JEFFERSON, Thomas (1743-1826), President. Autograph letter ("Th:Jefferson" in third person) to Joseph Matthias Gérard de Reyneval, n.p. [Paris], 10 July 1786. 1 page, 4to, integral blank with evidence of former mounting, slight browning at edges, top left-hand corner with a bold ink note, presumably by Reyneval, in French, regarding the quantities of wine in the letter.
THE NEW U.S. MINISTER TO FRANCE REQUESTS THE WAIVER OF IMPORT DUTIES FOR A LARGE SHIPMENT OF WINES
Jefferson arrived in Paris in the late summer of 1784, succeding Franklin as U.S. Minister to France. Among his diplomatic counterparts was Reyneval, secretary to Charles Gravier, Comte de Vergennes (1719-1787), French Minister of Foreign Affairs. Jefferson elsewhere described Reyneval as "rather cunning than wise," and having "much duplicity" (TJ to James Madison, 30 January 1787). Astonished by the quality and range of wines available from France's vineyards, Jefferson quickly began to build up an extensive, carefully chosen cellar befitting a knowledgeable oenophile. His principal agent was the American commercial agent John Bondfield, in Bordeaux, who assisted by receiving, storing and forwarding Jefferson's very numerous orders for himself and, later, for his friends. It was Jefferson's usual procedure, especially after meeting and visiting many of the foremost vineyards, to place his orders directly with the proprietors, rather with commercial wine merchants, to ensure that he obtained only pure, unadulterated vintages.
Here, he informs Vergennes' secretary that "Mr. Jefferson, expecting twenty four dozen of wine now on its way from Bordeaux and a cask, supposed to contain about  bottles of Madiera wine, which has been brought for him from New York to l'Orient, and is now on its way from l'Orient to Paris, he has the honor of asking from Monsieur de Rayneval a passport or passports to authorize his receiving it free of duty as he understands to be the practice with other foreign ministers, and as has been done with the Minister of France in America."
The letter shows that at this date, Jefferson had clearly not lost his taste for the rather heavy, sweet wines like Madeira, though he had begun to appreciate the fresher, more sophisticated French wines. On 24 June, Bondfield had reported to Jefferson: "I have forwarded  doz. claret and  doz, Vin de grave in  cases of three doz. Bottles each which I hope will get safe to your hand" (Papers, 10:67). By August 1784, Jefferson could reply to Bondfield that the wines had arrived. The Bordeaux, he commented, was excellent, but the Graves was disappointingly "a little hard." But on the same day, Jefferson placed additional orders, requesting that Lefevre de Roussac send him 6 dozen bottles of Malvoisie de Madere and asking Stephen Cathalan to furnish 6 dozen bottles of Frontignac (one of his favorite Bordeaux wines).
It was customary for host nations to waive the usual duties for ministers and members of the diplomatic corps, as noted by Jefferson, who was always careful to arrange the necessary passports for his wine purchases.