The history of wine consumption in America has been frought with starts,The Curious History Of Wine Consumption In America Articles stops, and inconsistencies. The American population has always had a love-hate relationship with alcohol. Historic prohibitionist attitudes amongst much of the American population have blurred the line between moderate wine consumption and detrimental alcoholism. As a result, regular, moderate consumption of wine by the American public continues to face ideological and legal impediments.
The History of Wine Consumption During the Colonial Years
Since its origins, the history of wine consumption in America has been both encouraged and despised by different demographic groups. Spanish missionaries produced the earliest New World wine during the early 17th Century. Shortly thereafter, French immigrants began to cultivate grapes in the Hudson River Valley. They made wine, juice, and preserves.
The early history of wine consumption in America was dominated by immigrants whom were primarily Catholic, and of Central or Southern European descent. The bulk of wine-drinking immigrants came from the wine loving nations of France, Italy, Germany, and Spain. They descended from cultural traditions that valued social wine consumption with the evening meal.
The aforementioned wine drinkers were counterbalanced by immigrants from Northern Europe. Many held Puritan belief systems that discouraged or banned alcohol consumption of any kind. The nativist movements of the early 18th Century cast suspician on immigrant groups that retained Old World customs and did not entirely assimilate into American society.
Wine consumption was a lightning rod for these discriminatory points of view. Although not accurate, alcoholism was seen as a problem only associated with certain ethnic groups that enjoyed wine. Whiskey and beer was the actual source of vast majority of problematic inebriation. Nonetheless, early prohibitionist forces were very effective at linking wine to the ills of American society.
History of Wine Consumption During the 19th Century
In the 1830s, Americans consumed massive amounts of whiskey and beer. Alcoholism was extremely widespread and was affecting the stability of the American family. Husbands spent time in the saloons instead of with their families, and rampant drunkedness increased instances of philandering and crime.
Ironically, as Prohibitionist fervor gained national momentum in the nineteenth century, the American wine industry boomed. From 1860-1880, Phylloxera devastated the vineyards of France. California wine production greatly increased to fill the international void. Huge tracts of vineyards were planted in Southern California to satisfy the wine import license international demand for wine. However, most of this production was exported and it did not have a major impact on the history of wine consumption in America.
By the mid-1880s, European wine production rebounded, causing a glut of American wine. To make matters worse, Pierce’s Disease and Phylloxera simultaneously struck Southern California’s vineyards. Rising population and real estate values in the Los Angeles Basin was the last nail in the coffin of extensive viticulture in the region. With Prohibitionist attitudes constantly gaining momentum, American demand for wine was insufficient to make up for the loss of the much larger European market.
History of Wine During the Prohibition Years
In response to the massive outcry of many Americans against alcohol consumption, Congress passed the 18th Amendment in 1917. It banned the commercial production and sale of alcohol in America. The Volstead Act was ratified in 1920 and expounded on the actual implementation of Prohibition. It also mandated several loopholes in alcohol production and consumption. Physicians could prescribe alcohol and it could be consumed for religious purposes. Additionally, a head of household was legally allowed to produce 200 gallons of wine a year for personal use. This was largely a concession to the significant Italian-American electorate.