Home > History of Wine > “…will certainly, and the Lachryma very probably, answer in Virginia.” July 29, 1773

“…will certainly, and the Lachryma very probably, answer in Virginia.” July 29, 1773

Two months after Andrew Estave readied for his apprentices, Colonel Bolling, Jr. publishes an article re-asserting the importance of importing and cultivating foreign vines for Virginia.  In his address he quotes both Philip Miller and Nicolas Bidet.  Philip Miller, born 1691, was a Scottish botanist who was head gardner of the Chelsea Physic Garden. He published The Gardeners Dictionary in 1731.  Nicolas Bidet, born 1709 in Riems, was an agronomist and wine grower.  He first published Traité sur la nature et sur la culture de la vigne in 1752 with a second edition in 1759. 

With these two supporting references Colonel Bolling, Jr. feels confident that the Lachryma vine would be best for Virginia.  He rallies the readers by stating, “But all the Reflexions in the World are unavailing, unless you, Gentlemen, who conceive the Utility of the Measure contribute a little Vigour to its Execution.” In the end he provides instructions for anyone who wants to furnish him with little slips of foreign vines.

From Virginia Gazette, Purdie and Dixon, July 29, 1773, Page 3



It is much to be regretted, that at a Time when the Country appears to have an earnest Desire to see a fair Experiment of the Practicability of making Wine in Virginia, some small Effort is note made at least to procure Vines proper for the Purpose.  Whatever Grape [unreadable] to Cultivation in Countries like the North of France and in the South of Britain (whose Summers are cooler than ours) will not come to the same in this Country.  Miller, that Excellent Naturalist, says, “that he believes it will be found true in all Fruits (therefore in Grapes) that where the natural Heat of the Sun ripens and prepares their Juices, so as to render them palatable (and, you may say, proper for Wine) whatever Degree of Heat those Juices may have more will render them weaker, less spirituous (and more improper for Wine).”  An Austere Grape, from those Countries (as the Treffau) would be far more eligible than their [unreadable] Grapes; the same Miller observing, “that rough austere Fruits transplanted from a cold to a warmer Climate, have been so altered by the greater Heat of the Sun as to excel the very finest Fruits of the Country, whence they were taken.”  By Parity of Reason, whatever Fruit comes to entire Perfection in warm Countries, will lose of its Perfection by Transplantation in colder; but such as are too sweet and luscious or produce Liquors that are so, will receive an Improvement.  The Lachryma at Naples, wich requires Years before it gain an agreeable Dryness, would probably be improved by the Diminuation of Sweetness it would obtain by Cultivation in Virginia.  But what might not be expected from the Vines which produce the Tuscan Verdea and the Montepulciano?  These are excellent, in the Grand Dutchy, and would hence scare perceive a Change of Climate.

The Gardeners Dictionary, Philip Miller, London ,1732, Image from Google Books

It is not enough that Grapes come to a fine Maturity in Virginia to make Wine.  The Time of that Maturity is of the utmost Consequence.  If it arrive before the 25th of August, the Wine (unless in Cellars uncommonly deep) is liable to be injured by too hasty a Fermentation.  If between that Time and the 10th of September r(besides the above mentioned Inconvenience, if the Weather be fair) let is be remembered that almost all the great Gusts  have happened in that Interval, and that, when no Gusts happen, we seldom fail of a Season of eastwardly Winds and wet Weather.  Of the ripening Grapes, which would resist the Violence of the Winds, many would burst, and the Remainder be greatly hurt in Quality by a Superfluity of Water, which the Sun would not have Time to concot.  Upon the Whole, it seems that the best Season for the Maturity of the Grape is from the 10th of September (as Gusts seldom happen to late) until the first Frosts of Autumn, towards the last of October, when the Vicissitudes of Heat and Cold are not to great nor sudden.  In Europe the Vintage of Lagadica, in the Country of the Grifons, is in July; at Naples, in the last Days of October and Beginning of November; in other Places, at all intervening Times.  Why must we render Success, in an important Enterprise, altogether uncertain, rather than be at the trifling Expense of importing Vines proper for our Climate?

Traite Sur La Nature et Sur La Culture de la Vigne, Nicolas Bidet, Paris, 1759, Image from Google Books

It is true that Vineyards of a fine early Grape may produce Raisins, an Article in Commerce far from despicable; but our Object is Wine.  I cannot hear of a single Vine whose Grapes may be expected to produce it, in any Degree of Excellence, without Precautions that cannot generally be taken.  White Grapes, according to Bidet, Author of a valuable Treastise on Viticulture, are greatly inferior to black ones.  We have none that are black; and our Purple are all early, because imported from Countries whose moderate Summers can only bring such to Maturity.  A grape, which ripens in England in September, will, like Wheat, ripen here in July.  I have very respectable Authority for saying that Burgundy Grapes have failed upon fair Experiment in Maryland; a contrary Even had been surprising.  That Grape (the Auvergnac) is the same precisely which Miller recommends as the best for England.  It cannot be supposed (if any Reliance may be had on Miller’s Reasoning) that a Grape, the best calculated for England, can be, in any Respect, calculated for Virginia or Maryland.  After every Inquiry, possible for me, I am persuaded the Vines of Upper Italy will certainly, and the Lachryma very probably, answer in Virginia.  But not to neglect whatever Change, and not Design, may have furnished, I think it a Duty to request whoever, among the Wellwishers to Vineyards, may have a late Grape and can spare me Cuttings, to advise in Time for me to receive them on the first of November.  The Country has unhappily a great Partiality for native Vines, the only native Production to which it was ever partial.  Whoever attempts a Vineyard of those and miscarries, may indeed incur, but not deserve, Censure.  Bidet, after enumerating the several Vines in Frances, concludes with an account of the Virginvine.  “these are (says he) various Sorts of them used in Courts and Gardens to cover such high Walls as are not exposed to the Sun, and where fructiferous Plants cannot produce.  The Wild Vine is called, in Latin, Labrusca, in French, Vignes-vierge. It comes to us from Canada, and bears Fruit neither palatable nor proper for Wine.  It wants Fire (il n’a point de Feu) it comes well from the seed.”  The Want of Fire, mentioned by Bidet (derived from that of a sufficient saccharine Substance, if I rightly understand the Term) I am feasible, from Experiment,

From Virginia Gazette, Purdie and Dixon, July 29, 1773, Page 3

is chargeable on our native Summer Grapes.  Indeed, it is scarce to be doubted but those Canada Grapes are the very same.  We must, like the different People of Europe who make Wine, import foreign Vines, and expect Success from a judicious Choice.  What shall prevent it, it is hard to imagine.  Never was greater Temptation to a publick Exertion; but we seem to study our own Disappointment by superadding to the Difficulties, peculiar to a new Enterprise, whatever is likely to tender its Success precarious.  Having Occasion to apply to you, Gentlemen, for your Assistance in furnishing Slips for my Vineyard, I thought it not impertinent to add the above Reflexions; which, inasmuch as they are drawn from Miller, deserve to be considered.  But all the Reflexions in the World are unavailing, unless you, Gentlemen, who conceive the Utility of the Measure contribute a little Vigour to its Execution.

I am, Gentleman, your most obedient Servant,

June 20, 1773. ROBERT BOLLING, Junior.

P.S. Boxes of Slips, covered in Earth, and sent up James River, by Water, to the Care of Mr. Richard Crump, Merchant, Rocky Ridge, would have a quick Conveyance to the Vineyard in Buckingham.


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