History of Wine in the 18th Century: How it Changed

The period of 1700 t0 1799 was one of enlightenment. Technology advanced  and political ideals were popular. Wine in the 18th century reflected societal changes. Important for wine were both technological and social revolutions.

  This is Part of a Series

          1. Beginnings of Wine
          2. Wine in Early Christianity
          3. Renaissance Wine Developments
          4. Wine in the 18th Century
          5. 19th Century Wine Developments
          6. Wine in the 20th Century

By the 18th Century

• By the eighteenth century, Constantina wine from South Africa had become popular among European royalty.2
• Vintners in the Paris area stressed volume over quality. Therefore, by the 18th century their reputation was poor quality.3

History of Wine in the 18th Century

Entries are by date.

By this time, popularity of sparkling Champagne was very high. So dealers sold it for twice the price of the best still wine from the region.4  

• Portugal created the oldest appellation system in the world. It’s that of the Douro Valley.5
• The Methuen treaty reduced British tariffs on Portuguese wine. This gave them better treatment over French wine imports.

Cir. 1717
The Spanish planted the first large-scale vineyards in northern Mexico. To secure their monopoly over wine, they imposed many restrictions against other vineyard plantings.7

As the demand for both inferior and good wines increased, the profits of French vintners grew.8

Cir. 1720
Increasing rural prosperity in France enabled peasants for the first time to drink wine daily in viticultural areas.9

A description of winemaking in Burgundy explained one way they reduced labor costs. It was by “putting little Children into the Tubs to tread the Grapes to Pieces, who by running about in these large Tubs, as the Grapes are throwing in, tread them under their Feet, which more effectually bruises and heats them, than ’tis possible to do by beating with Sticks or Battoons.”10

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John Clarke invented the hydrometer in London. Among its uses was measuring the the alcohol content of wine and other alcoholic beverages.11
• Tokaji vineyard classification began. There were three categories depending on soil, exposure to sun, and potential to develop ‘noble rot’(botrytis cinerea).

The English navy granted sailors a choice. Their daily alcoholic beverage ration could be in the form of a pint of wine or a half-pint of rum. Or they could have the traditional gallon of beer.12

wine in the 18th century1733
Colonists cultivated the first grapes in Georgia.13

The production of wine in South Carolina began as early as 1748.14

• Spain established the first cork production facility.15
• Wine provided the third largest source of calories for students in most French boarding schools.16

Jesuit priests produced alter wine in Louisiana as early as 1750.17

Portugal declared that the Douro region was the only place that could produce wine sold as “Port”. Thus, it is one of the world’s oldest established appellations.18

• A market for aged wines emerged by the early 1760s. A London publisher was selling a cellar-record book for listing wine purchases and consumption.19
• The Royal Society of the Arts in London recognized two wineries in New Jersey. It said they produced the first quality wine from colonial agriculture.20

Wine cultivation came into California from Mexico and wine making became the state’s oldest industry.21

First late harvest “noble rot” wine recorded in Australia.22wine in the 18th century

• Vintners first used corks as a common closure of wine bottles. This made it possible to age wine in bottles.23
• Priests at San Juan Capistrano made the first wine in California..24

The first convicts took vinefera or European grape vines to the Australian New South Wales colony.25

wine in the 18th century
  • 1789
    • The chemist Lavoisier showed that fermented sugar produces CO2 and ethanol.27
    • After the French Revolution, the goernment confiscated vineyards owned by the Church and nobles. It subdivided them into small plots and distributed to many owners. French law rejected primogeniture. Instead, it divided property equally among heirs. This further subdivided vineyard property into ever smaller parcels. In Burgundy the resulting inefficiencies caused the rise of. wine brokers (negociants). They buy wine from the many owners of small plots, blend it, and then sell it under their own names.26 The Revolution had a major impact on French wine in the 18th century.
    • Portugal prohibited vineyards in Brazil to protect its own wine industry.28

Late 18th Century

Winemaking began in Australia (New South Wales) in the late part of the century.1


We’ve seen some of the developments of wine in the 18th century. Now we turn to wine in the 19th century.

Wine in the 18th Century


Fun with Wine!

1. Lukacs, P. Inventing Wine, p. 162.

2. Robinson, J. The Oxford Companion to Wine.

3. Gray, W. Fun facts from wine history. SF Chronicle, Oct 21, 2014.

4. Seward, D. Monks and Wine, p. 142.

5. Wines of Portugal.

6. History Today.

7  Rey, G. Mexico. In: Heath, D., (ed.) Handbook on Alcohol and Culture. Pp.179-189. P. 180.

8  Rey, ibid.

9. Austin, G. Alcohol in Western Society from Antiquity to 1800, p. 310.

10. Gray, ibid.

11. Murphy, B. The World Book of Whiskey, p. 172.

12. Sutherland, D. Raise Your Glasses, p. 16.

13. Stevenson, T. The Sotheby’s Wine Book, p. 527.

14. Stevenson, p. 529.

15.  Wine History.

16. Frijhoff, W., and Julia, D. The Diet of Boarding Schools at the End of the Ancien Regime. In: Forster, R. and Ranum, O, (ed.). Food and Drink in History. Pp. 73-85. P. 79.

17. Stevenson, p. 528.

18. Robinson, pp. 536’“540.

19. Lukacs, p. 110.

20. Stevenson, p. 520.

21. Ford, G. Wines, Brews, & Spirits, p. 17.

22. History of Wine.

23. Ford, ibid.

24. Stevenson, p. 469.

25. Gately, I. Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol, p. 331.

26. Taber, G. Judgment of Paris, pp. 26-27.

27.  Wine History.

28.  Wines of Brazil.

29.  Wine History.

    • Now you know much more about wine in the 18th century than wine snobs!