“…you are not to conclude I am a drinker. My measure is a perfectly sober one of 3 or 4 glasses at dinner, and not a drop at any other time. But as to those 3 or 4 glasses I am very fond.”
Father of the Declaration of Independence, Apostle of the Constitution, Sage of Monticello
Founding Father of the United States, 3rd President of the United States, Principal Author of the Declaration of Independence
Thomas Jefferson's Biography
Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and the 3rd President of the United States, is a legendary figure in American history. Like many of his fellow founding fathers, his nearly mythological status has led to all kinds of exaggerated stories and misinformation, but it’s safe to say that he was an extraordinary intellectual and politician nonetheless.
Jefferson was also one of America’s most legendary drinkers, although unlike many Americans of his day, he abstained almost entirely from drinking distilled spirits like whiskey or rum. In fact, he reportedly viewed spirits as a scourge on society, and while President he lowered the duty on wine imports to encourage its consumption over stronger booze.
But Thomas Jefferson wasn’t just a fan of wine—he was something of an expert. He frequently toured the famous wine regions of Europe, and his primary plantation, Monticello (located near Charlottesville, Virginia), was renowned for its prodigious wine cellar. He also allocated 200 acres of his land for growing wine grapes, and worked with Italian winemaker Phillipo Mazzei to experiment with winemaking in the US.
Jefferson was also the first President to stock the White House with wine, and apparently imported more than 20,000 bottles for his personal collection while he held office (spending nearly a third of his salary on it during his first year).
Though he was a problematic figure in many ways (as were most of the founding fathers, considering they wrote about the virtue of freedom while personally owning slaves), Thomas Jefferson will always be regarded as the patron figure of American wine appreciation. Even though he likely never succeeded in making his own from Monticello grapes, as they were exceptionally hard to grow in Virginia, he certainly knew how to enjoy the good stuff.