+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

perhaps not labelled at all. The length of one's
purse, and one's French connexions, are the
turning-points which must decide the question
practically. Those who are rich enough, do
well to buy the grand wines of Bordeaux and
Burgundy, if they can get them for their money;
those who are not, are wise in searching for a
palatable succedaneum from other quarters; particularly
as, for one bottle of grand wine, they
can have four, or six, or more bottles of good
ordinairea serious consideration. The working
and middle class population of Paris have no
other vinous beverage (setting aside beer, which
is increasing in fashion) than the ordinary wines
of Central France, condescending even to make
merry with "little blues" and "little whites;" and
they thrive not badly under the circumstances.

If the taste for light wines here be not yet
come, it will come by-and-by. The appetite will
gradually grow with its indulgence. With regard
to the wines of France, one thing is clear;
either they improve considerably with a certain
degree of age in bottle; or the consumer's taste
insensibly adapts itself to their little peculiarities.

You get in a cask of " bon ordinaire," already
drawn off (soutiré) and fined (collé), and only
requiring three weeks' or a month's repose in
your cellar or warehouse to put in bottle. At
times of the year when it does not freeze, an
aboveground warehouse is the most convenient
to perform the operation in; there is at least a
certain amount of daylight, and your man is
not exposed for hours to the temperature and
atmosphere of an underground cellar. You
bottle your wine, selecting a bright sunshiny
day, with the wind not far from the north or the
east. At the Channel ports of France, you can
get good ordinary Bordeaux for from nine to
twelve pounds the cask, which will yield three
hundred and a few odd bottles. I find what
contents me, for eight. Very good ordinary
Burgundy may be had for less, but put it down
at eight, and it is not dear. A cask of
Burgundy yields only from two hundred and
seventy to two hundred and eighty bottles;
but the contents of wine-casks, now differing
greatly, according to locality, are shortly to be
equalised throughout France. If you deal with
Bordeaux or Burgundy direct, a " chemise" or
second outer cask, to prevent tricks being played
with your wine on the road, costs five francs, and
is not money thrown away. Adding to these
prices the freight to London, the wharfage, the
English duty, and the cost of bottling and of
corks [the best are the cheapest; many a
bottle of good wine is spoilt by a bad cork], the
reader may calculate at what a cheap rate he
can furnish his table with good light wine, by
following the plan of buying it in the wood. English
wine-merchants should persuade their customers
to buy their ordinary French wine in the
cask, and bottle it themselves; they might sell it
so at a reasonable price, and yet get a fair profit.

Your wine is bottled and stacked: a goodly
store. For the first three or four months it is
"sick," and out of order. If you can leave it
untouched a twelvemonth, so much the better;
but in six or eight mouths you may begin to
make use of it. " It is pretty well," you think.
"Very fair." If Burgundy, the bottle already
begins to show a crust, delightful to most English
eyes; if pure Bordeaux, it should not betray
the slighest crust or deposit after being ten
years in bottle. Your wine costs so little
that you make free with it, giving country
cousins tastes of what they never tasted before,
and trying its healing qualities on your poor
sick neighbours. When it is half finished, you
begin to say: " I like this wine; we must be
more sparing with it." When it is drawing
near to its close, you shut up the last two dozen
in some secure hiding-place, only to be produced
on state occasions. This is the history of many
and many a cask of " bon ordinaire." We do
not fully value our friends until we are on the
point of losing them.

At the moderate outlay which now is possible,
a collection of wines of different vintages may
be formed, by laying in every year a little more
than is consumed; and then the collector has
the pleasure of talking about " My cellar," if he
only knows where to purchase. In Medoc
there are a number of peasants who work at
their vines with their own hands, and who take
great pains and pride in treading closely on the
heels of aristocratic wines. Of these persons
excellent wine is to be had, at not extravagant
prices. And besides professional vignerons
(people who cultivate the vine either for a livelihood
or to make a fortune), there are in France
many amateur wine-growers who possess small
vineyards, which occupy the leisure left by
other more serious employments. A lawyer, a
medical man, a draper, inherits or acquires a
patch of stony ground sloping to the south, which
is, or is soon, promoted to the dignity of " Ma
Vigne." The happy proprietor forgets the
flowers of forensic oratory, while sniffing the perfume
of his vines in blossom; prunes redundant
shoots when tired of amputating limbs; decides
the most suitable length of his vine stakes, after
handling linen and the metre measure. All sell
the wine they do not consume at home, with
even greater delight than they sell the extra
produce of their gun or their garden. They
prefer a set of private customers to letting their
wares go to wine-merchants, for one good reason
they get a better price. But the amusement of
the whole affair, from the beginning to the end,
is a great inducement to its pursuit. The
watching and the " feeding" of the wine in
casks, affords continual interest. The tasting is
an effort of critical acumen. " My 'fifty-sevens
are perfect! My 'fifty-eights, as comet wines,
will be worth something ten years hence. Do you
think we shall have another comet soon? What
bouquet in my 'fifty-nines! Colour like a ruby;
no earthy aftertaste. How were your 'sixties?
Sourish, eh? Mine were not bad, and plenty of
them. All gone to Paris, to make old Medoc."

The Right of Translating Articles from ALL THE YEAR ROUND is reserved by the Authors.