Did you know that wine has been part of American history since its early beginnings? Or that even founding fathers like Thomas Jefferson dabbled in winemaking and loved wine?
Wine has borne witness to many historic events of the United States ushering in new times and changes with each toast. Nowadays produced in all 50 states, wine is as American as apple pie. From cookouts, parades and fireworks to barbeques and wakeboarding, Americans will find a way to celebrate this 4th of July. But, while we are at it, why not reminisce a bit of our nation’s birthday history with some wine?
Meet the Patriot Who Loved Wine and Freedom
Philip Mazzei was a political thinker, American Patriot and pioneer that helped shape the foundation of the Thirteen Colonies and Declaration of Independence. This Italian physician acted as an agent to purchase arms for Virginia during the American Revolutionary War. Moreover, he was acquainted with Thomas Jefferson as a close friend and introduced wine to Virginia.
Mazzei was born in Tuscany as a son of Dominico and Elisabetha. He studied medicine in Florence and practiced in Italy and the Middle East for several years before moving to London. In 1755 he would take up a mercantile career as an importer while working as a teacher of Italian language. In London he would meet the Americans Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Adams of Virginia.
While doing work for Franklin, Mazzei was convinced to undertake his next venture. Sharing Franklin’s idea of importing Tuscan products, wine and olive, to the New World, he set sails for America. Leading a group of Italians who wanted to introduce the cultivation of vineyards, olives and other Mediterranean fruits, Mazzei arrived in Virginia in 1773. Soon thereafter, Mazzei became a neighbor and friend of Thomas Jefferson. Together, they would start the first commercial vineyard in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Both men shared an interest in politics, freedom and libertarian values, and maintained an active correspondence for the rest of their lives.
Mazzei returned to Italy in 1779 as a secret agent for the state of Virginia. He purchased and shipped arms to them until 1783. After briefly visiting the United States in 1785, Mazzei traveled throughout Europe promoting Republican ideals. He died in Pisa, Italy, in 1816. After his death, the remainder of his family returned to the United States at the urging of Thomas Jefferson.
How Did Philip Mazzei Contributed to American History?
During Mazzei’s sojourn in Europe, he wrote a political history of the American Revolution. He published his work in Paris in 1788.
After the publication of his work, Mazzei became an unofficial ambassador in Europe for American ideas and institutions. John F. Kennedy acknowledged such contribution in his book A Nation of Immigrants. In fact, it is said that Thomas Jefferson’s great doctrine ‘All men are created equal’ was paraphrased from writings of Philip Mazzei. Both libertarians often exchanged ideas about true liberty and freedom.
Some alleged scholars disagree on the inspiration that Mazzei brought to Jefferson and his writings. However, there is evidence to suggest that Jefferson’s long conversation with this Italian-born exile-turned-wine merchant did inspire some of the language used in the Declaration of Independence. In an article translated by Jefferson, Mazzei wrote, “all men are by nature equally free and independent”.
In addition to all his political feats, Mazzei’s notebooks were crammed with plans and expenditures to produce wine in North America. He had in mind the first large-scale viticulture experiment in North America along with other shareholders such as George Washington and Lord Dunmore.
Founding Fathers Love Wine Too
Jefferson himself, who rarely dined alone, discovered the wonders of wine as well. He found out how wine pairing was a great way to meet informally with political friends and rivals. Jefferson used these wine nightly dinners as a form of legislative lobbying. It is said that Jefferson was fond of Italian wines, particularly of those made from the Nebbiolo grape. The favorite Italian wine of this great statesman and Founding Father was from the hilltop of Montepulciano in southern Tuscany.
Choose VenToSpain to Celebrate Independence Day!
The Fourth of July is a special day to commemorate the birthday of the United States. Whatever your Independence Day entails, do not forget the importance of wine in American history. Make a toast for freedom and liberty with a glass of wine! If you have never tasted Spanish wines before, this 4th of July is a good opportunity to do so. Check out our international wine line VenToSpain. Do not miss out on discovering what VenToSpain has in store for you on Independence Day!