His piece was utterly interesting because while we know about Chaptal who fathered the chaptalization bettering technique, what Kevin reports on happened also long time ago in the mid-19th century, but it happened in Germany, not a country we usually associate with natural-wine struggles or with an historical role in the massive correction of wines (I mean we know that the mainstream wines there have been routinely corrected but we somehow missed the scientist/initiator behind these corrections). I thus discovered an unknown part of the history behind the "modern" wine and its skilled techniques to improve our wines.
This article offers also indirectly an interesting insight into the particular mindset behind the man who devised a way to correct and shape the wines of the Mosel region (and then of Germany at large) through the wonders of science and the human intelligence. We feel that at that time the mood was like, in some way, a better future was at an easy reach, thanks to a few drops here and there....
We usually associate corrective winemaking with industry-driven interests, that's why we like to target the big companies who manufacture the additives (nothing better than a Monsanto-like scapegoat to use as a strawman), but a closer look at several of the initiators for corrective winemaking seems to show that these individuals were often on the progressive side of the society, sharing optimist ideals featuring social change (sometimes scarily bordering revolutionary ideals) and the substitution of tradition by science to cure all human ills.
Kevin Goldberg's piece made me discover this interesting individual named Ludwig Gall (1791-1863), someone who travelled far from home for his time and dwelled into politics and later in winemaking issues. Ludwig Gall emigrated at some point in America at the age of 28 and he tried to encourage the settling of German immigrants in Pennsylvania for a year or so but somehow failed in his efforts. Gall came back broke to Germany, somehow embittered, and turned from an admirer of America to a critic (he wrote a book on his travels there to warn fellow Germans about it). Other terstimonies on Ludwig Gall paint a less positive picture of his behaviour in America, with this unflattering episode which I found on this document (page 17 - Pdf) by David Montgomery :
The troubled persistence of indentured servitude is revealed
by the experiences of Ludwig Gall — ironically a German follower
of Charles Fourier — who came to Pennsylvania in 1819 in
search of a site for a phalanstery. Gall brought eleven servants
with him. When they arrived in Philadelphia, Gall recorded:
They had scarcely come ashore when they were greeted as
countrymen by people who told them that contracts signed in
Europe were not binding here; . . . that they were free as birds
here; that they didn’t have to pay for their passage, and nobody
would think ill of them if they used the money instead
to toast the health of their European masters. . . , The last
scoundrel said: “Follow me, dear countrymen; don’t let yourselves
be wheedled away into the wilderness.”
Gall resorted to the threat of debtors’ prison to make his “companions”
repay their passage. He brought one defiant servant
before a justice of the peace and had him incarcerated, only to
discover that he (Gall) had to pay the prisoner’s maintenance,
and a late payment the second week set the man free. Although
that servant seems to have enjoyed his stay with a “boisterous
group” of three hundred debtors, who “formed their own little
republic” in the Walnut Street prison, the other ten were persuaded
by the threat of jail to indenture themselves to Gall for
three to four years, in return for Gall’s promise to pay them ten
dollars a year.
Gall’s troubles did not end there. His anxiety to rush the
servants out of the city before they learned the ways of American
life was well founded: five men whom he had boarded apart from
his family deserted him the day he left Philadelphia. The remaining
servants made Gall cut short his westward journey in Harrisburg.
Five days after his departure from Philadelphia, he wrote:
“Two of my servants deserted me between Montjoie and here
[Harrisburg]; and my choice was to continue the journey with
hired help, whom I should have to pay $2 a day, or stay here
perforce.” He rented “a pretty country house” with thirty-six tillable
acres, “precisely as much as the [one man and two women]
who remained true to me can care for with two horses.”
Gall resorted to the threat of debtors’ prison to make his “companions” repay their passage. He brought one defiant servant before a justice of the peace and had him incarcerated, only to discover that he (Gall) had to pay the prisoner’s maintenance, and a late payment the second week set the man free. Although that servant seems to have enjoyed his stay with a “boisterous group” of three hundred debtors, who “formed their own little republic” in the Walnut Street prison, the other ten were persuaded by the threat of jail to indenture themselves to Gall for three to four years, in return for Gall’s promise to pay them ten dollars a year.
Gall’s troubles did not end there. His anxiety to rush the servants out of the city before they learned the ways of American life was well founded: five men whom he had boarded apart from his family deserted him the day he left Philadelphia. The remaining servants made Gall cut short his westward journey in Harrisburg. Five days after his departure from Philadelphia, he wrote: “Two of my servants deserted me between Montjoie and here [Harrisburg]; and my choice was to continue the journey with hired help, whom I should have to pay $2 a day, or stay here perforce.” He rented “a pretty country house” with thirty-six tillable acres, “precisely as much as the [one man and two women] who remained true to me can care for with two horses.”
In 1835 a pamphlet of Ludwig Gall, who has been called the first German Socialist, appeared in Trier. In it he declared that labour was the source of all wealth and that millions owned nothing but their power to work. The pamphlet also contained the following phrases: 'The privileged, moneyed class and the labouring classes, sharply divided as they are by diametrically opposing interests, are in sharp conflict. As the position of the former improves, so does that of the latter worsen, become more wretched and distressed. The police were aware of Gall's Very suspicious way of thinking' and perceived that he 'required a specially harp watch to be kept on him. (source - chapter 8).
Let's note that Karl Marx who was also living in Trier was 17 in 1835, and he may well have been influenced by Ludwig Gall's inflammatory pamphlets. The guy didn't get his way through on these political issues but alas for the Mosel and German wines he was to succeed to impose his utopian vision of perfected wines through his science of water/sugar corrections.
The context at the time was particular : With successive vintages yielding wines with high acidity and low sugar, the Mosel region was faced with difficult economic conditions, farmers were leaving the region and emigrating, and Ludwig Gall devised a way to go around the problem : his method, called Naßzuckerung in German was to add a certain amount of sugar diluted into water in the juice in order to get along the acidity. It seems from my research online that Gall began to work on wine in 1826 while in Wetzlar where he was appointed, he then left Germany in 1834, first for Galicia then Hungary where he conducted more research including on distillation. He came back in Trier in 1849 and came out in 1852 with an invention capable of turning bitter, acidic wines into "pleasantly-drinkable" ones. By the mid 1850s' the wine-correction method was hailed by many and from then on largely used, although these gallisierten Weine were also strongly opposed and the ones that used the trick were called Weinfälscher or "wine counterfeiters" by German opponents. As authorities in Pfalz were seizing Galliziert wines and destroying them, Ludwig Gall appealed to the King of Bayern, saying that what the Pfalz authorities were doing was sapping the science and prosperity of the wine trade [Note the arguments, it's really all what the additives lobby stands for today : science (they'd add sustainable today) and good business returns]. Gall travelled to Stutgart where he was arrested following this open letter to the King (Germany was a patchwork of independant states), he escaped from prison in 1857 and went back to Trier.
Although mainstream scientists and academics were approving this scientific and profitable progress, there were a few vocal counterrevolutionaries like Sebastian Englerth who wrote Dr Gall's Weinveredlung (Dr Gall's wine improving - Würzburg 1855). Kevin Goldberg writes about Sebastian Englerth, a winegrower and merchant in Franken, was one of the fiercest critics of the intrusion of technology into the winemaking process. According to Englerth, “There are already winemaking factories which seek to artificially improve great quantities of wine, thereby creating a bridge between improvement and falsification, thus bringing the original idea of rational-artificial improvement into the realm of affectation, cover-ups, and deceit.”
Too bad for the pushers of scientifically-improved wines, we can't but notice here that there are always remnants of the old tradition and its reactionary cohort going out of the woods to derail the party...
Notwithstanding the early opposition beginning with some Mosel vintners who were working hard to make uncorrected wines, Ludwig Gall's correction method became mainstream in Germany at large and known under the German words Anreicherung or Verbesserung (correction & bettering techniques). This sugar/water addition method can be held responsible (from what I understand) for the sugary reputation of German wines worldwide. The method was forbidden by law in 1971 but allowed in Rheinland-Pfalz until june 1979. Note that the Gallizierung method was forbidden from the start in Austria and from 1912 in Switzerland.
After discovering Ludwig Gall's winemaking method and his other, less well-known parts of his adventure in labor management in America and as a political activist in Germany, I casually looked upon our own winemaking wonder man in France, Jean-Antoine Chaptal (1756-1832), from whom the chaptalization method is named, and looking at his other adventures was also very interesting : Trained in medicine in Montpellier first, he went to Paris to study chemistry, and his advances on hydrochloric acid soon gained him notoriety under Louis XVI. The wind of History brings lots of change in the country and in 1793 at the peak of the French revolutionary terror when the war (and genocide) of Vendée was in the making, Chaptal was heading the Manufacture de Poudre de Guerre (gunpowder factory) of Grenelle. Interesting...
In 1794, at the height of the Reign of Terror of the French revolution, Chaptal is appointed as the head of the "Revolutionary gunpowder agency" (Agence révolutionnaire des poudres). All the while teaching science at the University, Chaptal opened a chemical plant named Manufacture des Ternes in nearby Neuilly where he produced acid, it was his second such plant (the guy definitely loved the hard stuff). The plant was so polluting even by the standards of that time that a neighbor named Charles-Pierre Lombard (a former parliament-appointed prosecutor turned passionate beekeeper) filed a complaint against him. Thanks to this whistleblower we learned that Chaptal used his political influence to have his son elected at the city council in the place of Mr Delabordère who had opposed the pollution of his plant. More info (Pdf) in French on acid plants in Paris in the early 19th including Chaptal's.
Later under Napoleon Chaptal was appointed interior minister, proving his ability to adapt to the successive rulers. In his scientific career he also invented the manufacturing of artificial alum, salpeter, cement, and the steam bleaching (he definitely loved heavy stuff...)
In spite of Chaptal's close collaboration with the French Revolution terror and his love for manufactures of gunpowder, acids and other heavy stuff, I still consider that we learn a lot with Chaptal's book L'Art de Faire, Gouverner et Perfectionner les Vins (you can read it all online here) [click on Chapitre II at bottom for chapter 2 and so on] where many details about the grape growing, the harvest and traditional vinification are explained. In chapter 6 of this book you learn about the sulfur use at that time (1801) : sulfur wicks were also carrying aromating elements in addition to sulfur, like clove, cinnamon, ginger, Florentine iris, thyme, lavender and marjoram among others. Further down on this page you'll learn the precise way to fine the wine with eggs (141) or how to fine and correct at the same time a bad-tasting wine by using beech-tree chips (142).
Chaptal's inroads on winemaking corrections using sugar began to be known in 1899 as he took part in the redaction of the Dictionnaire Raisonné et Universel d'Agriculture by Priest François rozier and where he wrote the "Vin" page in the volume 10. Winery owners loved his insight and asked for more, so he wrote L'Art de Faire le Vin in 1807 (re-edited in 1819) where he highlighted the importance of sugar for having a higher alcohol level in the wine. Wine was made everywhere in France then, and in a large part in septentrional regions with relatively-cold summers.
Louis Pasteur was not around yet (he was born in 1822) and a scientific essay on viticulture winemaking was a welcome thing for farmers who were then literate enough to read books.
The correction techniques of Chaptal and Gall were gaining popularity, even in America where the winemaking culture was slowly taking root.
On the other side of the Atlantic in the mid 19th century, Gall had an enthusiast supporter in the person of George Hussmann (1827-1902), who published in 1866 a book titled The Cultivation of the Native Grape and the Manufacture of American Wines, the first nationally-distributed book about the issue. Hussmann was himself a German immigrant born in Meyenburg, Prussia in 1827, he immigrated to the United States in 1838 with his family, settling in Pennsylvania then in Missouri (his father had bought shares in the German Settlement Society of Philadelphia, following unknowingly the path of Ludwig Gall). Hussman was to become a very active person regarding the development of wine in America, he wrote books about wine, beginning in 1866 with Cultivation of the Native Grape and Manufacture of American Wines, an utterly-interesting testimony about the nascent vinegrowing and winemaking culture in America (scroll down the online book to read the pages about his yields and accounting). Hussmann also conducted academic research there and he founded the Bluffton Wine Company there, a particularly-modern winery in its concept for its time, concentrating efficient techniques in the facility and buying grapes from independent growers around.
George Hussmann was enthusiast about what he considered was a rapid growth of the vineyard surface in his new country, saying even that there was a grape boom in America, a “a grape fever” in his own words, with “vineyards springing up as if by magic” . Rightfully or not, he said at the time that over 2 million acres were planted with vineyards, which Thomas Pinney considers as a blatant exaggeration in his book “The Makers of American Wine : a Record of Two Hundred Years".
According to Thomas Pinney, George Hussmann was particularly enthusiast regarding the correction techniques of Ludwig Gall. Like what we hear today from advocates of the use of additives, he was considering that since both water and sugar are natural components of the grape, these additions are in no way adulterations but only enhancements of the otherwise deficient material (I feel like I've read this sort of thing not so long ago in an article whose purpose was like, go back to sleep, there's nothing to see). Hussmann is known to have said : What you would rather have, a “natural” wine that was simply undrinkable, or an “artificial” wine that was at least tolerable ?. At least the industrial-wine supporters of that time were acknowledging that their grapes couldn’t but yield an “undrinkable wine” if not heavily corrected, I wish our contemporary lobbyist could be so frank…
Read here the fervent praising George Hussman gives to Ludwig Gall's water/sugar correction in his chapter "DR. GALL'S AND PETIOL'S METHOD OF WINE MAKING". It's almost like hearing that "winegrowers were in the dark before, but now with science, bad wine is no more...." :
The frequent occurrence of unfavorable seasons in Europe, when the grapes did not ripen fully, and were sadly deficient in sugar, set intelligent men to thinking how this defect could be remedied; and a grape crop, which was almost worthless, from its want of sugar, and its excess of acids, could be made to yield at least a fair article, instead of the sour and unsaleable article generally produced in such seasons. Among the foremost who experimented with this object in view I will here name Chaptal, Petiol; but especially Dr. Ludwig Gall, who has at last reduced the whole science of wine-making to such a mathematical certainty, that we stand amazed only, that so simple a process should not have been discovered long ago. It is the old story of the egg of Columbus; but the poor vintners of Germany, and France, and we here, are none the less deeply indebted to those intelligent and persevering men for the incalculable benefits they have conferred upon us. The production of good wine is thus reduced to a mathematical certainty; although we cannot in a bad season, produce as high flavored and delicate wines, as in the best years, we can now always make a fair article, by following the simple rules laid down by Dr. Gall. When this method was first introduced, it was calumniated and despised—called adulteration of wine, and even prohibited by the governments of Europe; but, Dr. Gall fearlessly challenged his opponents to have his wines analyzed by the most eminent chemists; which was repeatedly done, and the results showed that they contained nothing but such ingredients which pure wine should contain; and since men like Von Babo, Dobereiner and others have openly endorsed and recommended gallizing, prejudice is giving way before the light of scientific knowledge.
"The production of good wine is thus reduced to a mathematical certainty", says a glowing Hussmann, and we really think to our thousands of contemporary enologists who have the same mindset, using the countless additives [a bit more than just water and sugar...] produced by the chemical industry for that purpose. Everything changes and nothing changes...
George Hussmann wasn’t content just with turning unfit grapes & juice into “drinkable” wine, he apparently was also very open to canaan-esque yields : according to Thomas Piney, Hussmann boasted that he was getting by this method twenty-five gallons of wine from an acre of Concord grapes ! That would be the yield, according to conventional measures, of about sixteen and a half tons of grapes—from one acre ! In a Midwestern vineyard !
This excerpt from the resourceful piece by Hogsheadwine on early natural wine shows that at the time the debate between tenants of the (highly-) corrected wines and the natural wines was very intense in the United States and that the drive behind the correction/additives partisans was also fueled by the will to take a shortcut to profitability. Note that at the time the natural-wine promoters were accused of being growers with superior vineyards who want to retain a monopoly on trade [I've heard that in recent years as an argument to nullify the French notion of terroir] while the other winegrowers could make wine just as good but cheaper by using Petiot and Gall's correcting method... :
In the United States the expansion of vineyards led to concerns about the varying quality of wine produced due to vintage conditions and the spread of disease. In the 1859 Report of the Commissioner of Patents on Agriculture it was proposed that wine produced from wild vines would yield 50% more if it was produced according to Dr. Gall and Mr. Petiot. Using these methods would provide profitable employment. The quality of natural wine varied but that of Dr. Gall was always in harmony and generally preferred. David M. Balch in writing about Dr. Gall and Mr. Petiot opens “Yet mistaken and narrow views have led to much opposition to these methods; and have even caused them to be decried as specious forms of adulteration, by those who stand forth as champions of what they are pleased to call ‘natural wines.’” He believes it was acceptable to assist nature and quotes a chapter from Dr. Mohr’s Verbesserung des Weines. Dr. Mohr believed there was no natural wine where grapes are not naturally found and that it is man who cultivates the grape on the best hillside. He viewed the natural wine debate as that between those with superior vineyards who want to retain a monopoly on trade and everyone else who employ the methods of Dr. Chaptal, Dr. Gall, and Mr. Petiot to make wine just as good but cheaper. Dr. Mohr was consistent in distinguishing between “well-prepared sugar wine” and natural wine as well as “imitated” from natural wine.
I am puzzled about who could be this Mr Petiot the article speaks about, and considering his supposed mindset and as I'm playing with the other, lesser-known facets of wine-improvement inventors (often pretty hard-edged), I wonder if he could be this famous Dr Petiot, a French doctor who is till reknown today under this name and title as being this early-20th-century serial killer who targeted whealthy women and burnt their bodies in his coal stove (maybe not in the right time frame though)...
Kevin Goldberg is a researcher in German studies, he co-wrote The Reign of Terroir in the Humanities, "The Ideological Roots of Wine, a deeply-documented essay on the historical roots of the food culture.
Kevin Goldberg underlines in his piece the many factors which played a role along history in the "natural" vs "corrected" fight, some little-known factors being regional rivalries, economical crisis and political allegiances. I still think personally then then and now, some wine amateurs felt that the drinking experience was definitely proving the point for uncorrected wines.
The illustrations above come from the troubled years of the French wine revolution in 1907 when Languedoc winegrowers ruined by phyloxera rioted to ask the end the wine-counterfeiting practices commonplace in the north of France, where wineries would overuse sugar in the vinification. Some images show the "vin du midi" (wine of the southern France, mainly languedoc) fighting the sugar of the north...
Ludwig Gall's Verbesserung der Weine (full book in German __ and gothic fonts)
Ludwig Gall's Das Gallisiren : Vollstandiges Handbuch der Weinberatung (full book, in German)
Wikisource on Ludwig Gall (in German)