[Back] [Blueprint] [Next]


“Sayings, Wise and Otherwise,” (also in the “The Sayings of Dr. Bushwhacker and Other Wise Men”) by Frederic S. Cozzens; American Book Exchange, New York; 1880; pp. 165-173.



German Wines and a Wine Cellar.*

U P the Rhine in the leafy month of June, one might go further and fare worse, especially with regard to wine. The fact is, it is a noble thing to find some good in one’s surroundings. To pass serenely and quietly from Claret, Burgundy, and Champagne to Schiedam Schnapps and thence to Johannesberger, Marcobrunner, Rüdesheimer, and even Piesporter, without a groan. To take a glass of Completer at Coire or allay thirst by Vin de Glacier, Yvorne, or St. Georges, through the land of snow-capped mountains and yodles; thence descending to d’Asti, Barbera, Campidano di Lombardi, Canonao del Sardegna, Monte Fiascone, Orvietto and Lagrima Christi; drinking Aguardiente, Sherry, and Val de Peñas in Spain, coming down to Bouza in Cairo or Mahayah in Morocco, pitching into Vodke or Kisslyschtxhy in Russia. Behold, QUO DUCIT GULA!

Perhaps, for euphony, it is the best way to sum up German wines under the headings Rhine wine, Moselle wine or the popular hock; for what Anglo-Saxon head 166 can always recall even a few names like Augenscheimer, Assmannhaüser, Affenthaler, Bacharach, Brauneberger, Bischeimer, Bessingheimer, Bodenheimer, Bechebacher, Berncasther, Deidesheimer, Epsteiner, Euchariusberger, Geissenheimer, Graacher, Grüenhauser, Hochheimer, Hinterhaus, Johannesberger, Liebfraumilch, Laubenheimer, Liestener, Mittelheimer, Marcobrunner, Niersteiner, Oppenheimer, Pitcher, Rüdesheimer, Rauenthaler, Schamet, Steinberger, Steinwein, Schiersteiner, Thiergartner, Walporger and Zeltingener?

It is a popular fallacy to suppose good German wines are acid; they are dry, fine flavored, and keep better than the five hundred year immortality of an oil painting. As for the alcohol in them, by a careful analysis, Hochheimer showed only 14.37 per cent. of pure alcohol, while a very old sample, only marked 8.8, a lower figure than almost any of the French wines.

Johannesberger from the Schloss, is the king of German wines; twenty-five years ago, Mumm and Giesler of Cologne and Johannesberg, held the vintage of 1822 at the rate of $10 per gallon; at compound interest it would now be worth about $60 per gallon! This wine with Steinberger, Geissenheimer, and Hochheimer, have the most delicate flavor and aroma of all German wines. The warmest seasons insure the best vintages, so those of 1748, 1766, 1779, 1783, 1800, 1802, and 1811 were celebrated among the past generation as we now look to 1834, 1839, 1842 and 1846. Pure air and plenty of sunlight 167 are the best guardians for vines, and those crowning the high lands yield wine of the best body, while those in the low lands are poorer, and the wine requires years to attain a really fine flavor. Next to Johannesberger comes Steinberger of the Duke of Nassau, the iron hand in a velvet glove, delicate as a zephyr, it has the strength of a hurricane; kiss the beauty, but don’t arouse the virago. Hercules viraginem vicit, but every one is not a “Dutchman!”

There is something very attractive in Liebfraumilch; the best comes from Worms, it has a good body and should be drunk reflectively, this milk for babes. While Marcobrunner, Rüdesheimer, and Niersteiner are for arms and the sword song of Körner.

Braneberger ranks first among Moselle wines, and according to young Germany, there is not a headache in a hogshead of it; certainly after two bottles of it, there was no kazenjammer next morning. The old story that Bacchus, when he lived in the Fatherland, having invited Jupiter down stairs to make a night of it on Brauneberger, so pleased the latter with this tipple, that he at once ordered all he could buy, on credit, for Olympus, to take the place of nectar, for a change; may be true. When you go to Heidelberg, stop at the Black Eagle Hotel, and ask Herr Lehr, the landlord, for a bottle of Sparkling White Moselle; drink it in the courtyard under the vine leaves, and to the sound of that fountain where the large trouts swim!


To look forward for ten years to seeing a cellar and then have it turn out a “sell,” is one of the agonies of travel. Possibly under other circumstances, Auerbach’s cellar in Leipsic would have worn less the air of a show-shop, or less like Julius Cæsar in peg-tops and a stove-pipe hat, than I found it, but not even a bottle of Hochheimer — those paintings on the wall representing Faust’s appearance and disappearance, and the old admonition of 1525:


could bring up anything ideal — so I left. At Mayence I was more favored, and though the scene comes up through several glasses dimly, at least the attempt can be made to describe an old-fashioned cellar, where travelling English don’t ask “for that table, ah, he bored the holes in, you know. Faust, I mean. Three wax stoppers, and all that sort of thing?” “Haven’t got it, sir!” answers the kellner. “Then why the —— don’t you make one!” says despairing England.

On the steamer from Coblentz, I formed the acquaintance of an officer, a lieutenant, who was just off duty from Ehrenbreitstein, and was on his way to Frankfort. Arriving after sunset, we determined to stay that night at Mayence, and go on next morning by railroad to Frankfort. After dinner at the hotel, we strolled out to look around town, and finally, as we crossed a narrow street, he proposed a bottle of Brauneberger in a cellar on the opposite side of the way, a quiet old nest, he 169 said, where only old-fashioned and well-to-do Mayenzers were to be found. Down we went, and passing through an anteroom, where a fine specimen of a broad-shouldered middle-aged German was talking with a spectacled old gentleman with the air of a Professor, in a land where Professors are something; we were passing on to the next cellar, when the broad-shouldered landlord, bowing with great respect, saluted my companion with a string of titles as long as a roll of sausages. Upon which the Herr Professor, for such he was, lifted his hat politely to us, and, salutations over, we entered the next cellar attended by the landlord.

“Altmayer,” said the officer, turning to him, “a bottle of that Brauneberger.” And duly and deliberately the portly wirth departed, soon returning with the Moselle Nectar and glasses. If Hasenclever has not visited that cellar, he has sketched its match in some quaint old German city, for there it was, an interior worth crossing three oceans to sit in, and drink Moselle or Rhine wine. The low ceiling was spanned with groined arches, dusky with age, not dark, as the olla color of Murillo, but a light-brown coffee-color, with a dash of light, borrowed from the lamp that hung in the centre of the cellar, and whose light just penetrated to the great butts lining the walls. The round table at which we were seated was of oak, dark with age, and anything more beautiful in the way of the light that shone through our brimming glasses of Brauneberger, and was reflected on that dark 170 oak, I have never seen. The wirth having returned to the ante-room, my companion, evidently pleased with the interest I took in the surroundings of the cellar, judiciously kept silence until I had thoroughly viewed it all, sipping slowly the delicate wine, and wondering how all the sunlight got into the cellar at night. There was positively a thin golden cloud all around us, and such serene repose as a traveller who has been through a dozen galleries of paintings, innumerable churches, etc., all in one day, believes to be the height of pleasure, i. e., KHEYF!

“I am very glad we came here,” said the lieutenant, “for I see you can appreciate what I have always thought one of the most picturesque wine cellars in this part of Germany. Have you noticed the grotesque carving on that door leading to the further cellar?” Turning my head in the direction indicated, I noticed a pointed arch doorway, surrounded with the most beautiful gothic tracery leaves, birds, monkeys, grapes, curious grinning heads, all cut in stone, while the oak panels of the door were rich in carved flowers and leaves.

“The oak door,” said the lieutenant, “is a modern addition of the wirths, but the rest runs back to the 16th century.” While I was still looking at the curious carving round the door, three or four middle-aged gentlemen, together with the spectacled Professor, entered the cellar, and after polite salutations, drew up to the table, and the wirth soon appeared with bottles and 171 glasses for the different private guests, for in such light they all appeared and acted. Having a cigar case well stocked with a supply of Partagas primeras, it went the rounds, and the cigars were accepted after much urging on my part, for the idea is not German; I had the satisfaction of reaping an amount of gratified expressions from each smoker that paid me for the sacrifice; for I had nursed the few I brought with me from the States with great care. Conversation flowed on easily, and the second bottle of Brauneberger went the way of the first; it was even better nectar than its leader. The light in the cellar appeared brighter and brighter, the golden cloud seemed filled with bees-wings’ humming, the great butts looming out of the mellow light looked like brown Franciscans making merry over a bottle of sambuca. The spectacled Professor told a right good story two feet broad, the other elderly gentlemen kept it up! The lieutenant ordered a third bottle of Brauneberger, which was better than its predecessors.

Then there came in a wandering violin-player, blind as a bat, and a very pretty girl with a guitar, who was not blind, as her bright eyes, shining on the handsome lieutenant, plainly told, and when she sung that pretty song of “Frau Nachtigal,” it appeared to me, after the wine, that she accented those lines —

“Wer du bist, der bin auch ich,
| : Drum lass nach — zu lieben mich”: |

and regarded the lieutenant in the adoring style, permitting, at some future time, any amount of poussiring, as the Germans have it. Then we ordered just one more bottle of Brauneberger, and the lieutenant, taking the guitar from the pretty girl, sung in a fine, baritone voice, “Soldatenleben” —

“Kein besser Leben,
  Ist auf dieser Welt zu denken” —

and the old gentlemen joined in the “Valleri, vallera, valle-ra!” chorus with hearty good will and kreutz fidélely!

Several glasses of wine were bestowed on the blind violinist, a collection made for the pretty girl, who assured the lieutenant her name was Aennchen von Tharau, which he doubted, insisting on it that Aennchen died in 1650 and lived in Himmel Strasse! But she gave us a parting song, prettily sung, and floated off into that golden cloud and hum of bees, and the old Franciscans smiled away from the big butts, and the spectacled Professor bore us backward in his discourse to the days when men passed whole lives as we were now passing hours, and believed they were doing right, the illiterate heathens.

“The Herr Professor will have us in Egyptian bondage directly, unless we hurry away,” said the lieutenant to me in a low voice; so we arose, as arise men who bear away many bottles; and kindly greetings and 173 adieux bore us off to the wirth, who hoped to see us soon again, and bestowed all the titles on my companion that he had inherited and won; and we sailed out into the moonlit streets of Mayence, and down to the hotel by the arrowy Rhine, and slept the sleep of men who have drank good Brauneberger in a grand old cellar surrounded by refined and genial companions.



*  See Preface.

Elf.Ed — Although this footnote is in the text of Sayings, Wise and Otherwise, it has no preface and was clearly taken from The Sayings of Dr. Bushwhacker and Other Learned Men. In that Preface, Cozzens states, on p. 6, ‘Mr. Henry P. Leland contributed the sparkling sketch of “A German Wine Cellar;” to his magazine The Wine Press.


[Back] [Blueprint] [Next]

Valid CSS!