ABOUT NICHOLAS HERBEMONT

Nicholas Laurent Michel Herbemont (1771-1839) may have been the greatest artist of the heroic generation that established commercial wine-making in the United States. In 1823 he first made vintages commercially available and quickly established himself as the premier producer of quality wine in the country, celebrated in tastings from New York to Alabama. As a cultivator of grapes he was the first American planter to devise a system of vine management largely freed from European practice. As a wine-maker his ruthless culling of the grapes, his judicious regularization of the sugar levels of the crush, and his unflagging concern for sanitation in the winery gave his Palmyra label an enormous reputation, enabling him to charge the highest rate per gallon of any producer in the western hemisphere. As a taste-maker he zealously campaigned against the popular taste for fortified wines and championed delicacy as an ideal. He worried constantly about the storage of wine, calling repeatedly for the creation of cellars on the European model to diminish the effect of America´s climatic extremes upon casks and bottles. He published instructions in both the arts of grape growing and wine making and became in the 1830s the country's most widely read expert on practical viticulture. Viewing himself as a good citizen of the world of scientific agriculture, he shipped cuttings and seeds from his vineyards throughout the country, establishing two grape varieties as staples of American vineyards: "The Herbemont Madeira" and "The Lenoir." In the 1870s the former variety, because of the resistance of its rootstock to infestations of Phyloxera, saved the French Wine Industry, as the classic vitis vinefera fines of the great estates were grafted on Herbemont roots. Herbemont did not live to see his namesake grape save the vineyards of his native France, having died in 1839.