Wine in the 19th Century: Advances were Being Made

Industrialization grew quickly during the century but had little direct impact on wine. It was nature that had the big impact through the spread of Phylloxera. That’s an insect that kills grape vines. Most of Europe’s vineyards were destroyed or badly damaged. The future of wine in the 19th century looked bleak. Then an obscure scientist in Texas saved the vines through his idea. Vineyards and wine would survive the disaster.

    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

There were also changes in winemaking. Early in the century chemist Jean-Autoine Chaptal suggested adding sugar to the crushed grapes. That was to increase the alcohol content of the wine. This process, which is legal in France, is called Chaptalization. But that’s just one of many parts in the story of wine in the 19th century.

Wine in the 19th Century

Items listed by date.

The Portuguese royal family moved to Brazil and repealed the prohibition against viniculture. Wine consumption became incorporated into meals, social gatherings and numerous other activities in the country.1

A French Huguenot planted grape vines in the Hudson Valley of New York State. This planting became the nucleus for what later became the Brotherhood Winery. It is the oldest winery that has been in continuous operation in the U.S.2

• Canada’s first vineyard was planted. It was located near Toronto, Ontario.3
• The first grape vines were planted in Hawaii.4

• Wine pioneer Agoston Haraszthy built the Buena Vista winery in California. It grew to 6,000 acres (2,430 hectares). It produced award-winning wines and had offices in San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York and London.7
• The first commercial winery in New Zealand was formed.5
• It was proven that each mole of glucose produces two moles each of CO2 and ethanol.6

• “Sparkling Catawba, of the pure, unadulterated juice of the Catawba grape, transcends the Champagne of France” reported the Illustrated London News.8
• The presence of bacteria in wine was first described by Louis Pasteur.9

wine in the 19th century
Ashante women

The Ashante people live in what is now Ghana. They produced large quantities of palm wine before European settlers arrived.10

• By the 1820s, the Australian state of New South Wales was producing prize-winning wines. In 1822 one won a silver medal and in 1828 another won a gold medal at the Royal Society of Art in London.11
• Grape vines were planted in the Australian state of Tasmania early in the 1820s.12

The method of measuring alcohol by suppressing the boiling point was invented.13

Sparkling wine production began in Slovakia. It continues there today.14

wine in the 19th century
Nicholas Longworth

Nicholas Longworth planted Catawba vines in his vineyard near Cincinnati, Ohio. Three years later he produced his first Catawba wine. He retired from the practice of law to devote his time to viticulture and wine making. He became very successful.15
• The first hybridization in viticulture was reported.16
• A critic wrote that “the wretched Lisbon wines acquire what little taste they have from oak chips.”17

Cir. 1825
The first grape vines were planted in what is now the state of Washington. It was by a trapper at Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River.18

•Wines were first produced in Missouri.19
•Vineyards were first planted along the Ohio River in what is now West Virginia.20
• The first vineyards in Alabama were planted. The state developed a flourishing wine industry before prohibition destroyed it.21

Cir. 1830
Grape vines were first planted in Western Australia.22

• The French revolution of 1830 caused a reduction in the demand for wine and a drop in its price.23
• The average annual consumption of wine per person in the U.S. aged 15 or older was 1/2 gallon (1.9 liters).24

wine in the 19th century
Jean-Luis Vignes

• The first commercial winery in California was established by Jean-Louis Vignes. He was also the first to import European vines and the first to export California wines.25
• After England passed the Slavery Abolition Act, South African vineyards experienced economic problems.26

The Brotherhood Winery in New York State began commercial production. It would. As shown above, it become the oldest winery in continuous operation in the U.S.27

Near present-day Yountville in Napa County, California, trapper Gorge Yount planted a few Mission grape vines. They were near his log cabin to make wine for his own use.28

wine in the 19th century
Catawba grapes

• The first commercial wine successfully produced in the U.S. was made of Catawba grapes by Nicholas Longworth near Cincinnati, Ohio.29
• Wine pioneer Agostin Haraszthy planted a vineyard in Wisconsin before he moved to California, He later planted more vineyards there.30
• Wines were produced in New Zealand beginning in the 1840s.31

North Carolina was the largest producer of wine in the U.S.32

Brigham Young ordered vineyards to be planted and a winery to be built in Utah.33

•  Over 600 acres (9,240 hectares) of vineyards on the banks of the MS supplied at least 40 wineries in Nauvoo, Illinois.34
• The use of sulfur to control powdery mildew was first described.35

• The first winery in Israel in modern times was established.36
• The first truly dry or brut Champagne wasn’t produced until an English merchant ordered some without sugar added. The curiosity proved to be popular with customers.37

• Wines were commercially produced in Tennessee from terraced vineyards.38
• “Cane pruning” of vines was first described.39

Chileans imported and planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Merlot, Semillion and Cot vines.40

wine in the 19th century

The 1855 Classification of Bordeaux wines was created at the command of Napoleon. The Chamber of Commerce developed the classification. It had wine dealers compile a list of the best producers of wine. They did so based solely on the prices of the wines. Were prices an accurate indicator of wine quality? Probably not. Today we know that “Blind tastings and academic studies robustly show that neither amateur consumers nor expert judges can consistently differentiate between fine wines and cheap wines….”42

The area around Cincinnati, Ohio, had about 2,000 acres (about 800 hectares) of vineyards. It produced 568,000 gallons (2,150,000 liters) of wine. This made Ohio the major wine producing state in the U.S.43

• Sulfur dust was widely used to effective control fungal diseases.44
• The first winery in the state of Washington was built near Walla Walla.45
• Grape vines were planted in the Australian state of Queensland.46

• A patent for a corkscrew (US patent number 27,615) was granted to M.L. Byrn of New York, NY.47
• The center of wine production in the New World was in Ohio. One-third of all the vines in the U.S. were in that state. It had twice the vineyard acreage of California.48
• California produced 246,518 gallons of wine.49

• South African wines flourished in the nineteenth century. It was then a British colony. But after Britain lowered tariffs on French wine, South African wines lost their competitive advantage. Sales dropped and viticulture declined.50
• The Single Bottle Act of 1861 in Britain permitted retailers who paid a relatively low license fee to sell wine for drinking off-site or “off premises.”51
• Burgundy created its wine classification system.52

wine in the 19th centuryPhylloxera vastatrix is a grape vine parasite.  Vines native to the US are resistant to it. It was accidentally brought to England. Two years later it spread to France. It quickly  migrated all over Europe and elsewhere. In the 1870s it destroyed 70% of French vineyards and still spread. It threatened to destroy the entire European wine industry. It was the biggest threat to wine in the 19th century. A scientist in Texas suggested grafting European vines on American rootstock. It worked. This finally saved the wine industry. But the French resisted using the proven solution. And they did so for 16 years.53

wine in the 19th century
Louis Pasteur

• The reduction in wine acidity dung the later stages of wine making was recognized.54 It is now known as malolactic fermentation.
Louis Pasteur showed that yeast are living cells. And that they cause wine fermentation.55

• Louis Pasteur showed the importance of wine phenolics.56
• Illinois was producing 225,000 gallons (852,000 liters) of wine a year. That was almost as much as the state of New York produced.57

• A vineyard of 100 acres (40 hectares) was planted in Iowa. It later produced about 30,000 gallons (113,500 liters) of wine per year. Disease and Prohibition destroyed it.58
• The first vinefera vines in the state of Washington were planted at Yakima.59

Wine production became well established in Cape Verde.60

Cir. 1870
Grapes were first used to make wine in Japan.61

wine in the 19th c entury
Thomas V. Munson

Charles V. Riley was the first state entomologist for Missouri. He identified Phylloxera as the pest destroying vineyards in Europe.62  
Thomas V. Munson of Texas made a very important suggested to French officials. It was that they graft vinefera vines onto the rootstock of vines native to the U.S. He thought this might save their grape industry. The procedure was finally accepted and was highly successful. France awarded Munson the Chevalier du Merite Agricule. That the highest award that could be given to a foreign civilian. In 1888, he was inducted into the Legion of Honor. To commemorate the award, a Centennial Celebration was held in Cognac and Denison 100 years later.63
• The Uruguayan wine industry began when the Tannat grape vine was brought into the country.64

The first wine was exported from Brazil.65

The young Australian wine industry had clearly achieve considerable success. “At the 1873 Vienna Exhibition the French judges, tasting blind, praised some wines from Victoria, but withdrew in protest when the provenance of the wine was revealed, on the grounds that wines of that quality must clearly be French.”66

Malligard developed his “ebullioscope.” It was modified in 1881 by Salleron to measure alcohol. The Salleron ebulliometer enabled accurate measurement of alcohol for the first time.67

wine in the 19th century1878
• Downey mildew (as distinct from powdery mildew) appeared in France. It began devastating vineyards by killing green parts of the vines.68
• Australia continued to produce wines of very high quality. A Shiraz (also known as Syrah) competed in the 1878 Paris Exhibition. It was likened to Chateau Margaux and “its taste completed its trinity of perfection.”69

Absinthe became very popular in France. That’s when failing grape crops caused absinthe to becoming less expensive than wine.70
• After diseases devastated Peruvian vineyards, production moved south to Chile.71
• During the middle of the decade, “black rot” appeared in French vineyards. It attacks the leaves, shoots and individual grapes.72

• The first national vineyard census was taken in the US.73
• The University of California at Berkeley formed the Department of Viticulture and Enology. Later, in 1906, it was moved to the University of California at Davis74.
• Georgia was the sixth largest producer of wine in the U.S.75

The International Phylloxera Congress was held in Bordeaux. It officially endorsed the practice of grafting European grape varieties onto American native grape rootstocks.76

wine in the 19th century
Muller-Thrugau grapes

• The Muller-Thrugau grape was hybridized from varieties having qualities desirable in wine.77
• Australian wines continued to win high honors in French competitions. One Australian wine won a gold medal “first class.” That was at the 1882 Bordeaux International Exhibition.77

The first winery in Chile was formed.79

California produced 1,250,000 gallons of wine. An infestation of Phylloxera soon caused a great reduction in production.80

Argentina began producing large quantities of quality wines. This was possible with the opening of a railroad linking the city of Mendoza to Buenos Aires.81

Louis Pasteur isolated a pure culture from a single yeast cell.82

• An Australian wine won a gold medal “against the world.”83
• A Peruvian wine won the “Grand Prix” in Paris.84

The first vineyard in Nebraska was planted.85

• The practice of inoculating pure strains for wine fermentation began.86
• Zinfandel was the most popular wine in the U.S.87

• The fact that bacteria rather than yeast caused acid reduction in wine was discovered.88
• Napa Valley in California had about 18,000 acres (7,300 hectares) of vineyards. But Phylloxera later reduced that to only about 3,000 acres (1,200 hectares).89
• To counter the effects of temperance groups, the Wine and Spirits Association was formed.90

Edward Fairchild began commercial production of Concord and Delaware wine near Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. When the state became dry (imposed alcohol prohibition) in 1907, it destroyed his winery.91

The California Wine Association was formed by seven of the largest wine companies. It grew to produce about 80% of the state’s wine.92

The American consul in Le Havre reported to Washington that a great deal of what was being shipped to the U.S. as French wine was fraudulent.93 Much of it was probably produced from grapes grown in the African cony of Algeria. It was possibly even made into wine there before being passed off as French wine. Fraud was a part of wine in the 19the century.

It was discovered that yeast extracts that did not contain living cells still underwent fermentation. This “fermentation enzyme” was named “zymase.”94


We’ve seen the major problem faced by wine in the 19th century. It was  Phylloxera.  Thomas V. Munson of Texas had a solution. It was grafting European vines onto American rootstock. Sixteen years passed before it was accepted. But it’s now standard practice around the world.

A cure has never been found. The aphid has evolved and more resistant rootstock has been developed. But the struggle continues. Not only against Phylloxera but against emerging insects and diseases. That was the major part of the story of wine in the 19th century. And it continues today.

We’ve seen highlights of wine in the 19th century. We now turn to what happened to wine in the 20th century and beyond.



1. Wines of Brasil.

2.  Brotherhood Winery

3. Wine Industry.

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

5. Esteicher, S. Wine from Neolithic Times to the 21st Century, p. 120.

6.  Wine History.

7. Stevenson, pp. 471-472.

8. ______, p. 521.

9. Wine History.

10. Samuelson, J. The History of Drink, 1878, p. 5.

11. Gately, I. Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol, p. 212.

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

13. Wine History.

14. Stevenson, p. 423.

15. ______, p. 521.

16.  Wine History.

17.  Ibid.

18. Stevenson, p. 507.

19. _____, p. 528.

20. ______, p. 522.

21. ______, p. 527.

22, Lukacs, pp. 162-163.

23. Loubere, L. The Red and the White.

24. Rorabaugh, W. The Alcoholic Republic, Append. 1. Asbury, H. The Great Illusion. Clark, N. Deliver Us From Evil, p. 20. Rose, K. American Women and the Repeal of Prohibition, p. 1.

25. Stevenson, p. 487.

26. Lukacs, p. 159.

27. Brotherhood Winery.

28. Stevenson, ibid.

29. Lukacs, p. 181.

30. Stevenson, p. 530.

31. Lukacs, p. 163.

32. Stevenson, p. 528.

33. ______, p. 529.

34. ______, p. 527.

35.Wine History.

36. Domine, A,, et al. Wein.

37. Lukacs, p.156.

38. Stevenson, p. 529.

39. Wine History.

40. Rytknen, P. Fruits of capitalism. Lund Stud Econ Hist., 31. p. 56-57.

41. Charters, S. Wine and Society, p. 285.

42. Mayyasi, A. The Price of Wine. Priceonomics, March 29, 2013.

43. Barber, N., et al. A History of the American Wine Industry. Texas Wine Marketing Research Institute, 2007, p. 27.

44. Wine History.

45. Stevenson, p. 507.

46. Lukacs, p. 163.

47. Bellis, M. Popping the Cork.

48. Stevenson, p. 521.

49 .Barber, p. 34.

50. Taber, G. Judgment of Paris, p. 255.

51. Simpson, J. Selling to reluctant drinkers: the British wine market. Econ Hist Rev., 57(1), 80-108.

52. Taber, pp. 24-25.

53. ______, p. 23. There’s Still No Cure For Grape  Phylloxera.

54. Wine History.

55. Ibid.

56. Ibid.

57. Stevenson, p. 527.

58. ______, ibid.

59. ______, p. 507.

60. Nugent, P. Cape Verde Wine.

61. The History of Wine in Japan.

62. Barber, p. 39.

63. Overfelt, R., Munson, Thomas Volney. Handbook of Texas. English, S. The Wines of Texas. Giordano, Jr., F. Texas Wines and Wineries.

64. Lorch, W. Uruguay. Robinson, J., (ed.) Uruguay. Oxford Companion to Wine, p.  723.

65. Wines of Brasil.

66. Phillips, R. A Short History of Wine, p.  265.

67. Wine History.

68. Lukacs, p. 171.

69. Phillips, ibid..

70. Baker, P. The Dedalus Book of Absinthe, p. 8.

71. Lukacs, p. 160.

72. Lukacs, p. 171.

73. Stevenson, p. 519.

74. ______, p. 471. ibid

75. ______, p. 527.

76.  Wine History.

77.  The Global Wine Industry.

78. Phillips, ibid.

79. The Global Wine Industry.

80. Barber, p. 30-31.

81. Lukacs, p. 161.

82.  Wine History.

83. Phillips, ibid.

84. Chilean Wine History.

85. Stevenson, p. 528.

86. Wine History.

87. The History of Wine.

88. Wine History.

89. A History of the Napa Viticultural District.

90. Regan, G. and Regan, M. The Book of Bourbon, ch. 1.

91. Stevenson, p. 529.

92. Lukacs, p. 183.

93. Lukacs, pp. 176-177.

94. Wine History.

    • Now you more about wine in the 19th century than most wine snobs!