Today is Thomas Jefferson’s birthday (cheers to you, president). While you probably know him best for being the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, you may not have pegged the president as a wine mogul. However, believe it or not, Jefferson was a huge fan of European wine – and bringing it to America. Think of him as the Founding Father of American wine appreciation. In honor of the original Robert Parker’s birthday, we bring you seven wacky wine facts about Thomas Jefferson.

1. While Serving As A Diplomat In Paris, He Peaced Out To Go Wine Touring For A Few Months

When he decided he needed a little political break, Jefferson took to anonymous horseback and explored the regions of Champagne, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Languedoc, and Bordeaux. He galloped solo and changed horses and carriages frequently during his trip to remain anonymous. The paparazzi, am I right? Check out his detailed and envy-inspiring notes here.

Thomas Jefferson was a huge wine lover

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2. He Wanted Taxes On Wine To Stay Low

Jefferson is quoted as saying, “No nation is drunken where wine is cheap; and none sober, where the dearness of wine substitutes ardent spirits as the common beverage.” In other words, Jefferson didn’t want people getting drunk off of cheap booze because they couldn’t afford a nice glass of Bordeaux.

3. He Shared The Wine Love With Other Presidents

Who likes drinking alone, anyway? Jefferson spread his grape knowledge and acted as a wine advisor to Adams, Madison, and Monroe, teaching them the ways of old world wine. He also helped stocked the President’s cellars with bottles of European wine to keep the vino flowing.

4. His Law Tutor Was Probably One Of The First People To Introduce Him To Wines

While some of us may have had a thing for our tutors, how many of us sipped wine with them over a pile of books? Well, Jefferson very well may have done just that with scholar George Wythe. Though there’s no record of Wythe being the first person to introduce Jefferson to wine, Jefferson’s tutor was a fine wine lover, his Georgian house containing a vaulted brick wine cellar underneath. A few of Jefferson’s later references reveal that he was, in fact, enjoying wine at the Wythe residence.

5. He Drummed Up A Massive Wine Tab For The White House

Jefferson truly knew how to take advantage of a business expense. While in France, he ordered around 400 bottles worth of wine to be shipped back to the US, often still in the barrel. When he returned home to the White House, his grape cravings increased, and he had 600 bottles a year sent from France to the US, racking up a yearly tab that equates to over hundreds of thousands of dollars today.

Thomas Jefferson was a huge wine lover

6. A Bottle That Purportedly Belonged To Him Auctioned Off At Christie’s For A £105,000, The Equivalent Of Over $150,000…

In 1985, Christopher Forbes, the Vice Chairman of Forbes Publishing company, won the wax-sealed green bottle. Though it had no label, etched into the glass was the year 1787 and the words Lafitte and Th.J. The story behind those initials? Apparently, Jefferson insisted that the wine he shipped for himself from Bordeaux back to the states be marked with his initials. Laffite, now spelled Lafite, refers to Château Lafite Rothschild, where Jefferson was a lifelong customer.

7. …And Turned Out To Be Part Of A Wine Hoax On A Presidential Scale

Well, it turns out those initials were fake, applied to the bottle with power tools non-existent during Jefferson’s time. Although Jefferson was a lover of Château Lafite Rothschild, he never wrote of purchasing these specific bottles. The average person might not take note of every single wine splurge, but Jefferson was known to keep super specific wine records. Talk about a regrettable wine purchase for Forbes!

Thomas Jefferson was a huge wine lover
The bottles in question. CJ Walker/Courtesy of William Koch.

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