There are certain descriptions of the different varieties of wines, given by Thudicum and Dupre, Vizetelly and others, which are of great assistance in helping to a knowledge of the various desiderata to be looked for. Moreover, much will be gained by collecting them together, as their principal characteristics will be better remembered when they are thus contrasted with each other. It is not my wish to laud the wines of other countries to the disparagement of Australian growths, but it is my object to show clearly those desirable properties which all good wines should possess. A knowledge of these lofty standards will do more to better the quality of our Australian wines than anything I know of.
The wines of the Medoc, that district of the Gironde which produces the finest clarets, namely, Chateau Margaux, Chateau Lafitte, Chateau Latour, etc, possess distinguishing features peculiar to themselves. They have a certain slight distinctive roughness; are fine, juicy, marrowy in the mouth, and after having been in bottle some years they acquire a very beautiful bouquet. They have, moreover, this remarkable hygienic quality, that they can be drunk in large quantity without, as the French say, "fatiguing" either head or stomach.
But there is another portion of the Bordeaux country, namely the Graves, which produces both red and white wines. The latter include those magnificent Sauternes, Chateau d'Yquem and La Tour Blanche, which take such high rank; Chateau d'Yquem, indeed, has been likened to liquid gold - liquid gold in a crystal glass - and is one of those most luscious and delicately aromatic of wines, with an exquisite bouquet and rich, delicious flavour.
As it has already been stated, Bordeaux and Burgundy are entirely different wines, and this fact must be well remembered. The wines of the latter comprise some of the most famous growths of France, and are distinguished by the suavity of their taste, their finesse, and spirituous aroma. The red wines have a fine colour, a good deal of bouquet, and a delicious taste. They give tone to the stomach, and facilitate digestion. Of these red wines of Burgundy the Romanee-Conti is among the first growths, and it is renowned for its fine colour, its aroma, its delicacy, and the superb quality of its delicious taste. Clos de Vougeot is another great growth, which is slightly more alcoholic than the preceding. Chambertin, also, possesses a good deal of seve, delicacy, perfect taste, and pleasant bouquet; moreover, it has a softness which made it an especial favourite with the great Napoleon. Corton, likewise, is of high colour, corse, and, as it gets older, acquires a great deal of seve and bouquet.
The white wines of Burgundy however, must not be forgotten, for amongst them is the renowned Chablis. This, with the oysters, the squeeze of lemon juice, and the brown bread and butter, usually heralds in any large dinner. Although slightly alcoholic, it is not heady, and possesses body, delicacy, and an agreeable perfume, with that distinguishing pierre a fusil taste - that flinty flavour - which is its recognised characteristic.
Leaving the Bordeaux wines and the wines of Burgundy, it is next desirable to speak of one which belongs to the South of France. It is well known, at least by name, to most Australians, and any description of its properties, therefore, will be the more appreciated. This is the Muscat of Rivesaltes, in the department of the Oriental Pyrenees. By some it is esteemed the best Liqueur wine in the world. A good sample of it possesses great finesse, a good deal of vinosity, and that wonderful muscadine bouquet which gives to it its celebrated characters.
There is another wine, coming from the valley of the Rhone, in the south-eastern portion of France, whose name is equally familiar to most Australians; this is the Red Hermitage, or, as it is perhaps more commonly known amongst us, Shiraz, wine. A genuine wine is distinguished by great richness, a lively purple colour, and a special bouquet; and it becomes, by these united qualities, the best wine of this region.
Turning to the German wines, those of the Rheingau must claim our attention. This district borders on the Rhine, and it is said that the river acts as a mirror, in reflecting the rays of the sun towards the vineyards. The Rheingau must not be confused with the district of Hochheim, which is situated on the Maine. Yet it is curious that the first syllable of the latter district (Hochheim) has furnished the monosyllabic English word Hock, under which are confused all the Rhine wines. Amongst the wines of the Rheingau may be enumerated Steinberg, Marcobrunner, and Johaunisberg.
With regard to the wines of the Rheingau, Mr. Henry Vizetelly observes: " Although the flavour and bouquet of "the grand wines of the Rheingau are equally pronounced, "it is exceedingly difficult to characterise them with pre-"cision. After gratifying the sense of smell with the "fragrant odour which they evolve - and which is no mere "evanescent essence vanishing as soon as recognised, but "often a rich odour which almost scents the surrounding "atmosphere - you proceed to taste the wine, and seem to "sip the aroma exhaled by it. Now and then you are "conscious of a refined pungent flavour, and at other times "of a slight racy sharpness, while the after-taste generally "suggests more of an almond flavour than any other you "can call to mind. No wines vary so much in their finer "qualities as the grand growths of the Rheingau. The "produce of a particular vineyard, although from the same "species of grape, cultivated under precisely similar condi-"tions, will differ materially in flavour and bouquet, not "merely in bad and good years, but in vintages of equal "excellence. Moreover, these wines need the most skilful "cellar treatment during the long years they are maturing. "All great wines, it should be remembered, ripen slowly, "and cannot be 'pasturised' into perfection - that is to "say, cannot be rapidly matured by heating them to a "certain temperature, as ordinary wines may be."