This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
Now, Johannesberger is the most delicate of wine, as it is indeed superlative in every respect. By the kind invitation of the Princess Metternich the committee were allowed to taste specimens of the best the castle cellar contained, including some that was 21 years old in the cask, and some from a cask that was, par excellence, called the " bride of the cellar," and the opinion formed was that the quality of Johannesberger is such that it can not be described, and can be communicated only to the organs of taste; nor can it be understood or even imagined, except by those who are so highly favored as to have a taste of it, But this marvelous wine is but the crowning product of the famous district of the Rhinegan, or that portion of the valley lying just north of Mayence, a strip less than ten miles,in length, whose fruit yields a juice which surpasses all others of the world, combining richness with flavor and delicacy with strength. The soil of the Rhinegan seems to be of a red sandstone mostly, if not wholly.
Johannesberg hill reminds one strongly of the soil of some parts of New Jersey and Connecticut; and in the neighborhood of New Haven, in the latter State, the " basalt" is seen resting upon the red-stone, just as it does upon the hills that skirt the Rhine. Nearly all the German and Swiss wines, and, indeed, nearly all the grapes grown in Germany and Switzerland, are white, for which the soil and climate of the former country seems peculiarly adapted, while at the same time unsuited for ripening colored grapes to the tint needed in a true red wine. The peculiarity of the better sort of Rhenish wines is "bouquet," and of the inferior sort, acidity compared with them; their French rivals are quite negative, and so are those of Switzerland. A French wine, white or red, must be very poor indeed if it shows any acidity, and must be very fine indeed if it possesses any easily-tasted "bouquet." Altogether, we must award the palm of excellence to the white wines of the Rhine; as we do to the skill and industry of the Vine - dressers who produce them.
In considering the merits of the different soils as geologically distinguished from each other, we seem drawn to the conclusion that, so far as our observation has gone, the red sandstone is the superior one; but we confess ourselves unfit to make any such sweeping generalization, and will only say that the soil in question, for aught we can see, seems as fit as any other to grow a superior wine. The difference between wine made by fermenting the bruised grapes, juice, skin, pulp, and seeds altogether, and called "red wine," and that made by pressing immediately after gathering and fermenting its pressed juice by itself, called "white wine," is not a difference of color alone. For certain bodily temperaments, and for certain conditions of healthy possibly, too, for the peculiar constitution of the German people, white wine may be the best. And to that of the Rhine country Liebig attributes the virtue of being an antidote for calculus and gout. But all- this being admitted, the better reasons seem to favor the production and use of the red wine in preference to the white, where it can be done.
The testimony we have obtained from the best sources of knowledge on this point amount to this:
Red wine is much less heating, much more tonic, much less exciting to the nerves, much less intoxicating to the brain, and its effects are more enduring than white wine. As we of America are, by reason of our dry climate, as well as from moral causes, more excitable, both from brain and nerve, than the Europeans, and at the same time much oftener in need of tonic diet, and our summer heats are so much more intense than in the wine latitudes of Europe, all the above considerations should have peculiar weight with us. So highly, at least, do the French people appreciate them, that they consume now little white wine, and it bears always a lower price in the market than red of equal quality. To the general consumption of this drink intelligent Frenchmen are apt to attribute the fine health of their peasantry, as well as their habitual gaiety and habitual temperance. (The habitual use of whisky has quite another effect.) An American gentleman, for many years residing in France, and for a time a professor in one of the universities, affirms that the greatest longevity is among those people who take red wine three times a day and abstain from both tea and coffee.
When Americans consult French physicians, three times in four they are ordered to drink red wine as an habitual beverage; and one of the commonest daily events among Americans residing in Paris is the cure of an obstinate dyspepsia by the same simple remedy, even in the unhealthful air of that city.
The German vineyards have hitherto escaped any very serious ravages from the "vine disease." It is met as often as it appears, and successfully combated with sulphur. Three applications are made, the first as soon as the berries have grown to be as large as the head of a pin. Early in the day, and before the dew is dried off, the flour is sprinkled on the lower surface of the leaves, where the moisture causes it to attach.
At Rheims we were shown a large vine, trained to a wall, one half of which had been treated as above in the spring of the year before, and the other half neglected. The latter had, as a consequence, lost all of its fruit, and we visited the place and saw it the following season. It showed yellow and falling leaves in July, and very little fruit, while the other portion was perfectly healthy, and was loaded with a good crop of fruit. This experiment was made by a French gentleman, who had recently returned from a long sojourn in America, and visited that country for the purpose of satisfying himself if the sulphur be really a preventive or not against the vine disease, of which he had heard so many doubts expressed while in America.