Letter 439a

439a. Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi to Schelling in Munich: Munich, 23 February 1809 [*]

Munich, 23 February 1809

Herewith please receive, my most esteemed Herr Director, [1] the various wine samples. You are already familiar with the Haut Barsas d’oré, [2] though bottles of the white Haut Barsas will not be drawn until two weeks from now. The price of the Haut Barsas is comparable to that of the Vin de Graves. The empty bottles must be returned, or 6 kr. deposited for each bottle. [3]

Munich 23 February 1809



[*] Source: Fuhrmans 1:435–36. Back.

[1] Schelling, as secretary-general of the Academy of Fine Arts, enjoyed the Bavarian state administrative status of a director. See Schelling’s letter to Johann Friedrich Cotta on 15 May 1808 (letter 432c), note 1; also Caroline to Pauline Gotter on 16 September 1808 (letter 435), note 29. Back.

[2] Sc. haut Barsac doré, “golden [wine from] high Barsac”; see below. Back.

[3] Jacobi is referring to French wine from the Barsac (rather than Barsas) region, a town in France in the department of the Gironde, arrondissement of Bordeaux, 18 miles southeast of Bordeaux. At issue with respect to price comparison are the wines produced just southwest of Bordeaux; the following locales are among those mentioned in the following two descriptions of the wines (La France [n.p. 1925]; Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Cartes et plans):


The Schellings, that is, seem to have been trying wines from the greater Bordeaux region of the ally France (possibly including certain “monarchs of the Bacchanalian world”; see below) even amid the current geopolitical turmoil, change, and the imminent threat of a recommencement of military hostilities, and despite an inflationary economic climate (illustration by Franz Ertinger from Les Festes de l’Amour et de Bacchus, pastorale, after Molière arranged by Philippe Quinault, music by Lulli; from Recueil general des opera, représentez par l’Académie royale de musicques [Paris 1703–38, here: 1703], final scene of act 3; Bibliothèque nationale de France):


Concerning the Barsac wine, see Cyrus Redding, French Wines and Vineyards, and the way to find them (London 1860), 94–95:

Preignac is situated on a soil partly of gravel and of argillaceous, sandy, ochreous earth. The wines here have an aromatic flavour, and some are thought equal to those of Sauternes, but they have in general less fineness and perfume. . . .

The celebrated commune of Sauternes is on the east of Preignac, having Bommes on the north. The vineyards are upon gravelly hill-sides, dry and unmingled, mostly on the right bank of the little river Ciron. This gravel rests upon calcareous marl, superior in the product to that which lies over sand. A peculiar flavour distinguishes these wines. They are fine, delicate, and, in good years, sweet and full, of perfume. . . .

The commune of Bommes, having that of Sauternes on the south, lies partly on the level and partly on the hills which border the right bank of the Ciron, covered with gravel. The wines produced here are more light, and as fresh as those of Sauternes. The plain is sandy, with a subsoil of rock and argillaceous earth. Here the wines have no want of fineness, but they have less perfume and less sugar than those grown on the heights. . . .

Barsac, having the Garonne on the east, is separated into High and Low Barsac. A bed of reddish earth, argillaceous and nearly destitute of gravel, rests upon quartz or granitic rock, forming the vine land in Haut or High Barsac. These wines are warm with alcohol, and have a decided odour. The first growths are as much distinguished as those of the Sauternes, having as much fineness and more body; the prices are much the same.

The body the wine of Barsac possesses is attributed to the Semilion grape, of which a large part is used, with some of the Sauvignon and Muscat. The cultivation is carried on with great care, and is thus rendered expensive. A considerable quantity of calcareous stones is found everywhere around the hills at a very little depth. From 1,000 to 1,200 tuns of wine are made here. The Marquis de Lur Saluces, at Coutet, and M. Lacoste, at Climenz, are principal proprietors, making from 50 to 120 tuns. There are 35 other proprietors, who each make from 12 to 60 tuns.

The commune of Pugols, having Barsac on the north, with an argillaceous and stony soil, produces wines which approach those of Barsac in regard to body alone. The vines lie on cold sand, and give only common wines.

Concerning the vin des Graves, see Charles Cocks and Edouard Feret, Bordeaux and Its Wines: Classed by Order of Merit, 3rd ed. (Bordeaux, Paris 1899), 268–69:

The name of Graves Wine (Vin des Graves) is given to those wines produced in vineyards planted on a gravelly soil which extends from Bordeaux in a south-westerly direction, to a distance of about 20 kilometers.

This district of Graves produces red wines which grow daily in favour, as well as white wines, which were formerly of considerable importance; the latter are now commencing to regain the ground they had lost in consequence of the ravages of phylloxera, oïdium, &c., and have at all events retained their favourable reputation.

The soil which produces these wines is composed of a mixture of silicious pebbles of different colours and sizes, of sand and other earthy elements. Argilo-gravelly ground is rarely met with in this district. The depth of the layer of gravel varies between 50 centimètres and 3 mètres, at most.

The sub-soil varies greatly, often in а very narrow compass. It is generally formed of a hard blackish sand, containing a ferruginous element known by the name of alios, or of coagulated pebbles, called arène. In some parts also it is either clayey, calcareous, stony or gravelly.

This description of ground, generally useless for the purposes of cultivation, is excellent for the vine. If its produce is not very abundant, it is at all events of very good quality, and in certain communes, remarkable.

The red wines of the Graves possess body, fine colour, delicacy, a very decided flavour and a bouquet generally well marked; in the good growths they are very agreeable. They keep well and rival the wines of Médoc, which only excel them by their unique and marvellous bouquet.

Of late years cultivation has made great progress in the Graves; the vines are better cared for, and the very ordinary plants formerly employed have been replaced by choice varieties.

The efforts made by proprietors with a view to perfecting the old systems of plantation, cultivation and treatment of the wines in the press-house and cellar, have given the best results and the soil, here highly favourable to the vine, now produces a wine whose fineness and keeping qualities are daily more appreciated.

Chateau-Haut-Brion, 1st grand growth, classed in 1855 in the same rank as the three grand growths of Médoc, viz Château-Lafite, Château-Margaux and Château-La Tour, has for some years back surpassed even the prices obtained by these three monarchs of the Bacchanalian world.

The majority of proprietors have abandoned the ancient method of digging the vineyard, and now cultivate their vines with the plough; several have even discarded the custom of pruning the vine into three or four arms, grouped around a tall support, and have adopted the Médoc system, in some cases employing ironwire runners.

The red vine plants usually cultivated in the Graves are, in order of merit: the Vidure-Sauvignonne (Cabernet-Sauvignon), Petite-Vidure (Petit-Cabernet), Grosse-Vidure (Gros-Cabernet), Petit-Verdot, Carbouet (Carmenère), Merlot and Malbec.

The white vine plants mostly employed are, the Sauvignon, Sémillon, Muscadelle and Blanc-Verdet.

The best communes of Graves are, Pessac (which includes Cháteau-Haut-Brion, one of the four first growths of the Gironde), Talence, Mérignac, Léognan, Gradignan, Villenave-d’0rnon and Martillac. After these come the second communes of Graves, leading us by the left bank of the river to the Sauternes country. Back.

Translation © 2018 Doug Stott