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.
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.
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.