Wine has been with us since the earliest days of our nation. The pilgrims were even purported to have landed at Plymouth Rock because they had run out of alcohol. Whether you believe these tales or not, wine and alcohol have played a critical role in the development of the Americas and this President’s Day WineAmerica would like to celebrate the holiday by looking at our country’s past leaders and their White House wine indulgences. Here are the top 5 Presidents we want to have a glass of wine with.
In an era where there was little to do in terms of entertainment other than wear powdered wigs and chop wood, it may come as no surprise that people looked towards the consumption of alcohol for reprieve. George Washington was no exception, and reportedly spent $6,000 on alcohol in a period of seven months between 1775 and 1776; most of it on his beloved Madeira wine.
Interestingly enough, Madeira wine played an incredibly large role in the early history of the United States of America. The 13 colonies were incapable of growing wine quality grapes, so they looked towards imports, particularly Madeira, to meet their alcohol needs. Fortified with spirits and treated at unusually high temperatures, Madeira wine managed to survive the long voyage to the Americas without spoiling. In fact, Madeira was so beloved that the Founding Fathers used 50 bottles of it to toast the signing of the Declaration of Independence. This accompanied another 60 bottles of Claret and 22 bottles of port, quite the party for 56 delegates.
While we respect the great man’s choice of beverage, one cannot help but imagine him perched on the prow of a dingy crossing the Delaware with a goblet of Madeira and saber in hand.
It is by no coincidence there is a biannual wine festival on the grounds of Mount Vernon each spring and fall. Our first president would be proud of the wines made by his fellow native Virginians.
Thomas Jefferson is a well recognized name in wine circles. While we hope it would be for his impeccable taste and love for the art, more likely than not it is due to the fact that he has been infamously associated with wine scams carrying his namesake for years. Regardless of how you look at his name in the industry, Jefferson was a wine aficionado. As an ambassador to France, he gained a fine appreciation for French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese wines. While he was said to favor Madeira and Bordeaux, his vast collection contained everything imaginable. He was so enamored with his libations that when laying out his famed home, Monticello, he not only laid out a cider room, but built an extraordinary wine cellar to house his valuable collection of purchases.
While the jury is still out on whether a “cider room” is a real thing, we can confirm that he was spot on when he said “No nation is drunken where wine is cheap, and none sober where the dearness of wine substitutes ardent spirits as the common beverage. Wine brightens the life and thinking of anyone”.
Jefferson’s ventures in the wine industry did not stop there. He even tried his hand at being a vintner and while a spectacular failure, he pioneered wine cultivation in Virginia and would take delight in seeing how the industry has flourished since.
As brazen as they come, Richard Nixon holds the distinction of being the last President to serve Bordeaux in the White House; however, by many accounts this was mostly to himself. Nixon loved his wine, and did not shy away from imbibing on the good stuff. When entertaining his guests, Tricky Dick was widely reported to have his aides pour him the excellent and expensive Chateau Margaux from a bottle hidden from sight, while serving his guests lesser wines.
A California native and avid supporter of the domestic wine industry, Ronald Reagan is known for revolutionizing the way the White House looked at American wine. Not only did he exclusively serve American sparkling wine in lieu of Champagne, but he is the first President to ever serve a Zinfandel at an official event. His love of California wine was so great in fact, that upon moving to D.C. he sent himself a private supply of wine from Beaulieu Vineyards, Sterling, and Stag’s Leap. Reagan went above and beyond to showcase everything American wine had to offer, and in doing so set a precedent that is observed even today.
No, we did not fail middle school civics and we are aware that Benjamin Franklin was not a president. However, he was a founding father and his face graces our currency, so that is good enough for us.
Besides being a diplomat, statesman, inventor, scientist, and theorist, Benjamin Franklin was an accomplished author and publisher. His own words do his love of the drink more justice than we ever could:
“Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance.”
“When Wine enters, out goes the Truth.”
“Never spare the Parson’s wine, nor the Baker’s pudding.”
“The discovery of wine is of greater moment than the discovery of a constellation. The universe is too full of stars.”
“Wine is sure proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”
(Yes, often misquoted as “Beer is sure proof…”, a little research shows his true intent was wine.)
“Take counsel in wine, but resolve afterwards in water.”
WineAmerica wishes you all a Happy President’s Day! Keep the celebration going and share your tidbit of Presidential wine trivia via Twitter.
Questions? Contact Michael Kaiser at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-223-5172.