Page images
PDF
EPUB

manufacturers of French claret, by a kind of doctoring, to work that delicious wine into a bad imitation of old Port, as for our vignerons to destroy the distinctive character of South Australian wines, to adapt them to the taste of those who have been accustomed to the heavy-bodied productions of Spain and Portugal. That the lighter wines will commend themselves to the taste of the great majority of Englishmen we have but little doubt. Indeed, the heavy brandied wines of the south-west of Europe have become popular in England only in late years. Every person acquainted with the social life and habits of the winedrinking people of Great Britain, before the commencement of the present century, must know that the wines of France were chiefly used. When Mr. Gladstone introduced his budget to the English House of Commons—the chief point in which was the reduction of the duties on French wines - he gave several interesting and conclusive illustrations of this fact; and he maintained that the taste for full-bodied wines was a modern and an acquired taste. And the success which has attended the introduction of French wines to the English market proves that the sagacious Chancellor was right.

Now we have every reason to believe that in South Australia we can produce wines in all respects equal, and in some respects superior, to those of France. Let our first-class vignerons have faith in the wines they make pure and simple, and carefully eschew all tampering with them, and doctoring them, and let them sell them at as moderate a price as they can afford, until the taste for them be firmly established, when they will become a necessity, and then we have no doubt they will be able to command highly remunerative prices. It is as certain as anything can be, that the manufacture of wine will become one of the chief articles of South Australian produce. Taking the colony throughout, there is no description of grapes which cannot be grown; and with all the advantages we possess, we cannot fail to become a large wine-producing colony.

CHAPTER XXI.

AMERICA-CALIFORNIA.

Longfellow's Song in praise of Catawba-Different Opinion-Hotel Charges before the time of Greenbacks-Cock-tail-Brandy-smash -Carolina-Scuppernong-California-Good Wines-AngelicoAliso-Large Production-German Vine-Growers.

THE following beautiful lines by Longfellow, in

praise of Catawba, make me somewhat timid in expressing opinions so very different from his nor would I have ventured to do so on my own limited knowledge, had they not been confirmed by others. The greatest respect, however, is due to such a man and writer, even on the subject of wine; and I therefore call attention to the poet's remark about that which is shipped o'er the reeling Atlantic.'

Catawba Wine.

This song of mine

Is a song of the vine,

To be sung by the glowing embers

Of wayside inns,

When the rain begins

To darken the drear Novembers.

It is not a song

Of the Scuppernong

From warm Carolinian valleys,

Nor the Isabel

And the Muscadel
That bask in our garden alleys :

Nor the red Mustang,

Whose clusters hang
O'er the waves of the Colorado,

And the fiery flood

Of whose purple blood
Has a dash of Spanish bravado.

For the richest and best

Is the wine of the West,
That grows by the Beautiful River;

Whose sweet perfume

Fills all the room
With a benison on the giver.

And as the hollow trees

Are the haunts of bees For ever going and coming,

So this crystal hive

Is all alive With a swarming and buzzing and humming.

a

Very good in its way

Is the Verzenay,
Or the Sillery soft and creamy ;

But Catawba wine

Has a taste more divine,
More dulcet, delicious, and dreamy,

There grows no vine

By the haunted Rhine, By Danube or Guadalquivir,

Nor an island or cape,

That bears such a grape
As grows by the Beautiful River.

Drugged is their juice

For foreign use,
When shipped o'er the reeling Atlantic,

[blocks in formation]

And this song of the vine,

This greeting of mine,
The winds and the birds shall deliver

To the Queen of the West,

In her garlands dressed,

On the banks of the Beautiful River. It is with much diffidence that I write upon the wines of the United States, for I am conscious of my ignorance about them. The American wine best known by name in this country is the Catawba (Longworth’s) just mentioned, which reminds me of the sparkling Vouvray, made near Tours, but is not so good. I have heard it compared to champagne, but the comparison ought to be made with a very coarse, common kind.

Almost every important wine merchant has, or had, an agent in the (United ?) States, which was an excellent market. Even before the introduction of

6

greenback currency, and the increased tariff, the prices charged at hotels were very high. By reference to the bill of fare of Astor House, New York, in 1836, I see that no sherry was less than 8s., and some, 12s. a bottle. But madeira seems to have been the favourite, for it begins at 8s., and ascends to 128., 168., 20., 248., 288., 40s. The 24s. per bottle, is called “Smith & Huggins' (Dyker's white top), bottled 1800, in St. Eustatia. The 40s. is ‘Gov. Kirby's original bottles, 00.

The most important vineyards are those of Ohio, Missouri, and Indiana. Wine is also made in Western Virginia, the State of New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. But the most celebrated is in Cincinnati, where there are large vineyards, especially those belonging to Messrs. Longworth and Zimmermann, who have gained a high reputation for their sparkling Catawba, about which I have expressed my own opinion. In the Northern and North Western States, wines of all kinds, generally in imitation of favourite European, are made; but all have a peculiar—what we should call an American -flavour and taste; and the Americans themselves appear to prefer those which are imported from Europe.

A drink, in great demand, consists of Isabella and sweet Catawba, mixed with sugar and spirits, poured upon pounded ice, and sold at the bars of hotels and taverns. These are somewhat aristocratic luxuries; but there are numerous others, usually

« PreviousContinue »