78 Years Later – United States Wine Shines in the World
During the history of wine the grape phylloxera (Daktulosphaira vitifoliae) was not the only obstacle the wine industry had to overcome. On the opposite side of the Atlantic the “Dry Law” demolished a nascent American wine activity with crushing vigor. The prohibition of the United States had a terrible effect in the North American wine industry. The constitutional amendment lasted from 1920 to 1933. This article, recommended by Juan Luis Colaiacovo, gives a detailed account of the early reaction post prohibition. This reaction was at the root of the actual robustness of the American wine activity. The reader must be aware of the lack of ethnic sensitivity of 1934 reflected in the article.
Read here the first paragraphs of this article from the archives of the Fortune Magazine. Read the remainder of the historical article in the site of FORTUNE.
Can wine become an American habit? (Fortune, 1934)
Editor’s note: Every Sunday, Fortune publishes a favorite story from our magazine archives. This week, we turn to a feature from 1934 on the U.S. wine industry (original headline: “The Wines of the U.S.”). Prohibition, which lasted for just under 14 years before it was repealed on December 5, 1933, decimated the U.S. commercial wine industry. After the repeal, American winemakers and merchants had to play a serious game of catch up, both in their quest to make decent wines and in converting U.S. drinkers. Today, California is one of the finest wine regions in the world. And in 2010, the U.S. surpassed France and became the world’s largest wine consumer — by total volume, not per capita — a far cry from the situation in 1934. One additional note: The writing below is a product of its time. It does not reflect the cultural sensitivity that we at Fortune observe today.
Can wine become a national habit? Several people, not altogether disinterestedly, have set out to make it one. But even in the world’s greatest grape-growing country, there are many obstacles.
FORTUNE — Fine sleet beat a painful tattoo against the windows of the Manhattan apartment in which Mr. Paul Garrett sat nursing a fever and talking about utopia. A utopia of vineyards stretching southward to the Gulf and northward to the Lakes and across the debt-ridden farm belt down to where California pokes a long fingernail into the tropics. Outside, the holiday traffic rumbled through East Seventy-ninth Street, making jagged discords in the shrill music of the sleet upon the windowpanes; inside the only sounds were Mr. Garrett’s hoarse voice and the soft burr of a sliver of jewel scraping against the wax cylinder that was Mr. Carrett’s only audience.
There was good reason why Mr. Garrett could talk about a vineyardist’s utopia. Everybody called Mr. Garrett the Dean of American Wine Growers, although sometimes Mr. Garrett didn’t like to be reminded of that. If he had not so persistently kept his mind upon utopia, Mr. Garrett might perhaps have become bitter … The cylinder began to whir beneath the sharp sapphire and Mr. Garrett resumed his monologue into the mouthpiece.
“In France the average per-capita consumption of wine is thirty-seven gallons a year. The population of France is less than one-third that of the U.S. About 7,000,000 people are employed in France in the growing of wine grapes, wine making, and in the transport and sale of wine. If we apply these figures to this country we have 130,000,000 people each consuming thirty-seven gallons of wine a year, which makes 4,810,000,000 gallons of wine. At the same rate of man-hours per gallon the production and distribution of 4,810,000,000 gallons of wine would give employment to 21,000,000 people. The development of a wine industry in this country comparable to that in France would wipe out unemployment and provide a shortage of labor able to absorb further technological unemployment for a generation to come.”
Follow the rest of the 1934 article in the site of FORTUNE