Today is President’s Day and U.S. Presidents have a long history of supporting the wine industry at home and abroad.
One of the most legendary oenophile presidents was Thomas Jefferson. The third president of the United States served as ambassador to France where he developed a taste for French wines. As president he shipped 600 bottles of wine per year from France to the United States.
Jefferson also helped stock the wine cellars of the first five U.S. presidents. During his two terms in office it’s estimated he spent $11,000 (that's $175,000 in today’s dollars) on wine.
Two wines stand out as presidential favorites- Champagne and Madeira.
Madeira is a fortified wine produced on the Portuguese island of- you guessed it- Madeira. Its alcohol content hovers around 18-20%. This allowed it to withstand the trip across the ocean to the New World. In colonial days, nearly 25% of Portugal's madeira was shipped to America.
George Washington was an avid drinker of Madeira. In fact, it was used to toast his inauguration. Washington’s granddaughter reported the first president drank three glasses of Madeira after dinner every night.
The first father-son presidential duo--John Adams and John Quincy Adams --were also partial to Madeira. It is even rumored that during a blind taste test John Quincy Adams was able to correctly identify 11 out of 14 different kinds of Madeira.
While madeira lost its popularity over the years (but is making a comeback!), to no surprise, champagne has been a constant fixture in the White House. James Madison, John Tyler, James Polk, Ulysses S. Grant, William Howard Taft, John F. Kennedy, and Richard Nixon all had a well-known taste for the sparkling wine. The White House even boasts a champagne room. That's right, a champagne room.
Wine has been present at the most significant events throughout our country's history. Madeira was the founding fathers' drink of choice to toast the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The Louisiana Purchase was toasted with madeira and champagne.
Raise a glass and have a celebration of your own this President's Day!