This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
Therefore it is an appropriate stimulant for benefiting certain sorts of infantile, and youthful debility, as well as nervous failure in the digestive functions of enfeebled old invalids. Sherry (Vinum xericum), the wine of Jerez, in Southern Spain, is commonly much manipulated. Negus (an Indian drink) is made with white wine (Sherry or Marsala), sugar, and lemon-juice, with ginger and a little nutmeg being added, whilst steaming hot water serves to complete this fragrant cordial restorative, of moderate alcoholic strength. At Jerez, Sherry is the common everyday drink of working persons, as well as of the upper classes: and their general good health, with an immunity from rheumatism, or gout, is proverbial. It is then a dry natural wine, the most refreshing and wholesome of drinks: whereas the Sherry exported to this country is sweetened, and loaded with spirit.
Elderly persons sometimes cannot fall asleep for a long time after getting into bed, and become worn out with restlessness, and with tossing about. This misfortune may generally be obviated by their taking an egg, lightly boiled, or a plain chicken sandwich, or some equally simple, yet nutritive little repast the last thing at night (supposing no previous solid meal has preceded this by at least a couple of hours), accompanied by half a tumblerful of hot wine and water, or negus, or a glass of sound, light, bitter beer. Sweet, fortified wines are specially to be chosen for this purpose, as Malaga, or Port, or Sherry. Likewise good Burgundy, warmed, spiced, diluted, and sweetened, makes an excellent night-cap. Madeira, again, another fortified wine, will exercise soporific effects either as a separate, but treacherous, potation, or when mulled (Latin mollire, to soften) with spices; the devotees of which wine aver that it should smack of the cockroach. At the Hop Pole Inn, Tewkesbury, where Mr. Pickwick, with Mr. Benjamin Allen, and Mr. Bob Sawyer, stopped to dine, "there was more bottled ale, more Madeira, and some Port besides, and here the case-bottle was replenished for the fourth time; under the influence of which combined stimulants Mr. Pickwick, and Mr. Ben Allen fell fast asleep for the next thirty miles, while Bob, and Sam Weller sang duets in the dickey".
Of Champagne, the best varieties are obtained from Rheims. and Epernay in France. It should be a natural wine, containing from nine to twelve per cent of alcohol; but what is now drunk in England as Champagne is mostly a brandied wine. The amount of sugar in this wine varies from nil up to 14 per cent. Most of the Champagnes now in vogue, even those which are high-priced, are fortified up to 12 per cent of absolute alcohol, and are unworthy of choice, or salutary drinking.
Marsala is a Sicilian wine, and sweeter than Sherry, whilst containing less of the volatile ethers which characterize the latter.
Claret, probably named from clairet, a thin vin ordinaire, is produced in Medoc, of which district the seaport is Bordeaux. It is a pure, natural wine containing from 8 to 13 per cent of alcohol, with a high proportion of volatile ethers. Burgundy resembles claret, but is richer in extractive matters, and is of higher alcoholic strength. Beaune and Chambertin are the wines of this kind most to be commended. Claret contains no appreciable amount of sugar. For the invalid it should be a good wine as to its choice, otherwise it cannot be genuine. The cheap Clarets are concocted of grape-spirit, colouring matters, sugared water, and, some brandy, making up all together a clever imitation of the natural wine. A true Claret will not cost less than from four to five shillings a bottle; it should have a raspberry flavour, and is more astringent than Burgundy, but not with tannin, like tea. Though Claret seems to the palate more acid than Port wine, it is really not so. Any fortified wine taken after Claret would stultify its salutary effects.
Louis the Fifteenth, of France, asked Richelieu about the wines of Bordeaux, and was told respecting its various vintages, the wine of Upper Burgundy being finally said to be superlative: "One can drink of this as much as one will,"said Richelieu; "it puts people to sleep, and that is all." "Puts people to sleep, does it?" answered the King; "then send for a pipe of it." It is supposed that there is now too much Vin Ordinaire in France, owing to growers having abandoned "vin de luxe." One proprietor is known to be giving common wine to his horses as part of their diet. This was done likewise in 1874, and 1875, when the vine harvests were specially abundant. The horses require to become habituated to the wine by having part of their corn steeped in it, and putting this at the bottom of the manger below other corn untreated; then the proportion of corn with wine is gradually increased until the horses come to like it. Some horses are thus led on to drink wine almost pure, and even to enjoy it. They trot very well on the strength imparted by the wine, although their ration of corn is diminished in proportion. M. Monclar has given wine to draught horses, and finds that barley, or other grain, with such wine is about as stimulating as corn.
Dr. Tobias Venner, in his Via Recta ad longam Vitam, said at that time (1620): "There are also other French wines (would to God they were so common as Claret) which for pleasantnesse of taste, mediocrity of colour, substance, and strength, doe for most bodies (for ordinary use with meates) far excell other wines, such as are chiefly Vin de Congry and d'Hai, which to the Kings, and Peeres of France are in very familiar use. They notably comfort the stomacke, help the concoction, and distribution of the meates, and offend not the head with vaporous fumes. They are regall wines indeede, and very convenient for every season, age, and constitution, so they might be had." About a temperate use of wine Androcides was wont to say unto Alexander when being about to drink the same: "0 rex, memor sis te terrce sanguinem bibere".
Hungarian Wines are very fine, natural wines, red and white, almost free from sugar, and of moderate alcoholic strength. Italian wines are natural, with a rather high acidity, and a moderate percentage of alcohol. Australian wines are full-bodied, containing rather more alcohol than most clarets.
The juices, fermented or unfermented, of certain fruits, or plants, prepared in imitation of wine produced from grapes, are of home manufacture as sweet wines, being sparingly alcoholic, if at all, whilst they embody, sometimes curatively, the herbal virtues of the distinguishing fruit, or other vegetable product which is the basis of the brew, such as cowslip, currant, elder, gooseberry, raspberry, rhubarb, etc.