Terry Sweeney, Wine|May 5, 2011 10:55 pm

Famous Happy Winos from History

By Terry Sweeney

Whenever I wake up in the morning, fully clothed, in a now wine-stained ensemble, an empty bottle of red perched on my bedside table, I seriously am tempted to berate myself for allowing myself to be “overserved” once again.

How am I ever going to amount to anything if I continue to use the grape to escape from this “up-and-at-’em-every-minute-counts-make-it-or-break-it-world?” But then I remember all the illustrious and accomplished happy winos in history who came before me and who also loved to throw ‘em back and are now hopefully in that Great Vineyard in the Sky, happily hammered!

Thomas Jefferson, historians say, wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence in a tavern in Philadelphia.  No doubt dipping his quills into many a goblet of inky burgundy for inspiration.  Truth be told, Thomas Jefferson was one of our happiest wino forefathers.  He called wine “a necessary of life” and his interest went far beyond just drinking  wine.  He was fascinated by its viticulture and endlessly studied French, Italian, and German methods of grape growing.  Jefferson planted vineyards at Monticello and even grew grapes in his Paris garden on the Champs-Elysees.  But no doubt the happiest gig of his life was Wine Advisor to Presidents Washington, Madison and Monroe —  three other highly accomplished White House Winos.

Speaking of Washington, when he was president, his wine orders did not reflect a tremendous amount of will power in the wine department.  In 1790, one of his orders for French champagne was for 40 cases.  When Jefferson found a decadent and delicious dessert wine in France called Chateau D’Yquen, he decided to send Washington a little so he could taste it … He sent him 30 cases!!! (Feeling a little better now fellow winos about your meager daily intake?) I may myself open a bottle of French Somethin’ Somethin’ tonight to celebrate my incredible self control.

Let us not forget a little known fact about one of our other White House wine enthusiasts, Abraham Lincoln, who had a liquor license and owned two taverns.  Lincoln and his wife, Mary Todd, both adored wine and had six different wine glasses at state dinners, one for each course. I wonder if, like myself,  President Lincoln ever came to in his famous Lincoln bedroom wondering  “How did I get home? And why am I still wearing my best Gettysburg address suit and this silly top hat? Jeez!”

Although not a U.S. president, there is one more gentleman I would like to mention who had a profound effect on the continual survival  of a young America: Benjamin Franklin. I’m sure you’ve heard the quote, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy” attributed to Ben Franklin. Let me just say, that couldn’t be further from the truth. In an actual letter from Ben Franklin written in 1779,he goes on and on about wine, spelled in French ‘vin’ as the “heavenly gift of the Di-vine” and later in the same letter says, “Behold the rain which descends from heaven on our vineyards; there it enters the roots of the vines to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.” So the quote was actually about wine, not beer. Stick that in your mug, Mr. Michelob.

The list of wine-loving presidents and great world leaders is an extremely long one. For example, Churchill loved him some Pol Roger champagne and drank a bottle a day to soothe his blitz kreiged nerves. Cleopatra supposedly drank a goatskin of vino with breakfast and even bathed in it (not milk as teetotalers would have you believe). Certainly, the earliest written account of viticulture is in the old testament of the Bible that tells us Noah planted the first vineyard and made wine and enjoyed it and enjoyed it and enjoyed it! So, who knows? Before the Great Flood did Noah actually collect two of everything? Or was he just seeing double?!

So drink up Happy Winos, we are in excellent company!

 

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