Why Thomas Jefferson is still the most wine-savvy POTUS

With Presidents Day coming up, the time is ripe for you wine loving travelers to sip in a little American wine history lesson. For today’s lesson we’re talking about the most wine savvy President we’ve EVER had.

There was one man who saw the opportunity for the “New World” to “make as great a variety of wines as are made in Europe”. That my friend was Thomas Jefferson. Many of you know Thomas Jefferson as one of the Founding Fathers, the man who penned the Declaration of Independence, the second face on Mount Rushmore and our third President. Yet, many don’t know just how much he inspired the growth and exploration of producing and growing wine in the colonies – specifically Virginia – even before the American Revolution and more so once the country earned its independence.

He is still the most wine-savvy POTUS we’ve have to date and America’s first great wine connoisseur. You’d think Donald Trump might be a contender for this role given he owns the Virginia winery, Trump Winery. But, alas he has “never had a drop of alcohol”. TJ remains on top!

We could, in the United States make as great a variety of wines as are made in Europe: not exactly of the same kinds, but doubtless as good. yet I have ever observed to my countrymen who think it’s introduction important, that a labourer cultivating wheat, rice, tobacco or cotton here, will be able, with the proceeds, to purchase double the quantity of the wine he would make. – Thomas Jefferson

So what makes Thomas Jefferson the most wine-savvy POTUS still? I’ve laid out six reasons. There’s more of course but these are my favorite ones. If you’re looking to learn even more about TJ and his love affair with wine, check out the book Thomas Jefferson on Wine but John Hailman.

Created the Trend of Blending Work with Wine Country Getaways

In 1785 Jefferson moved to Paris to begin his role as America’s Minister to France. During his time in this role, he spent three months touring the country for American trade interests. But, it was his personal interest in wine that set the itinerary to go through some of the best European wine regions in France and Northern Italy – Burgundy, Champagne, Rhone Valley, Beaujolais, Piedmont and Bordeaux.

Presidents & Wine. Read more on why Thomas Jefferson is still the most wine-savvy POTUS.

Responsible for Virginia’s first established American Viticultural Area

For nearly 30 years Jefferson planted French, German, and Italian vines at his home Monticello, located in Virginia. But, he never actually produced wine – all his vines died. Every year. Freezing temperatures in the winter, the American Revolution and Phylloxera were all to blame. Keep in mind, Vitis Vinifera (wine grapes) didn’t grow on the East Coast until hybrid grapes were formed. One of the first American hybrids that grew successfully for wine making in Virginia is the Norton grape.

Jefferson was right in his persistent vision of Virginia – and the U.S. – producing a “great a variety of wines”. His dream of producing wines at Monticello lives on at Jefferson Vineyards, which is part of the original vineyards he had laid out. The surrounding area where Monticello is located is now home to 33 thriving vineyards and the Monticello American Viticultural Area (AVA), the first of seven established AVA’s in Virginia.

Today, a variety of grapes are grown in the Monticello AVA. A few of these include Petit Manseng, Vionger, Cab Franc, Petit Verdot, with Chardonnay the most widely planted.

The boundaries of the Monticello AVA were inspired by the historical significance of Thomas Jefferson’s vision for American wine and how he had planted vineyards at his mountaintop home, Monticello. To date, Virginia is the 8th U.S. state with the most wineries.

Jefferson Knew the Health Benefits of Wine

There are countless studies today coming out regarding the health benefits of wine in moderation. Thomas Jefferson helped kick these studies off with his own personal experiments. In letters to his friends and doctors, Jefferson boasted that, “wine from long habit has become indispensable for my health.” Given he lived until he was 83 – a huge accomplishment during that era – he had time to test this theory. The prescription he outlined in one of his letters might be one to follow. Keep in mind the “friend” he’s referring to is likely a glass of wine.

I double however, the Doctor’s glass and a half of wine, and even treble it with a friend. – Thomas Jefferson

Brought Direct to Consumer Sales and Bottling to the US

I mentioned earlier that Thomas Jefferson spent a lot of time in France exploring – and falling in love with – European wines. Given he couldn’t easily get the wines he loved when he returned to the U.S., he placed large orders and had them shipped. He personally had 600 bottles a year sent from France to the U.S.! However, he lived by the concept of “Don’t go to the middleman”. Instead, buy directly from the winery and have them send the wine in bottles.

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I know in today’s mindset that sounds like a given. But, in the 1790’s wine was not often bottled since it added to the cost. However, by doing this, it not only protected the wine but it kept thirty sailors from sipping on the barrels during the journey. The sailors were known to water down the wine to cover it up.

Presidents & Wine. Read more on why Thomas Jefferson is still the most wine-savvy POTUS.

Believed in Keeping Taxes Low on Wine

The first thing the newly formed American government did was establish a tax on alcohol. This in turn helped the nation not to ever need an income tax until those silly Temperance folks pushed for National Prohibition. This lead to the formation of the federal income tax. But, Jefferson strongly believed that keeping taxes low on imported wines was essential for a strong, prosperous country.

No nation is drunken where wine is cheap; and none sober, where the dearness of wine substitutes ardent spirits as the common beverage. – Thomas Jefferson

In essence, he didn’t want people getting drunk off whisky or cheap booze, but instead Champagne or a nice glass of wine from Bordeaux.

Unintentionally Responsible for the Explosion of Counterfeits in the Wine Trade

On December 5, 1985, Christie’s in London sold the most expensive bottle of wine ever sold at auction – at the time. The price was $157,000 for a wine believed to be from Thomas Jefferson’s personal collection but it turned out to be a fake. Since then, there has been an explosion of counterfeits in the wine trade. The New Yorker goes into detail on the fake Jefferson wine.

The bottle was handblown dark-green glass and capped with a nubby seal of thick black wax. It had no label, but etched into the glass in a spindly hand was the year 1787, the word “Lafitte,” and the letters “Th.J. – The New Yorker

For those of you who really do want to know Jefferson’s favorite wine… We know from his letters – and his uber specific wine records – that he made several trips to Bordeaux, and bought bottles from Château Lafite, Château d’Yquem, Haut-Brion, and Branne-Mouton, to name a few.

Pick one and enjoy this President’s Day weekend. Or, if you need a less costly option, but still want to stick with a French Bordeaux, try one of The Legende wines produced by Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite). Château Lafite was regularly noted as one of TJ’s favorites… The Legende Bordeaux collection is amazingly approachable (and affordable).

Thomas Jefferson & the French Revolution

Nate Sullivan holds a M.A. in History and a M.Ed. He is an adjunct history professor, middle school history teacher, and freelance writer.

In this lesson, we will learn about Thomas Jefferson’s view of the French Revolution. We will see that Jefferson was an early enthusiastic supporter of the revolution, but that as it spiraled out of control, he was forced to defend it. Updated: 01/11/2022

Thomas Jefferson the Francophile

Thomas Jefferson is arguably America’s most famous Francophile. Toward the end of his life, he reflected on his love of France, describing its ”preeminence of character among the nations of the earth.” He went on to say that, while his allegiance was to his own country, if he had to live anywhere else, it would be France.

Jefferson loved French culture and was inspired by it. From French Enlightenment thinker.s like Voltaire, to French food and architecture, Jefferson was truly a Francophile in every sense of the word.

Jefferson was also all about the French Revolution. This is something some historians have judged him harshly for, considering how violent and chaotic the revolution became. But at the beginning of the French Revolution, Jefferson could not have foreseen that France would execute its king or that the Reign of Terror would take the lives of thousands.

Even so, Jefferson’s reluctance to renounce the French Revolution after it had taken a dark turn continues to be troubling to some. In regard to the French Revolution, Jefferson maintained his view that ”the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

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  • 1:16 What Was the French Revolution
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  • 2:59 The Darker Side of the…
  • 5:24 Lesson Summary

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What Was the French Revolution?

Before we explore Thomas Jefferson’s view on the French Revolution, let’s first make sure we understand exactly what the French Revolution was. The French Revolution was a social and political revolution that took place between 1789 to 1799 and was a tumultuous period of time resulting in the overthrow and execution of King Louis XVI and the creation of the First French Republic.

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The revolution stemmed from the fact that the common people were not adequately represented in a so-called representative assembly, known as the Estates General. The revolution went through many stages as infighting and factionalism caused it to turn increasingly barbaric. It only ended when Napoleon Bonaparte seized power in a coup.

Jefferson’s Hope for the French Revolution

At the onset of the French Revolution, Jefferson likely perceived it as France’s finest hour. He believed the French Revolution was directly inspired by the American Revolution, which ended only a couple years before. It’s likely that Jefferson foresaw a similar end result.

He hoped France would become a liberal democracy along the lines of the United States. This was not a far-fetched dream. After all, his ”Declaration of Independence” was the inspiration for Marquis de Lafayette’s ”Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen”. This was a 1789 document that declared a set of universal human rights that served as the philosophical foundation for the French Revolution. This list of human rights was intended to be relevant not only to France but to countries around the world. Indeed, Jefferson hoped that the spirit of revolution in France would spread throughout the world.

The Darker Side of the Revolution

The French Revolution is generally regarded dimly by most historians and most people due to its episodes of mass execution. By 1793, it had spiraled out of control. A radical faction known as the Jacobins unleashed mass murder upon the people. The Reign of Terror refers to a period of time between 1793 and 1794 when thousands upon thousands of people were arrested, rounded up, and executed (often by guillotine).

On many levels, the French Revolution was ugly. It had a bad reputation. As news of the Reign of Terror reached America, many Americans who had initially supported the French Revolution turned against it.

While Jefferson’s enthusiasm for the French Revolution waned, he generally continued to defend the revolution. He more or less argued that the ends justified the means. Arguing that the revolution was being waged in the name of liberty, Jefferson stated his position in a letter to a friend:

”My own affections have been deeply wounded by some of the martyrs to the cause, but rather than it should have failed, I would have seen half the earth desolated. Were there but an Adam & Eve left in every country and left free, it would be better than as it now is.”

Jefferson was generally willing to overlook the uglier, darker aspects of the French Revolution and chose instead to view it in an optimistic light.

The chaos surrounding the revolution proved an embarrassment for Jefferson, who for so long had publicly championed France’s experiment with democracy. See, Jefferson’s political party, the Democratic-Republicans, tended to be more pro-France in their foreign policy, whereas his rival party, the Federalists, tended to be more pro-British in foreign policy.

The ugliness of the French Revolution ended up being political ammunition for the Federalists. In the election of 1796, Federalist candidate (and vice president) John Adams defeated Jefferson.

After the execution of King Louis XVI in 1793, Jefferson’s attitude toward the revolution continued to cool. He publicly denounced the execution, stating that he would have preferred to have the French king thrown in jail, but not killed. After the revolution came to an end, Jefferson concluded that the French people, on a whole, were not ”virtuous” enough to responsibly embrace republicanism.

Lesson Summary

All right, let’s review. The French Revolution was a social and political revolution that took place between 1789 to 1799 and was a tumultuous period of time resulting in the overthrow (and execution) of King Louis XVI and the creation of the First French Republic.

Thomas Jefferson was a Francophile and adored all things French. He generally supported the French Revolution. He had high hopes for it at the beginning, and even when it became ugly, he often defended it.

The ”Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen” was written by the Marquis de Lafayette in 1789 and modeled after Jefferson’s ”Declaration of Independence” that declared a set of universal human rights that served as the philosophical foundation for the French Revolution. The Reign of Terror refers to a period of time between 1793 and 1794 when thousands upon thousands of people were arrested, rounded up, and executed (often by guillotine).

The Democratic-Republicans, the party to which Jefferson belonged, tended to be more pro-France in their foreign policy, whereas the Federalists, tended to be more pro-British in foreign policy. And, finally, in the election of 1796, Federalist candidate (and vice president) John Adams defeated Jefferson.

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Thomas Jefferson & the French Revolution

Nate Sullivan holds a M.A. in History and a M.Ed. He is an adjunct history professor, middle school history teacher, and freelance writer.

In this lesson, we will learn about Thomas Jefferson’s view of the French Revolution. We will see that Jefferson was an early enthusiastic supporter of the revolution, but that as it spiraled out of control, he was forced to defend it. Updated: 01/11/2022

Thomas Jefferson the Francophile

Thomas Jefferson is arguably America’s most famous Francophile. Toward the end of his life, he reflected on his love of France, describing its ”preeminence of character among the nations of the earth.” He went on to say that, while his allegiance was to his own country, if he had to live anywhere else, it would be France.

Jefferson loved French culture and was inspired by it. From French Enlightenment thinker.s like Voltaire, to French food and architecture, Jefferson was truly a Francophile in every sense of the word.

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Jefferson was also all about the French Revolution. This is something some historians have judged him harshly for, considering how violent and chaotic the revolution became. But at the beginning of the French Revolution, Jefferson could not have foreseen that France would execute its king or that the Reign of Terror would take the lives of thousands.

Even so, Jefferson’s reluctance to renounce the French Revolution after it had taken a dark turn continues to be troubling to some. In regard to the French Revolution, Jefferson maintained his view that ”the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

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Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

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Register to view this lesson

As a member, you’ll also get unlimited access to over 84,000 lessons in math, English, science, history, and more. Plus, get practice tests, quizzes, and personalized coaching to help you succeed.

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Resources created by teachers for teachers

I would definitely recommend Study.com to my colleagues. It’s like a teacher waved a magic wand and did the work for me. I feel like it’s a lifeline.

Jennifer B.

You’re on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Just checking in. Are you still watching?

  • 0:04 Thomas Jefferson the…
  • 1:16 What Was the French Revolution
  • 2:03 Jefferson’s Hope for…
  • 2:59 The Darker Side of the…
  • 5:24 Lesson Summary

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

What Was the French Revolution?

Before we explore Thomas Jefferson’s view on the French Revolution, let’s first make sure we understand exactly what the French Revolution was. The French Revolution was a social and political revolution that took place between 1789 to 1799 and was a tumultuous period of time resulting in the overthrow and execution of King Louis XVI and the creation of the First French Republic.

The revolution stemmed from the fact that the common people were not adequately represented in a so-called representative assembly, known as the Estates General. The revolution went through many stages as infighting and factionalism caused it to turn increasingly barbaric. It only ended when Napoleon Bonaparte seized power in a coup.

Jefferson’s Hope for the French Revolution

At the onset of the French Revolution, Jefferson likely perceived it as France’s finest hour. He believed the French Revolution was directly inspired by the American Revolution, which ended only a couple years before. It’s likely that Jefferson foresaw a similar end result.

He hoped France would become a liberal democracy along the lines of the United States. This was not a far-fetched dream. After all, his ”Declaration of Independence” was the inspiration for Marquis de Lafayette’s ”Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen”. This was a 1789 document that declared a set of universal human rights that served as the philosophical foundation for the French Revolution. This list of human rights was intended to be relevant not only to France but to countries around the world. Indeed, Jefferson hoped that the spirit of revolution in France would spread throughout the world.

The Darker Side of the Revolution

The French Revolution is generally regarded dimly by most historians and most people due to its episodes of mass execution. By 1793, it had spiraled out of control. A radical faction known as the Jacobins unleashed mass murder upon the people. The Reign of Terror refers to a period of time between 1793 and 1794 when thousands upon thousands of people were arrested, rounded up, and executed (often by guillotine).

On many levels, the French Revolution was ugly. It had a bad reputation. As news of the Reign of Terror reached America, many Americans who had initially supported the French Revolution turned against it.

While Jefferson’s enthusiasm for the French Revolution waned, he generally continued to defend the revolution. He more or less argued that the ends justified the means. Arguing that the revolution was being waged in the name of liberty, Jefferson stated his position in a letter to a friend:

”My own affections have been deeply wounded by some of the martyrs to the cause, but rather than it should have failed, I would have seen half the earth desolated. Were there but an Adam & Eve left in every country and left free, it would be better than as it now is.”

Jefferson was generally willing to overlook the uglier, darker aspects of the French Revolution and chose instead to view it in an optimistic light.

The chaos surrounding the revolution proved an embarrassment for Jefferson, who for so long had publicly championed France’s experiment with democracy. See, Jefferson’s political party, the Democratic-Republicans, tended to be more pro-France in their foreign policy, whereas his rival party, the Federalists, tended to be more pro-British in foreign policy.

The ugliness of the French Revolution ended up being political ammunition for the Federalists. In the election of 1796, Federalist candidate (and vice president) John Adams defeated Jefferson.

After the execution of King Louis XVI in 1793, Jefferson’s attitude toward the revolution continued to cool. He publicly denounced the execution, stating that he would have preferred to have the French king thrown in jail, but not killed. After the revolution came to an end, Jefferson concluded that the French people, on a whole, were not ”virtuous” enough to responsibly embrace republicanism.

Lesson Summary

All right, let’s review. The French Revolution was a social and political revolution that took place between 1789 to 1799 and was a tumultuous period of time resulting in the overthrow (and execution) of King Louis XVI and the creation of the First French Republic.

Thomas Jefferson was a Francophile and adored all things French. He generally supported the French Revolution. He had high hopes for it at the beginning, and even when it became ugly, he often defended it.

The ”Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen” was written by the Marquis de Lafayette in 1789 and modeled after Jefferson’s ”Declaration of Independence” that declared a set of universal human rights that served as the philosophical foundation for the French Revolution. The Reign of Terror refers to a period of time between 1793 and 1794 when thousands upon thousands of people were arrested, rounded up, and executed (often by guillotine).

The Democratic-Republicans, the party to which Jefferson belonged, tended to be more pro-France in their foreign policy, whereas the Federalists, tended to be more pro-British in foreign policy. And, finally, in the election of 1796, Federalist candidate (and vice president) John Adams defeated Jefferson.

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