This collection of wine quotations–among the favorites of curator Leslie Grigsby–relate not only to wine but to the social life surrounding it. The quotes are drawn both from the Uncorked! exhibition and the research which led to it. The entries are listed in chronological order and will be added to in the future. Enjoy!
Come, come let us drink the Vintners’ good health,
‘Tis the Cask, not the Coffer, that holds the true Wealth:
If to Founders of Blessings we Pyramids raise,
The Bowl next the Sceptre deserves the best Praise.
Then next to the Queen, let the Vintners fame shine:
So give us good Laws, and then fill us good Wine.
The Pageant Book of the Vintners’ Company (London, 1702), from Wine Trade Loan Exhibition of Drinking Vessels, … Held at Vintners’ Hall (June-July, 1933), p. 2 (Winterthur Library)
Boy, bring a bowl of China here,
Fill it with water cool and clear;
Decanter with Jamaica ripe,
And spoon of silver, clean and bright,
Sugar twice-fin’d in pieces cut,
Knife, sieve, and glass in order put,
Bring forth the fragrant fruit, and then
We’re happy till the clock strikes ten.
Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanack (June, 1737)
A Receipt for all young Ladies that are going to be Married. To Make a
From famed Barbados on the Western Main
Fetch sugar half a pound; fetch sack from Spain
A pint; and from the Eastern Indian Coast
Nutmeg, the glory of our Northern toast.
O’er flaming coals together let them heat
Till the all-conquering sack dissolves the sweet.
O’er such another fire set eggs, twice ten,
New born from crowing cock and speckled hen;
Stir them with steady hand, and conscience pricking
To see the untimely fate of twenty chicken.
From shining shelf take down your brazen skillet,
A quart of milk from gentle cow will fill it.
When boiled and cooked, put milk and sack to egg,
Unite them firmly like the triple League.
Then covered close, together let them dwell
Till Miss twice sings: You must not kiss and tell.
Each lad and lass snatch up their murdering spoon,
And fall on fiercely like a starved dragoon.
Sir Fleetwood Fletcher, New York Gazette, February 13, 1744
Some bloods being in company with a celebrated fille de joy, one of them pulled off her shoe, and in an excess of gallantry filled it with Champagne, and drank it off to her health . . . and then, to carry the compliment still further, he ordered the shoe itself to be dressed and served up for supper. The cook set himself seriously to work upon it; he pulled the upper part (which was of damask) into fine shreds, and tossed it up in a ragout; minced the sole; cut the wooden heel into very thin slices, fried them in batter, and placed them round the dish for garnish. The company . . . testified their affection for the lady by eating very heartily of this exquisite impromptu.
Satirical letter from T. Savoury of Pye Corner, Connoisseur (London), June 6, 1754
A satirical article describing the activities of London drinking clubs states,
[The] wisest institution ever made in drinking societies, is the custom of appointing what is called an absolute toast master. . . . It is particularly his office to name the toast, to observe that every man duly tosses off his bumper, and is in every respect good company. He is also to correct all misdemeanors [typically by forcing the offender to consume additional drinks].
Connoisseur (London), February 27, 1755
I am at a-loss to account for the received maxim, that ‘in good wine there is truth;’ and should no more expect happiness in a full bowl, than chastity in a bar of a tavern.
Connoisseur (London), October 30, 1755
Issue No. 45 of John Wilkes’s North Briton (1763) supported equal rights and was not forgotten on the eve of the American Revolution. It inspired a 1768 patriotic event in Charleston, South Carolina:
CHANICKS and other inhabitants of [Charleston met to discuss who might represent them.] . . . About 5 o’clock, they all removed to a most noble LIVE-OAK Tree . . . which they formally dedicated to LIBERTY, where many loyal, patriotic, and constitutional toasts, were drank . . . ln the evening, the tree was decorated with 45 lights, and 45 sky-rockets were [shot off]—About 8 o’clock, the whole company, preceded by 45 of their number, carrying as many lights, marched . . . to [a] tavern; where the 45 lights being placed upon the table, with 45 bowls of punch, 45 bottles of wine , and 92 glasses they spent a few hours in a new round of toasts, among which, scarce a celebrated Patriot of Britain or America was omitted.
The South Carolina Gazette, October 3, 1768
At a meeting of the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, members discussed the business of wine when considering improvements to benefit the country’s “Interest and Prosperity”:
Our Wines . . . are imported from foreign Countries; [even though our grapes and grapevines] grow in every Soil, are suited to every Climate, and, without Cultivation, pour forth [rich and luscious] Fruits in Abundance . . . [With] a little Care and Industry, America might produce Wine sufficient, not only for Home Consumption, but even for Exportation; and . . . in Time, our Wine may be much esteemed.
Pennsylvania Gazette, March 17, 1768
I dined with [Mrs. Madison, wife of the President] a few days ago. There was a large party of congressional Ladies & Gentlemen . . . We had an excellent dinner serv’d up on superb french china, and plenty of good Champaign Wine to taper off with; for you know this is always drunk last of all, and is called ladies wine.
Letter from Catherine Mitchell (wife of a senator in Washington) to her sister in New York, December 18, 1808, from (unpublished) “Dining & Social Life in Federal Washington… Manuscript Sources …,” for the Octagon by Diane Berger, 1987, p. 10 (Winterthur Library)
Nations differ in the mode of using wine. The French take theirs at dinner; the Germans sit late and early; the Russians are only a little more moderate than the Germans. The two last are boisterous in their cups; the first takes just enough to make his conversation sparkle like his own wines, among the ladies, with whom he rises from the table. The Englishman, in respect to the quantity he takes, formerly adopted the French and German modes combined; he took wine with dinner and much afterwards. In this respect he has of late years wonderfully improved; inebriety is very happily gone out of fashion in good society.
Cyrus Redding, Every Man His Own Butler (London, 1839), p. vi
The true enjoyer of wine finds it exhilarate[s] the spirits, increase[s] the memory, promote[s] cheerfulness; if he be something of a wit, it draws out his hoarded stores of good sayings and lively repartees . . .This cheerful glass calls into action his better natural qualities, as with the ruby liquor he swallows ‘a sunbeam of the sky’ . . . he leaves the table to mingle with beauty . . . perhaps to bask in ‘the purple light of love.’ . . . [However, he] who would destroy good wine, by taking it when its flavour is no longer fresh to the palate, is a drunkard.
Cyrus Redding, Every Man His Own Butler (London, 1839), pp. xii–xiii
All delicate wines should be taken out of thin glasses. . . . The greatest objection . . ..is the ease with which such glasses are broken by the servants, which renders them expensive . . . To a man of taste . . . Romanée and Lafitte would loose half their flavour in heavy coarse glass, though to the thick oily wines de liqueur or to sweet wines, [this] does not seem to apply. The glass and specific gravity of the wine should harmonize. . . . If we could divide a soap bubble in half while floating on the zephyr, we should have a perfect bowl out of which to quaff Romanée, Lafitte, or Sillery.
Cyrus Redding, Every Man His Own Butler (London, 1839), pp. xiv-xv
In all cases wine-glass coolers, with the coldest water, should be laid out on the table and the glasses reversed in them. No one should pour out more wine with his dinner than he intends to take at one sip, and then immediately reverse his glass.
Cyrus Redding, Every Man His Own Butler (London, 1839), p. xv
In tasting wine, the purchaser should try it more than once, or at two different times; suppose at an interval of a day or so. The state of the stomach, the food last taken, . . . especially if the purchaser has been in the habit of drinking strong ale or spirits, will prevent a correct appreciation of wine. . . . Some persons take cheese, bread, or biscuit before they taste wine; but these are artificial resources. Let the mouth be rinsed with pure water, and the stomach neither empty nor full; the taste will then be found at its best . . . Fruit, sweetmeats, spices, seasoned dishes, however grateful wine may seem after taking them, tend to prevent an accurate sensation being received of the precise shade of taste in what is thus imbibed.
Cyrus Redding, Every Man His Own Butler (London, 1839), pp. 3-4
The wine-merchants have various words applying to the peculiarities in wine . . . such as ‘green,’ for new wine; ‘stalky,’ for wine affected with the astringency and flavour of the vine wood. The phrases of the French [include] bouquet for a particular odour, not one of distinct character, but of many combined. Velouté means what our [English] merchants call velvetty on the tongue, smooth, or soft, as all good wine should be when fit for drinking. Wines of much strength they style fumeux; montant is applied to those which affect the head by carbonic gas . . . Dur means harsh wine, Ferme, durable, not likely to change. Event means dead, vino morto with the Italians. Wines which are said to be finir bien are applied to those that are past probability of change, and will drink out well. Pâteux is thick clammy wine. Plat means flat. Séve applies to the flavour on tasting, as bouquet does to the perfume.
Cyrus Redding, Every Man His Own Butler (London, 1839), p. 10
A legislative act . . . is required to settle the size of bottles. The consumer often expects, and justly, a wine quart where he only obtains a pint and a half. Fifteen bottles [needed to equal a true] dozen is an abuse too gross to pass much longer without correction.
Cyrus Redding, Every Man His Own Butler (London, 1839), p. 116
The finest wines, when matured, are generally sent in bottles, carefully packed. Every bottle of champagne is carefully wrapped in cartridge paper, and the case lined with the same substance. This wine should never be drawn from the case until it is wanted for use. Burgundy should be kept in the same manner. The cases being filled with salt, which cannot escape, will preserve the wine fresh even in India. The bottles, however, should be more than commonly thick when designed for a voyage so long.
Cyrus Redding, Every Man his Own Butler (London, 1839), p. 117
[Wine having gone slightly too yellow requires the addition of] a pint of milk and fish-glue to every hundred and fifty quarts, mingled first with a quart of wine, and blended well by beating it up, [it] is then poured into the cask. At the expiration of a few days the wine may be racked off or bottled. . . . Spanish wines have their colour restored by mixing two pounds of starch with eight pints of milk. Let them boil and hour. When cold add a handful of salt; stir it well in, and pour the whole into the cask; agitate the wine for some minutes very forcibly, and then fill and bung up the cask.
Cyrus Redding, Every Man His Own Butler (London, 1839), pp. 120-21
Love wine like a constant mistress; never abuse it, and you will find it bring[s] no sorrows.
Cyrus Redding, Every Man His Own Butler (London, 1839), p. 192
Perhaps the most obvious division of wines is according to colours, as red and white; but another arrangement . . . considers them as 1, dry and strong, as Port, Sherry, and Madeira; 2, dry and light, as Hermitage, Claret, Burgundy, or Hock; 3, brisk, effervescing, and sparkling, as Champagne; 4, sweet, as Malmsey, &c.
Thomas Webster, An Encyclopaedia of Domestic Economy (New York, 1845), p. 610
As I remember, it was almost midnight when we took our leave. We had had some biscuit and dried fish for supper, and Steerforth had produced from his pocket a full flask of Hollands [gin], which we men . . . had emptied. We parted merrily; and as they all stood crowded round the door to light us as far as they could upon our road.
Charles Dickens, David Copperfield (1849), chapter 21
A young David Copperfield is banished to work at his stepfather’s dockside import-export wine and spirit warehouse:
I know that a great many empty bottles were one of the consequences of this traffic, and that certain men and boys were employed to examine them against the light, and reject those that were flawed, and to rinse and wash them. When the empty bottles ran short, there were labels to be pasted on full ones, or corks to be fitted to them, or seals to be put upon the corks, or finished bottles to be packed in casks. All this work was my work, and of the boys employed upon it I was one.
Charles Dickens, David Copperfield (1849), chapter 28
COMMUNION WINE. – Frederick A. Page, of Providence, has been sentenced to a fine of $20 for selling a quantity of wine for communion service, the Court having decided that such a use is neither “medicinal,” nor “artistical.”
The North Star (Rochester, New York), July 6, 1849