Nonfiction > Henry Craik, ed. > English Prose > Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
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Henry Craik, ed.  English Prose.  1916.
Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
 
Wines
By James Howell (c. 1594–1666)
 
From Familiar Letters

FRANCE participating of the climes of all the countries about her, affords wines of quality accordingly, as towards the Alps and Italy she hath a luscious rich wine called Frontignac; in the country of Provence towards the Pyrenees: in Languedoc there are wines concustable 1 with those of Spain: one of the prime sort of white wines is that of Beaume, and of clarets that of Orleans, though it be interdicted to wine the King’s cellar with it in respect of the corrosiveness it carries with it. As in France so in all other wine-countries the white is called the female, and the claret or red wine is called the male, because commonly it hath more sulphur, body and heat in’t: the wines that our merchants bring over grow upon the river Garonne, near Bordeaux, in Gascony, which is the greatest mart for wines in all France; the Scot, because he hath always been an useful confederate to France against England, hath (among other privileges) right of preemption or first choice of wines in Bordeaux; he is also permitted to carry his ordnance to the very walls of the town, whereas the English are forced to leave them at Blaye a good way distant down the river. There is a hard green wine that grows about Rochelle, and the islands thereabouts, which the cunning Hollander sometimes use to fetch, and he hath a trick to put a bag of herbs, or some other infusions into it (as he doth brimstone in Rhenish), to give it a whiter tincture, and more sweetness; then they re-embark it for England, where it passeth for good Bachrag, and this is called stooming of wines. In Normandy there’s little or no wine at all grows, therefore the common drink of that country is cider, specially in Low Normandy: there are also many beer-houses in Paris and elsewhere, but though their barley and water be better than ours, or that of Germany, and though they have English and Dutch brewers among them, yet they cannot make beer in that perfection.
  1
  The prime wines of Germany grow about the Rhine, specially in the Pfalts or lower Palatinate about Bachrag, which hath its etymology from Bacchiara, for in ancient times there was an altar erected there to the honour of Bacchus, in regard of the richness of the wines. Here and all France over, ’tis held a great part of incivility for maidens to drink wine until they are married, as it is in Spain for them to wear high shoes, or to paint till then. The German mothers, to make their sons fall inter hatred of wine, do use when they are little to put some owl’s eggs into a cup of Rhenish, and sometimes a little living eel, which twingling in the wine while the child is drinking so scares him, that many come to abhor and have an antipathy to wine all their lives after. From Bachrag the first stock of vines which grow now in the Grand Canary Island were brought, which, with the heat of the sun and the soil, is grown now to that height of perfection, that the wine which they afford are accounted the richest, the most firm, the best-bodied, and lastingest wine, and the most defecated from all earthly grossness of any other whatsoever, it hath little or no sulphur at all in’t, and leaves less dregs behind, though one drink it to excess: French wines may be said to pickle meat in the stomach, but this is the wine that digests, and doth not only breed good blood, but it nutrifieth also, being a glutinous substantial liquor: of this wine, if of any other, may be verified that merry induction, That good wine makes good blood, good blood causeth good humours, good humours cause good thoughts, good thoughts bring forth good works, good works carry a man to heaven, ergo good wine carrieth a man to heaven. If this be true surely more English go to heaven this way than any other, for I think there’s more Canary brought into England than to all the world besides. I think also there is a hundred times more drunk under the name of Canary wine than there is brought in, for Sherries and Malagas well mingled pass for Canaries in most taverns, more often than Canary itself, else I do not see how ’twere possible for the vintner to save by it: or to live by his calling, unless he were permitted sometimes to be a brewer. When Sacks and Canaries were brought in first among us, they were used to be drunk in Aquavitæ measures, and ’twas held fit only for those to drink of them who were used to carry their legs in their hands, their eyes upon their noses, and an Almanack in their bones: but now they go down every one’s throat both young and old like milk.  2
 
Note 1. wines concustable, so in the old editions. But it is doubtless an error for congustable = wines fit to be tasted with. [back]
 
 
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