From Demon to Darling: A Legal History of Wine in America

From Demon to Darling: A Legal History of Wine in America

From Demon to Darling: A Legal History of Wine in America

From Demon to Darling: A Legal History of Wine in America

Synopsis

Richard Mendelson brings together his expertise as both a Napa Valley lawyer and a winemaker into this accessible overview of American wine law from colonial times to the present. It is a story of fits and starts that provides a fascinating chronicle of the history of wine in the United States told through the lens of the law. From the country's early support for wine as a beverage to the moral and religious fervor that resulted in Prohibition and to the governmental controls that followed Repeal, Mendelson takes us to the present day--and to the emergence of an authentic and significant wine culture. He explains how current laws shape the wine industry in such areas as pricing and taxation, licensing, appellations, health claims and warnings, labeling, and domestic and international commerce. As he explores these and other legal and policy issues, Mendelson lucidly highlights the concerns that have made wine alternatively the demon or the darling of American society--and at the same time illuminates the ways in which lives and livelihoods are affected by the rise and fall of social movements.

Excerpt

Two weeks after I arrived at Oxford in September 1975, I rambled down a corner staircase in the main quadrangle of Magdalen College to a nondescript door marked “Wine Steward.” Little did I know that it was the entrance to the college’s massive underground cellars and my future career. Over the next two years those cellars served as my introduction to the world of wine and led me to France and then America in pursuit of fine wines and their accompaniments—food, art, history, and culture. Law would come later.

As a native Floridian, I had never drunk or heard about any of the wines on the college’s wine list, and I could hardly pronounce their names— Chambertin, Pouilly-Fuissé, Graacher Himmelreich, and the like. Magdalen offers its wines to students at cost plus a small markup. Access to the cellar’s stock depends on the length of your gown; undergraduates have the most limited access and dons the most extensive. I was a graduate student with a thigh-high gown, so the steward handed me the fifteen-page wine list, full of offerings from around the world, including old vintages, and all at reasonable prices. I committed to drinking my way through that list during my two-year stay.

Before Oxford, the only wines I had drunk were jug wines swilled at college parties and Manishewitz drunk with the family at Passover. Mostly my friends and I drank beer and punch laced with grain alcohol. The Old World changed all of that.

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