HomeNewsOn July 4th – Follow in the Footsteps of Jefferson in France

On July 4th – Follow in the Footsteps of Jefferson in France

This Fourth of July, why not follow in the footsteps of Jefferson in France? Before Thomas Jefferson became the third president of the United States of America, he had spent some time in France. Jefferson was effectively the US Ambassador to France from 1785 to 1789. He had been sent by Congress to act as a trade commissioner, later replacing Benjamin Franklin, who had been Minister to France.

Jefferson in Bordeaux

During his stay in France, Jefferson, who was an aficionado of fine foods, developed a taste and appreciation for French wine, especially the wines of the Bordeaux region. On a trip that took him to Northern Italy and Southwestern France, Jefferson visited several chateaux in Bordeaux and spent a night in the city.

Jefferson arrived in Bordeaux on Thursday, May 24, 1787, having earlier visited Chateau d’Yquem, in the Sauternes appellation, and Chateau Carbonnieux, one of the oldest estates in Bordeaux, in the Pessac-Leognan appellation in Graves.

The best white wine of France

Jefferson wrote, “Sauterne. (sic) This is the best white wine of France and the best of it is made by Monsieur de Lur-Saluces.” He ordered several cases of the 1784 vintage of Chateau d’Yquem for himself as well as some bottles for George Washington.

Today, Chateau d’Yquem remains one of the best wines in the world, this sweet white wine having been categorized in a league of its own, as a Premier Cru Superieur in the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855.

The following day, having spent a night at the Hotel de Richelieu, Jefferson set out to visit Chateau Haut-Brion in Pessac, which was later designated Premier Grand Cru Classé (First Growth), one of the five top ranking wines in the 1855 Classification. He also visited what is now known as Chateau Pontac Monplaisir in Villenave d’Ornon.

As well as ordering bottles of Chateau d’Yquem, Jefferson was also noted to have bought some cases of Chateau Haut-Brion and Chateau Lafite during his visit.

Bordeaux wine couldn’t be bettered

Jefferson was said to have attempted to rank Bordeaux wines. He visited Margaux, and was said to have bought several cases of Chateau Margaux 1784 vintage, of which he wrote: “There cannot be a better bottle of Bordeaux wine.”

Not only does July 4th mark US Independence Day, but it’s also the anniversary of President Thomas Jefferson’s death, because he died on July 4, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson was not only the third president of the United States of America, but he was the first serious presidential wine collector, beginning a relationship with the US presidency and French wines that persisted for many years.

Follow in Jefferson’s footsteps

Why not follow in Jefferson’s footsteps, visit the very same chateaux he did, Margaux, Haut-Brion, d’Yquem, etc, and taste some of their exceptional wines? Also check out La Cité du Vin, Bordeaux’s wine museum  – ‘the Guggenheim of wine’ – with its amazing architecture, its fluid curves said to be inspired by wine swilling around a glass, and which has an auditorium named after Jefferson.

Whether you’re looking for something to do on US Independence Day, or at any other time, Bordeaux’s a great place to visit with lots to see and do. So why not let Bordeaux With Elodie organize a private and customizable wine tour for you – there are plenty to choose from here for a truly historic trip!

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