Chats About Wine
C. E. Hawker
C. E. HAWKER
DALY & CO^37 ESSEX ST, STRAND
THIS book does not aspire tobe, in any sense, a treatise on
wine, nor does it presume to teachanything to either experts or con-noisseurs.
Its object is to try and awakenan interest in the subject amongthose who have not hitherto givenmuch thought or attention to it,and to point out how importantit is in these days of fraud andadulteration that wine should beobtained from proper and reliablesources.
Chap. I. What is Wine ? 1
II. WtneMerchantsand Wine
CHAPTER IIVhat is Wine?
IN every clime, and under everysun, from the very earliest
periods of time of which we haveany record, wine has been con-sidered as one of the choicest gifts
of a beneficent Providence, andin the old days of Biblical anti-quity it was always looked upon,in conjunction with corn and oil,as a symbol of national well-beingand material prosperity. The le-gendary and mystical associations
CHATS ABOUT WINE
which cluster round its historyhave inspired the poet's song andthe orator's panegyric from timeimmemorial, and writers, sacredand secular, classical and modern,have been unanimous in eulogi-sing its virtues and advocating itsuse. Among civilized nations wiiw^has^^lwaYS_^eeni_and is stillyclosely connected, not only withreligious observances, but with allfestive and social ceremonies, bothpublic and private, and that it"makes glad the heart of man"now, as in days of old, few peoplewill be disposed to deny. Taken inmoderation its pleasurable andhealth-giving properties are all
but universallyacknowledged,andexperience seems to justify the
WHAT IS WINE?belief that, as compared with theinnumerable benefits it confers,the harm produced by its misuseis comparatively insignificant.What then, it may be asked, is
this wonderful elixir of life, whichis almost as old as the world itselfand yet is ever overflowing withthe exuberance of youth; whichrestores and invigorates us whenthe powers of life are low; upliftsand cheers us in days of sorrowand gloom; evokes and enhancesour joys and pleasures; and which,by the inherent living force it isendowed with, gives animation,energy and inspiration to everysense and faculty we possess?
Precise definitions in matters
of food and drink are difficult at13
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all times, and particularly so inthese days, but it is safe to say
that wine is, or should be, a be-verage derived exclusively fromthe perfectly fermented juice ofthe grape. The quality and natureof true wine, however, dependupon a variety of circumstances.The species of vine, the climateof the region in which it is grown,the soil, the methods of cultivationadopted, the processes favouredfor the treatment and maturing ofthe expressed juices, the vintageall have their influence upon thefinal product, and to a very largeextent too, in many cases.As a rule the most important
feature about wine, from the or-dinary consumers' point of view,
WHAT IS WINE?is its alcoholic potency, but thestimulating power of wine and itsuse dietetically are by no meansto be gauged by the amount ofalcohol it contains. The volatileethers and extractives exercise agreat deal of influence upon itsexhilarating powers, and, in thisparticular, wine stands aloneamongst alcoholic beverages, fora mere admixture of spirits andwater has a very different effectupon the human system, and, in-stead ofbeing beneficial, is almostinvariably harmful. The constitu-ents of wine indeeclj "apart iTonTalcohol, are surprisingly wide intheir range, including as they do,in greater or lesser degree, vola-
tile oil, ethers, grape-sugar, colour-15
CHATS ABOUT WINEing matter, vegetable albumen,tannic and other acids, and tar-trates; and the character of a wineis largely determined by the pre-sence or absence of these consti-tuents, or the proportion in whichthey are combined in any particu-lar case.
It is through shutting their eyesto its complexity that the oppo-nents of wine have strayed intoone of their most mischievous er-rors. Many of the blood-curdlingexperiments to demonstrate thenoxiousness of wine have beenmade by mixing food, not withwine, but with ardent spirits orwith chemist's alcohol. Such a testis no test at all. A flask of wine,like a bottle of ginger beer, con-
WHAT IS WINE?tains alcohol, but it contains manyother things as well. Firstand fore-most nearly all its bulk consists ofrain-water, exquisitely filteredand
distilled by the kindly sun andsubtly enriched with vitalityby thesilent alchemy of nature. The manwho drains awhole bottle ofsoundwine absorbs only a single glassof alcohol; and it must always beremembered that the alcohol ofnatural wine differs from the alco-hol of the chemist's laboratory as
much as bee's honey differs fromchemists' saccharine or glucose. Itfollows, therefore, that when asensible wine-drinker is confron-ted by scares and panics concern-ing the horrors of alcohol he re-mains unmoved, forhe knows very
CHATS ABOUT WINE
well that his trusty beverage is notmere alcohol, but alcohol modified
and corrected by the other andmore abundant constituents ofwine.
Broadly speaking, wine may bedivided into three principal clas-
sesnatural wines, fortified winesand sparkling wines. The firstclass comprises those in whichthe "must" has been allowed toproceed to the utmost limit of itsfermentation, yielding generally" dry " wines practically devoid ofsweetness, such as Claret, Bur-gundy and Hock. These wines arelight alcoholically and are usuallyconsidered to be the most whole-some for habitual consumption asbeverages. Fortified wines, on the
WHAT IS WINE?other hand, are those in which thefermentation has been arrested bythe introduction of some form ofspirit, and such wines are gene-rally more or less sweet, and ofrather high alcoholic strength. Ofthese Port, Sherry and Madeiramay be mentioned as representa-tive examples. Sparkling wines^such as Champagne, are those inwhich carbonic acid is formed byan after-fermentation in the bot-
tle, and theymay be classed amongthe comparatively light alcoholicgroup, though their stimulatingproperties are relatively higherowing to the presence of the car-bonic acid. These wines are either" Brut," or of varying degrees ofsweetness, according to the ex-
CHATS ABOUT WINEtent of "liqueuring" during theprocess of manufacture, and, asthey are wines that especiallylendthemselves to adulteration, it isvery important to obtain themfrom honest sources.The assertion is sometimesmade
that, taking the world over, morepeople suffer from the consump-tion of too little alcohol than fromtoo much, and although this asser-tion may not be accepted withoutreserve by the extreme section ofthe temperance party, there is un-questionably an element of truthin the statement. It is, of course,
quite credible that there are somepeople who may be better withoutrecourse to any kind of stimulantwhatsoever, but all experience
WHAT IS WINE?seems to point to the fact that
the majority of men and women,and especially those who havearrived at middle life, are muchbenefited by taking wine withtheir meals ; and this view has re-cently been confirmed by a mostimportant medical pronounce-ment on the subject.
It is especially unfortunate in
this connexion that the word" stimulant " should have acquireda bad name. When one man tellsanother that amutual friend " takesstimulants," both speaker andhearer rightly look grave, for
they are well aware that succes-
sive drams and nips can onlygrantfits of false and short-lived ener-
gy, at the price of long-drawn re-21
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action and collapse; but in thesecases it is necessary to distinguish
between spirits and grape juice,between the dram-drinker and thelover of good wine.
In the first place the reactionensuing upon a few draughts ofwine is much less marked and lesstrying than the reaction after in-dulgence in whisky, or even tea.In the second place a genuinewine-lover feels no inclination toimbibe grape juice both in and outof season. He drinks at meal timesand when his day's work is done.Excepting a few indiscriminatechampagne-drinkers, only the he-roes and villains in romances andplays drain goblets ofwine in orderto inflame themselves to proud
WHAT IS WINE?words, and doughty deeds. In reallife, when the slight stimulation ofwine has passed away, the sequelis not dullness and heaviness, buta genial sense of well-being. In
short, the much-maligned reactionone hears so much about is merelyan unfriendly name for one of the
great charms of wine, and whatwine's foes call its reactionary de-fects wine's friends call its sedative
merits. After all the proof of the
drink is in the drinking, and noamount of theoretical oppositioncan set aside the grateful experi-
ence of a hundred generations ofmen.
Wine being avaluable nerve andbrain stimulant, it is, ofcourse, quite
in accordance with the nature of23
CHATS ABOUT WINEthings that its abuse should be de-trimental to those who indulge init too freely. But a similar objec-tion applies to many other thingswhich are in themselves beneficialto the human race. We cannot"over-eat" ourselves,for example,without suffering more or less se-verelyfrom the consequent effects;and ifthe excess becomes habitual,health may be permanently im-paired.
Statistics all go to prove, how-ever, that in strictly wine-drinkingcommunities not only is intempe-rance rare, but even where itexists the evil effects are compara-tively unimportant. It is only inspirit-drinking countries that alco-holic excess is prevalent, and the
WHAT IS WINE?effects become an element of seri-ous import. If alcohol, as taken inthe form of wine, is the potentpoison that some extremists affirmit to be, it may fairly be questionedhow it is that those countries thathave always made use of it havenot gradually decayed and diedout. The principal nations of Eu-rope, for instance, which lead theworld in all that constitutes highand intellectual living, are very farindeed frombeing total abstainers;and the Jews, who cannot be ac-cused of being indifferent to thefascinations of wine as a beve-rage, do not, after an existenceof several thousand years, appearto have in any way suffered fromit, or to have deteriorated in
CHATS ABOUT WINEphysique, mental capacity, orlongevity.
How then can these unassail-able factsbe explained unless uponthe assumption that wine wasmeant for our judicious use? Likeall other good things it is of courseliable to abuse, but it cannot, atleast, be denied that taken in mode-ration it adds to the agreeablenessof life, and, as has been truly said,whatever adds to the agreeable-ness of life adds to its resourcesand power.
CHAPTER IIl/yine Merchantsand Wine
IN the " good old days " whenstage coach traveUing was re-
garded as a rapid means of transit,and hot-headed gentlemen settledtheir disputes at so many paces,the wine-merchant's calling was arespected and dignified branch ofcommerce. Firms of good stand-ing, whose members were fre-quently men of education andrefinement, enjoyed the patron-age of a distinguished clientele,
and only sound wine left theircellars for those of their custom-
CHATS ABOUT WINE
ers. Their establishments, too, pre-sented an aspect of substantiality
and repose, which seemed to har-monize naturally with the stocksof rare vintages and venerablewines which were always to befound there, and which were ap-preciated at their proper value byconsumers whose tastes had notthen been vitiated by the adultera-ted concoctions so liberally sup-plied by the unscrupulous dealerof the present day.
The old-time wine-merchant,nevertheless, had competition toface, and he could not afford toignore the expediency of arran-ging his prices so that they mightnot, value for value, compare un-favourablywith the charges which
ruled in other establishments. Thishe was able to do legitimately,however, and without endanger-ing his jealously-guarded reputa-tionwithout, in short, having tosubstitute inferiorbrands for thoseof accepted repute. The competi-tion, too, was fair: there was no
necessity, and little temptation, toinstitute a policy of "cutting," such
as is now so general in the winetrade, as in others, and the timehad not yet arrived when thewine-merchant had to contendwith the enterprise of outsidetraders. The eighteenth- and earlynineteenth-century grocers stuck
to their own trade, and did notattempt to sell wine, and duringat least the first half of the late
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Queen Victoria's reign, othershop-keepers confined their energiesstrictly to the exploitation of com-
modities which came legitimatelywithin the scope of their particu-lar trade. "Off licences," too, wereunknown in those days, and itwould then have been regardedas quite as much a breach of thecommercial proprieties for a tea-merchant to submit wines for sale,as it would be considered incon-gruous or something worse, forthe modern hosier or corn chan-dler to purvey fried fish.
In a word, the old-fashionedwine-merchant of respectabilityand repute was a personality ofsome note, and he was, in his way,quite as necessary to the country
WINE MERCHANTSsquire and other people of impor-tance, as the family lawyer or thefamily doctor. Unfortunately, it israther otherwise to-day, although,happily, the old-fashioned mer-chant, even if we find him in anew-century dress, is not yetwholly extinct. There are stillsurviving representatives of theold wine-houses with reputationsto lose and worthy traditions tomaintain, who, in spite of mis-representation, unfair methods ofcompetition, and unscrupuloustrading, decline to depart fromthose usages oftheir callingwhich,in some cases, have been trans-mitted to them through manygenerations of honourable trad-ing.
CHATS ABOUT WINE
It is, however, a matter beyondquestion that for many years pastthe wine trade has passed throughsevere vicissitudes of fortune. Its
domain has been encroached up-on, more or less unwarrantably,from all sides. Retired Army offi-cers and Civil servants have aspecial predilection for "goinginto wine," confident that thegenerosity of obliging friends willlend them their support, and, per-haps, ultimately prevent themgoing to the wall, which is thegoal for which their inexperienceand technical incapacity, in ninecases out often, best equips them.Shady adventurers, too, mostnaturally try their luck in a branchof business which is not without
WINE MERCHANTSits fascinations, and " on a com-mission basis," play havoc withlegitimate wine trading. Thenstorekeepers, provision dealers,and shopkeepers of all sorts andconditions, add " Our Wine De-partment" to their already pro-miscuous concerns, and perhapsdo more harm to the genuinewine-merchant's interests thanany other branch of competition.To begin with, apart from their
all but complete ignorance of theinner side of the wine trade, suchdealers are almost of necessityas poor judges of wine as they aregreedy of profits. They listen toth...