The Makers of American Wine: A Record of Two Hundred Years

By Thomas Pinney | Go to book overview

but from artificial impediments, of which the fourteen years of Prohibition and their complex aftermath are the most important.

I had hoped to include a chapter in this book about some of the leaders of the Prohibition movement, since they certainly made a big difference to the history of wine in this country; but it was felt that their presence would be seen as incongruous. Perhaps so; in any case, Bishop Cannon, Wayne Wheeler, and Pussyfoot Johnson have been left out of the story.

The recovery from the disruptions of Prohibition was slow and was complicated first by the Great Depression and then by the Second World War. From the 1960s on, however, wine growing in America has expanded remarkably and has generated an interest among the American people such as it never had before. By all measures, American wine is flourishing: there are now more acres of vines planted, more wineries in more states, and more wine produced than the most optimistic booster could have imagined possible in the generation following the repeal of Prohibition.2

In this book I have attempted a version of this story through the lives of some of its key figures. From the many, many possible candidates for inclusion, I have aimed to select those whose lives illustrate the various things that needed to be done as the story unfolded; the problems were of more than one sort, and they demanded more than one sort of solution. At one time, it was a matter of learning to use the native vine; at another, the great object was to persuade the American public that an American wine could be any good; at yet another, the question was how to organize the trade in order to survive hard times. And so it went.

In beginning with John James Dufour at the end of the eighteenth century, I neglect the many who had tried wine growing in the two centuries preceding. The only reason for my skipping so much history is that it is largely undocumented. We know many names—Louis de St. Pierre, William Stephens, Robert Bolling, Edward Antill—but do not have enough detail to fill out a history. But the reader should keep in mind the fact of the many early trials in which individuals persisted throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries despite uniform failure.

Since this is an American story, one of the things that appears at once is the variety of origins and callings that figures in it: among my exemplary instances are a Swiss vinedresser, an Ohio lawyer, a German musician, an Italian banker, a Russian viticulturist, and an English businessman. I hope that by telling their stories, and those of my other subjects, I can suggest something of the richness of America’s wine history.

-xviii-

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