Foreign Affairs

While visiting the Ardèche, René van Heusden of Perswijn, a Dutch wine journal, is asked if he’d like to taste something special. Wine journalists usually answer that with an eager ‘Well, yes, of course’, hoping for, if not downright expecting a rare vintage or a wine of exceptional quality. His verdict on the Clinton he was then presented with: ‘Wine of a very peculiar taste. Or rather: weird. Interesting, we say,’ thereby crushing some vintners’ hope of finding a supporter of releasing the French government’s prohibition of American hybrids.
An American Grape, from Husmann's book

An American Grape, from Husmann’s book

And that is what the Clinton is: an American hybrid, ‘vigorous, hardy and productive; free from disease (…) juicy; somewhat acid; (…) brisk vinous flavor, but somewhat of the aroma of the frost grape; makes a dark red wine, of good body, and much resembling claret (…). Although safe and reliable, I think it has lately been over praised as a wine grape (…)’, as George Husmann writes in his The Cultivation of the Native Grape, and Manufacture of American Wines of 1866.

Husmann (1847-1902), a pioneer grape-grower and winemaker of Hermann, Missouri, dedicated this standard work ‘To the grape growers of “our country, one and indivisible,” as their friend and fellow-laborer’. In his book he not only went into great (technical) detail on the various grapes, the winemaking process, the costs and benefits, he also shared his missionary vision of America as a true ‘Wineland’ where men and women of all social classes will be able to enjoy a glass of native wine. For the southern states to accomplish that, they would need to free themselves from the demon of slavery.
It was not only Americans he granted a glass of wine. After the destruction of France’s vineyards by the phylloxera, it was Husmann and two fellow Missourians, who shipped American vines to the old continent. A few of them exist until today.
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