy is aphrodisiac, Champagne is captious, Roussillon restorative, and Bordeaux stomachic." By careful attention to the foregoing remarks, the reader will happily be preserved from any serious mistake in the matter of his dinner. But other meals must also be taken into consideration, about which Francatelli preserves a Sibylline and mysterious silence. For instance, luncheon. We learn, however, from another source that there are luncheon sherries and dessert sherries. With lunch the brown, rich, and full-bodied Raro may be suitably drunk; but the pale Solera and the soft yet nutty Oloroso should make their appearance at dessert alone,
M. Batalhai Reis, Consul for Portugal at Newcastle-on-tyne, in a report on the wine trade of England, has troubled himself thus in the interests of posterity to classify the wines of the world.
Class I. - Table Wines.
Alcohol and sugar imperceptible. Taste acid and astringent.
Division A. Red.
Group I. Acid. Examples: Inferior Bordeaux and Burgundies, Wines from North of Portugal.
Group 2. Astringent. Examples: Superior Bordeaux and Burgundies, Collares from Portugal.
Division B. White.
Group I. Simple Flavour. Example: Rhine Wines.
Group 2. Complex Flavour. Example: Bucellas of Portugal.
Class II. - Transition Wines.
Alcohol and sugar perceptible. Taste astringent. Flavour complex.
Division A. Red. Examples: Many Spanish and Portuguese wines.
Division B. White. Examples: Many Spanish and Portuguese wines.
Class III. - Generous Wines.
1 st Family. Madeira type. Wines of the Canaries, Azores, Lisbon; Carcanellas, Sherry, Marsala, and Cyprian wines.
2nd Family. Port type.
3rd Family. Tokay, Malaga.
4th Family. Chateau Yquem, Johannisberg, Steinberg.
Class IV. - Sparkling Wines.
Group A. Natural. Group B. Artificial.
This division of the wines of the world is presented to the reader as a literary curiosity. It is at once simple and scientific. In a word, no book on wines can be considered complete without it. In the succeeding pages Wines as Beers are, for convenience of reference, arranged after the alphabetical order of their countries.
Africa: Constantias - Rota - Mascara. America: Catawbas -Muscatel - Chacoli - Mosto. Australia: Carbinet - Kaludah - Verdeilho - Conatto. Canaries: Vedueno - Sack. England: Home-made Wines.