L’Art de Faire, Gouverner, et Perfectionner les Vins (1801) Jean-Antoine Chaptal

Jean-Antoine Chaptal led an amazing life. He went from being a student at the prestigeous University of Montpellier, to earning a chair at the same university only a few years later, being arrested during the revolution while later being given the title as Count Chanteloup by Napoleon Bonaparte to having a disagreement with the Emperor which led to his forced retirement from this post. Somewhere in between, he found the time to coin the name for nitrogen (nitrogène), developed and popularized Chaptalization and wrote a few groundbreaking books.

One of these books was L’Art de Faire, Gouverner, et Perfectionner les Vins written in 1801. The scope of the work is enormous, having 408 pages. He goes to great lengths in describing the vines, the different ceps, vinification practices, trade details including details concerning the countries which purchased wines from the many regions in France, along with the resulting cost of these exports. There is much more to be found within these pages that were pressed over 200 years ago, but I’ve just had a few days to explore them.

Something of note are the illustrations and descriptions of the different cepages. More interesting are the names of some of these including Le Franc Pineau which he describes as producing the most delicate wines in Burgundy. There is a species which he calls Le Bourguignon Noir (pictured below) which comes from the same family, though he makes no remarks about how the quality may be different between the two.

There are also notes on Muscat Blanc, Muscat Rouge and Muscat Violet along with many others, perhaps eight of these being illustrated as we. I’ll have to place aside some time during harvest to delve deeper, but so far I am impressed with the level of detail. Throughout the book, he displays a great wealth of knowledge in the actual production of wine. He mentions the best time of year to harvest, preperation of the fermentation tanks, and how and when to perform the emptying of the fermentation tank.

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As noted in the first image, this is a first edition. Like the others, it doesn’t necessarily make the included text/illustrations more enlightening, though it adds a great deal to the level of enjoyment that I feel when turning the pages on something of this age. It is interesting to imagine who might have been the first person to cut open these pages, reading the contents just as I am today.


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