On this day in 1807, American president and wine connoisseur Thomas Jefferson sent a letter to his Secretary of the Treasury, Albert Galattin, proposing a “more equal” tariff on wines in order to encourage people to drink wine rather than whiskey.
“I am persuaded, that were the duty on cheap wines put on the same ratio with the dear, it would wonderfully enlarge the field of those who use wine, to the expulsion of whiskey. The introduction of a very cheap wine (St. George) into my neighborhood, within two years past, has quadrupled in that time the number of those who keep wine, and will ere long increase them tenfold. This would be a great gain to the treasury, and to the sobriety of our country.”
Jefferson then added his list of proposed tariffs, in which he classed “Cape” wines (almost undoubtedly Constantia) as among the most expensive, along with hock, tokay and malmsey. “This slender reed at least suggests he thought well of how they were valued by the market and, stretching it a little, perhaps valued them that way himself,” wrote John Hailman, author of Thomas Jefferson on Wine, in email correspondence.