:: LOUIS LIGER (1658-1717) ::
Oeconomie Generale de la Campagne, ou Nouvelle Maison Rustique,
:: Essentially all we know of 17th-century wine-making in France; and at the same time, the beginning of 18th-century French wine-making literature - a flowering as remarkable in one century as the previous two dozen had been sterile.
:: Like the Estienne & Liébault and the de Serres which preceeded it, and like the Crescenzi and Columella which in turn preceded them, Liger's text is a general encyclopedic treatment of life and work on a agricultural estate. Not least because nothing but reprints of these earlier texts had been published for a century before, Liger's work was immensely popular. An unauthorized printing of the first edition - falsely identified as the second - appeared in Amsterdam in 1701; the actual & much expanded second edition in 1708; and by the third edition, the subtitle became the title, under which name - La Nouvelle Maison Rustique - it became a virtual French institution, reprinted in a bibliographic jungle of dozens of editions for nearly a century after Liger's death, with ever-increasing additions by an ever-widening circle of largely anonymous editors. And since Liger himself produced a substantial set of subsidiary spinoffs, I have no ambition to unravel all the details here; I'd simply like to present the core of his approach to wine-making, since he literally defines the French (i.e., northern French) winemaking style of an entire era, and does so according to a clearly indicated sense for the pleasures of wine that we might well call "typically French" (i.e., northern French) even today.
1. Liger's taste in wine is extremely clear: the purpose of
wine is to be light and elegant. Red wines - which if not Pinot Noir,
can only be less than Pinot Noir - should be left on the skins for 12
to 15 hours, maybe even 24 in a really bad year, and should be destemmed
completely. Wines left longer are flayed with such epithets as "trés-rude",
"gros vins mâtins, sans grace", and - his favorite - "toûjours
bons à garder & jamais à boire" ("always good
to age, never to drink").
:: ANGRAN DE RUENEUVE ::
La Manière de Façonner les Vins
As is so often the case with authors posted on this site, all that appears
to be known about Angran de Rueneuve is what is stated on the title-page
of his book: Observations sur l'Agriculture et le Jardinage, pour servir
d'Instruction à ceux qui desireront s'y rendre habiles. Par M.
Angran de Rueneuve. Conseiller du Roy en l'Election d'Orleans. So,
he was king's counsellor (the king, in this case, being Louis XIV) in
Orléans: yet another example in favor of the argument that an author's
only worthwhile chance for an enduring monument is what actually gets
down on the pages of his own work.
:: VICENCIO ALARTE (Silvestre Gomes de Morais) ::
:: Agricultura das Vinhas e tudo o que pertence a ellas até perfeito recolhimento do vinho, & relaçaõ das suas virtudes & da cepa, vides, folhas, & borras. Lisbon, 1712 ::
:: The complete description of wine-making as given in the earliest Portuguese book on the subject. (In Portuguese)
Portugal is particularly interesting to the student of early wine-making,
since so much early wine-making is still in practice there. It's tempting
to say that Portugal developed a wine-making style while still a Roman
province, & has seen no great reason to change; in places, grapes are
still trod by foot in open stone lagares, must is fermented in amphoræ,
and so on. Ironically, the technique that popularly defines "Port"
- adding brandy to the fermenting must while it is still sweet - is one
that is not ancient at all; it only became general in in the Alto Douro
in the second half of the 19th century. Of course modern international
nofashions have been adopted here and there, even occasionally for
some good reason; but there's a significant movement back toward traditional
techniques, on the thought that they may yield wines more distinctive,
more Portuguese, and, why, maybe even more interesting to drink, of all
:: PIERRE-JOSEPH GARIDEL ::
:: Histoire des plantes qui naissent aux environs d'Aix, Aix, 1715 ::
:: The first detailed description of the grapes, wines, and winemaking of Provence. (In French)
Pierre-Joseph Garidel (1658-1737) was a medical doctor and Royal Professor
of Anatomy at the University of Aix-en-Provence. If he is known today,
and he is known by few, it is only for having published, in 1715, the
first systematic botany of Provence. But in the process, and in the same
book, he also accomplished something for which he isn't known at all:
he published the first detailed description of Provençal grapes
:: "S.J." ::
:: The Vineyard; London; 1727 ::
:: The first detailed description in English of wine-making in Champagne.
About this book, nothing is known to me but what can be inferred from
reading it. The short title is, THE VINEYARD; it was published
in London in 1727; the author gives only his initials, S. J., and does
that only in his dedication to the Duke of Chandois [sic]; on the title
page, the work is described as "Being the Observations made By a
Gentleman in his Travels."
:: Bordeaux, ca. 1757 ::
Nicholas Bidet (1709-1782) was a patriot of the province of Champagne,
with a ferocity that is a little startling to us now. Which perhaps is
to say only that he took questions of prestige as seriously as the French
so often do, and Champagne simply came first: "Champagne ma patrie",
as he so often puts it.
:: GUILLAUME-FRANÇOIS ROUELLE ::
:: Traité Elémentaire De Chimie (manuscript, n.d., n.p., but Paris, ca. 1758) ::
:: Winemaking as taught in Paris by Rouelle at the height of the Enlightenment, transcribed from the manuscript lecture notes of Denis Diderot. Previously unpublished. (In French)
Guillaume-François Rouelle (1703-1770) was one of the most influential
chemists of the mid-eighteenth century, and he was also one of its most
famous teachers. His course, given at the Jardin du Roi in Paris, was
legendary; Lavoisier was among a long list of his distinguished pupils,
as were Desmarest, Macquer, Venel, d'Arcet, and Bayen, all major figures
in later eighteenth-century science; but "as impressive is the list
of nonscientists known to have attended his lectures: Diderot, d'Holbach,
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Malesherbes, and Turgot." D.S.B., XI, p. 562.
:: CHARLES-FRANÇOIS TIPHAIGNE
DE LA ROCHE ::
In, Observations Physiques sur l'Agriculture, les Plantes, les Minéraux
& Végétaux, &c., [Paris], 1765.
:: SWITZERLAND ::
Switzerland, to those not Swiss, just doesn't qualify as a land of vines.
And evoking the great antiquity, complexity, and intelligence of Swiss
wine-making tradition doesn't appear to help: Heidi still seems more comfortable
with a cup of chocolate.
:: BOISDESCOURT, Capitaine d'Artillerie ::
:: Bibliothèque du Cultivateur et de l'Artiste (manuscript, n.d., n.p., but France, ca. 1770) ::
:: A complete treatise on vineyards and wine-making, from an original but previously unpublished French manuscript of the eighteenth century. (In French)
:: In 1996, I purchased
an 18th-century French manuscript from the great London bookdealer, Bernard
Quaritch, Ltd. It is an encylopedic work of some 2060 pages, in three
volumes, entitled Bibliothèque du Cultivateur et de l'Artiste.
Although clearly intended to be published, it never was, and all we can
hope to surmise of its author stems from a inscription on the first page
of Volume 1: "par Boisdescourt|Capte D'Artillerie," and from
a few hints scattered within the text itself. The body of the text is
in a single hand throughout, but with occasional notations & minor additions
in at least two other hands, seemingly contemporary, as though by friends
or family of the author. The attribution to "Boisdescourt Capitaine
d'Artillerie" is in one of these hands, and I see no reason to doubt
it, particularly since the author of the body of the text refers, in a
crossed-out passage on page 1327, to the fact that his manuscript "...sort
de la plume d'un vieux caporal reduit à l'eau depuis plus de quatre
ans." ["issues from the pen of an old corporal, reduced, for
more than four years now, to drinking water"].
The troubles that presently afflict Europe will cease one day, peace
will be reborn, and men, drawn by a long series of misfortunes back to
true principles, will be shamed to have disregarded them. Agriculture
alone will be able to return abundance to their midst. They will sense
the need to devote themselves to it, and will desire to do so, whether
by necessity, by reason, or by fashion. Those indeed least concerned with
agriculture in other times, will be obliged to return to it to supply
their most essential needs; thus, all that pertains to this art will be
of interest, after so long a series of misfortunes. It is according to
these reflections that I have undertaken this work. I have profited from
some moments of leisure to reunite, in the smallest framework possible,
all that is useful in agriculture, particularly for those who until now
have not been given to it.
As for my own purpose, it has been simply to transcribe, as meticulously
as possible, the sections of his Bibliothèque that relate
to viticulture and wine-making. While I would love to profit from enough
of Boisdescourt's "moments of leisure" to haved prepared a complete
translation, this hasn't happened yet, and perhaps it's just as well not
to envy him; I suspect he's being ironic, & was a prisoner of war at the
:: LOUIS-FRANÇOIS de CALONNE ::
:: Essais d'Agriculture, en Forme d'Entretiens; Paris, 1775 ::
:: Les vendanges Parisiennes de 1775, en cinéma-vérité. Emerging from beneath the asphalt of Vitry-sur-Seine, the most charming and complete account of an 18th-century wine harvest known to me. (In French)
Each archæology must have its magic moment, when the pick breaks
through the last bit of rubble, and suddenly the depiction of an entire
lost world stands revealed, as freshly alive as the day it was painted.
This is true of the archæology of texts as well, and the excerpt
that follows is a wonderful example of that.
:: [Author unknown] ::
:: Xeres ::
:: the earliest description known to me of the growing and making of sherry ::
Xeres, anglicized as sherry, is certainly the best-known, possibly
the least accurately understood, and arguably the most distinctive of
all Spanish wines. Its origins are, as usual, unrecorded; but there is
no reason wine couldn't have been made in Jerez de la Frontera by the
:: [Author unknown] ::
:: Dialogues françois et italiens, à l'usage de ceux qui se piquent de parler le pur Toscan. Manuscript, n.p, n.d., but Paris, c.1780 ::
:: Brilliantly observed vignettes of Parisian life by a master of satire: a true comédie humaine, but to my knowledge, completely unknown and previously unpublished. (In French & Italian)
Paris has always rewarded her lovers with the pleasures of her streets,
the profligate daily richness of a comédie humaine the very idea
of which was invented as an attempt to describe those particular and most
wordly of her many charms.
:: Barthélemy Louis Reboul ::
:: Bordeaux ::
Barthélemy Louis Reboul was Avocat au Parlement, de l'Académie
des Belles Lettres, Sciences & Arts de Marseille, [and] Secrétaire
perpétuel de la Société d' Agriculture de Provence,
all of which I know only because it says so on the title page of his book;
in fact, I know nothing about him that cannot be inferred from the book