A History of Wine in America: From Prohibition to the Present

A History of Wine in America: From Prohibition to the Present

A History of Wine in America: From Prohibition to the Present

A History of Wine in America: From Prohibition to the Present


A History of Wine in America is the definitive account of winemaking in the United States, first as it was carried out under Prohibition, and then as it developed and spread to all fifty states after the repeal of Prohibition. Engagingly written, exhaustively researched, and rich in detail, this book describes how Prohibition devastated the wine industry, the conditions of renewal after Repeal, the various New Deal measures that affected wine, and the early markets and methods. Thomas Pinney goes on to examine the effects of World War II and how the troubled postwar years led to the great wine boom of the late 1960s, the spread of winegrowing to almost every state, and its continued expansion to the present day.

The history of wine in America is, in many ways, the history of America and of American enterprise in microcosm. Pinney's sweeping narrative comprises a lively cast of characters that includes politicians, bootleggers, entrepreneurs, growers, scientists, and visionaries. Pinney relates the development of winemaking in states such as New York and Ohio; its extension to Pennsylvania, Virginia, Texas, and other states; and its notable successes in California, Washington, and Oregon. He is the first to tell the complete and connected story of the rebirth of the wine industry in California, now one of the most successful winemaking regions in the world.


On 16 January 1919 the senators of the Nebraska state legislature, by a vote of thirty-one to one, ratified the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, prohibiting the sale of alcoholic drink throughout the nation. With the Nebraska vote, the amendment received the required support of a two-thirds majority of the states for it to pass into law. Now it would become effective a year from the day of the clinching vote— that is, at midnight on 16 January 1920—and it seemed clear that at that time, the drinking of wine (to say nothing of beer and whiskey) must come to an end for the people of the United States. The language of the amendment was curt and uncompromising:

The manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation
thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to
the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.

To convert this sweeping command into practical administration, the U.S. Congress passed the National Prohibition Act on 28 October 1919, over the veto of President Wilson. This piece of legislation was thereafter always called the Volstead Act, in reference to its ostensible author, Andrew Volstead, a veteran Republican congressman from Minnesota. Volstead’s congressional career was devoted mostly to defending the interests of the farmers of the upper Midwest, but as a teetotaler and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, he took on the task of drafting the bill that was to enforce Prohibition. Although . . .

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