Wine in the 20th century underwent many changes. Therefore, the century is divided into three sections.
This is Part of a Series
Wine in the 20th Century
I. Wine: 1900 to 1940s
Early 20th Century
The most popular wine in the U.S. in volume purchased was Virginia Dare. It was produced in North Carolina. Both the whites and reds were blends containing Scuppernong. They were sweet and commonly used as dessert wines.1
• Robert Koch showed that bacteria isolated from one wine could induce a reduction of acidity when inoculated into another wine.2
• An entry from Israel’s Carmel Winery won the Gold Medal at the Paris Exhibition. It had been established just ten years earlier.3
The equation for converting of malic acid to lactic acid was published.4
The first completely automatic machine for making bottles was built. A later model could make over 50,000 bottles per day.5
The Phylloxera invasion had devastated European vineyards. This cut wine production greatly. To help supply the demand, the Ottoman Empire exported 89.8 million gallons (340 million liters) of wine in 1904.6
There were nearly 415,000 acres (167,700 hectares) of vineyards in Algeria. This compared to only about 26,000 (10,500 hectares) in 1865. Much of it was sent to France. It was then passed off as French wine. It was sometimes sold as classified chateaux!7
An estimated half million farmers converged in Montpellier, France. They protested against imported wine. Five people were killed during the riots. The riots called for reducing competition.8
• The Champagne Riots began in 1910 and 1911. But rioting and violence continued until the beginning of WW I. The cause was conflict over boundaries. They defined the area from which sparkling wine could be sold as Champagne. A vineyard one side of the boundary could get many times more money. That’s compared to the other side. The vines could be only a few yards apart.9
• There were 11,200 acres (45,000 hectares) of vineyards in Mendoza region of Argentina. There were only 2,500 acres (1,000 hectares) in 1830. About 80% of all vineyards in Argentina were planted in vinefera vines. They were mainly Malbec.10
Studies suggested that the key to consistency in vine productivity and fruit quality is the proper ratio of fruit weight to wood.11
Brazilian vineyard owners formed a cooperative. But boycotts by those with whom the cooperative needed to negotiate led to its demise.12
• French vineyard owners began to blame the popularity of absinthe for low prices for their grapes. So an anti-absinthe movement formed. Temperance groups joined the cause. In 1914, France surrendered to pressure, primarily from from vineyard owners. It banned the sale of absinthe.14
• John Deininger of Germany patented a vertical screw press. It was “for use with fruit and wet linen.”13
• French troops were given daily wine ration in WW I to improve their morale. Perhaps also to make them more willing to fight.15
• In Bulgaria, winemaking prospered after the end of Turkish rule.16
• A South African cooperative was formed. It set policies and prices for the entire wine industry in South Africa.17
California vinyards increased in acreage about 700 percent. That was during the first five years of National Prohibition in the U.S. This was to meet the booming demand for grapes for home-made wine.18
The Pinotage grape was developed in South Africa. It was by crossing Pinot Noir and Cincault.19
Dr. Raymond Pearl discovered that moderate drinkers tended to live longer. That’s compared to both abstainers and heavy drinkers. His published his findings in his book, Alcohol and Longevity. It received little attention. That’s because it was during National Prohibition.20 Yet subsequent research has confirmed his early findings. To learn more, visit Alcohol and Lengthens Life.
The French government re-drew the boundaries of Champagne to restrict the supply of Champagne. That was to keep prices high. Read about the Champagne Riots described for the year 1910.21
• The first use of pectolyitc enzymes for improved juice clarification occured.22
• Cold stabilization to precipitate tartrate was first used.23
• The first modern day vineyards in Kazakhstan were planted.24
• The Federal Alcohol Administration Act was passed. This enabled the U.S. federal government to regulate alcoholic beverages.28
• The State Board of Equalization v. Young’s Market Co. reached the U.S. Supreme Court. It interpreted the Twenty-First Amendment. That’s the one that repealed National Prohibition. The Court held that the Amendment gave states an absolute exception to the Commerce Clause in the control and regulation of alcoholic beverages.29
• Pennsylvania imposed a “temporary tax” on wine and distilled spirits. It was known as the Jamestown Flood tax. The state passed it to raise revenue to help the city of Jamestown rebuild following a major flood. The city rebuilt quickly but the tax continues to this day. It costs Pennsylvania consumers of wine and spirits over $160,000,000.00 each year.30
The Greek Wine Institute was established.31
• Phylloxera and powdery mildew devastated vineyards in New Zealand. By 1938 there were fewer than 200 acres (81 hectares) remaining.32
• There were over 2,500 acres (1,000 hectares) of vineyards in Chile and exports were high.33
II. Wine: 1940s to 1980s
The use of diatomaceous earth to filter wine first occurred.34
In early1940, at least one third of the railroad tank cars in France were commandeered. They were used to transport wine to the front to maintain troop morale.35
The cause of bacterial spoilage in fortified wines was identified as lactic acid bacteria. The importance of acid level control to prevent bacterial spoilage of fortified wines was recognized.36
The University of California at Davis published a map of California. It had five classifications of climate zone. These were based on degree days. The map identified each zone with the grape varieties most suited for it.37
The Heliothermic Index, a temperature summation adjusted for latitude, was developed.38
Quarrying of the gravel in abandoned vineyards began in the Medoc in France. It continues in the twenty-first century. This destroys any possible use of the land as vineyards in the future.39
• Over 120,000 acres (50,000 hectares) of Malbec grapes were being cultivated in Argentina by the 1950s. The resulting wines would later set international standards for what the variety could achieve.40
• The first horizontal strike mechanical grape harvester was developed at the University of California at Davis.4
• A winemaker at Australia’s Penfolds winery, Max Schubert, began experimenting. It was with what would later become known as Penfolds Grange. It’s now recognized as Australia’s most iconic wine. And it’s one of the very best in the world.42
• The Georges Aubert winery moved to Brazil from France. This marking the beginning of a later arrival of multinationals wine companies.43
• The best red wines in the Graves district of Bordeaux were classified. This increased their prices. The whites would be classified in 1959.44
• Baron Philippe de Rothschild began a 20 year political battle. It was to get his chateau raised from its 1855 classification. Then it was listed as a Second Growth. But he wanted it to be raised to a First Growth.45 See listing for 1973.
The first European variety grape vines were planted in New York State. Dr. Konstantin Frank correctly believed that that they could survive the cold winters of the Finger Lakes region. He was an immigrant Ukrainian viticulturist.46
The best white wines in the Graves district of Bordeaux were classified. This enhanced their marketability.47 The reds had been classified in 1953.
• France began expanding into the large scale production of low cost wines.48
• New World wine producers began labeling their wines varietally rather than geographically. This practice has also become common in much of the Old World.
Unusual weather led to the best Bordeaux vintage in almost 20 years.49
• Alsace received AOC status.50
• Italy established the Denominazione di Origine Controllata or (DOC). This is a national controlled name of origin system.51
• A patented stainless-steel tank enabling vintners to control the temperature of their freshly pressed grapes. It became standard equipment in most wineries during the decade. It’s the Potter fermenter, invented by Ron Potter.55
• The first European variety grape vines were planted in Michigan.56
Germany passed a wine law to bring the country into conformity with the mandates of the European Economic Community (EEC).57
Chateau-bottling became mandatory for classified wines in Bordeaux.58
• Baron Philippe de Rothschild successfully ended a 20 year political battle. It was to get his chateau raised from its 1855 classification. There it was listed as a Second Growth. But he wanted it to be a First Growth.61 See listing for 1953.
• South Africa started its Wine of Origin certification system.59
• The first wine in the now famous Marlborough region of New Zealand was produced.60
• The first commercial vineyard was planted in Denmark. The EU later limited total growth in the entire country at 245 acres (99 hectares).62
• Zinfandel and Primitivo were identified as being the same.63 This fact was later confirmed by DNA profiling in 1994.
• Vineyard acreage in the state of New York State reached its peaked and then began to decline.64
The historic Judgment of Paris occurred. It was a wine tasting. Compared were California wines with the best wines of France and held in Paris. It became the most influential event of wine in the twentieth century in the world of wine. Judged blind by leading French wine experts, California wines won first place in both red and white categories.65 Vintners around the world were excited. They realized that they might be able to produce such wines. Wines as great, or even greater, than those produced in the most famous regions of France. Later events have proved them right. The Judgment of Paris tasting competition fundamentally revolutionized the world of wine.66 It has been transformed wine since that milestone event.
The “chemical age” index for wine was introduced. It’s based on spectral measurements.67
• Robert M. Parker, Jr., began publishing Wine Advocate. It uses his 100-point wine rating system. Parker’s judgments are widely used by consumers in making decisions about their purchases. They have a powerful influence on both wine style and prices around the world. His judgments are credited with the emergence of the so-called “garage wines” for which their high demand.68
• The San Francisco Wine Tasting of 1978 occurred 20 months after the historic Paris Wine Tasting. It used the same wines. In this blind competition, the top three wines among both white and red wines were from California. Thus, California wines further improved their ranking.69
• The European Economic Community imposed rules governing wine production in all its member states.70
• Infrared aerial photography was first used for early detection of Phylloxera and other soil-borne problems in California.71
New World wine continued to show the quality it could achieve. Three years after the Judgment of Paris competition opened eyes, it occurred again. It was “at the Gault-Millau Wine Olympics [when] another icon of French winemaking fell. A 1971 Penfolds Grange Hermitage, an Australian Shiraz, walked away with a first prize in Shiraz, a field long dominated by the French.”72 And California wines continued to receive top awards in various categories. The sponsor of the event was the French food and wine magazine Gault-Millau. It wrote that California produced wines that “can be considered among the best in the world.” And it was clear that California was not alone in this ability.73
III. Wine: 1980s to 2000
• The production and marketing of medium sweet, lightly sparking roses greatly increased in Portugal. In the late 1980s, Mateus accounted for over 40% of the country’s total table wine exports. Lancers was also a major producer.74
• India began importing vinefera grape vines.75
• Bulgaria was the world’s second largest wine producer.76
• Zealand’s Marlborough area is the source of its now world famous Sauvignon Blanc. In 1980 most of the area was still covered by sheep-grazing.77
• Australia produced almost no Chardonnay.78
• A new program was begun in California to control the spread of Sharpshooters. This is a pest that infects grape vines with Pierce’s disease. The program released a predator of Sharpshooters into the environment.79
• To reduce problems caused by excess production of wine, the European Union (EU) introduced the practice of crisis distillation. But the “emergency practice” was used in 22 of the 26 years between its introduction and 2008.80
• An outstanding vintage in Bordeaux caused a boom in demand for French wine. This was stimulated by the powerful influence of wine critic Robert Parker. He declared it the “vintage of the century.” Several great vintages that decade helped maintain the boom.81
• Cork taint was identified as a wine fault.82
• Sauvignon Blanc produced in the Marlborough region of New Zealand is famous. It largely began with the founding of the Cloudy Bay winery.83
• The acreage of Cabernet Franc in California tripled between 1983 and 1988.84
• An outbreak of Phylloxera occurred in Napa Valley in California.85
A standardized wine aroma wheel was developed. It promoted research on factors influencing the perception of flavors.86
• Several of the 40,000 wine producers in Austria artificially sweetened their wine with diethylene glycol. News media mistook the additive for anti-freeze and claimed that Austrian wine was poisoned. The so-called scandal harmed sales of Austrian wines.87 We might argue that the real scandal was that news media were so careless. They ended up harming many innocent people.
• Viognier vines were first planted in California.88
It was the tenth anniversary of the historic Judgment of Paris wine competition. Two replications were held with the red wines. (Whites were not judged because they would all be past their prime.) The California wines aged better and increased their rankings in the blind contests.89
“Until 1987, it was illegal to age, bottle, and ship port from anywhere but Vila Nova de Gaia. The goal was to prevent the wine from suffering from the ‘Douro burn,’ caused by the high summer temperatures in the Upper douro. Today, air conditioning makes it possible to prevent the burn…”90
• Ontario started the Canadian name of origin system. It’s called Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA).91
• The Australian Vine Improvement Association was formed.92
• Health and safety warnings on all wine labels became mandatory in the U.S.93
• The Meritage Alliance was formed by a group of vintners in the U.S. It defines and promotes Meritage, a blended wine.94
The Soviet Union collapsed and move to a market economy occurred. Many vineyards were destroyed. They were converted to other crops. This greatly reducing wine production.95
• The wine industry collapsed in Kosovo when Yugoslavia disintegrated during the 1990s. It destroyed much of the wine and infrastructure.96
• The garagistes, a group of highly innovative winemakers emerged in Bordeaux’s St.-Emilion. They broke with tradition and restrictive rules governing how wines were to be made. Instead, they produced very concentrated and deeply flavored wines. Wine critic Robert Parker praised these creations. As a a resultnd they commanded very high prices.97
• Worldwide vineyard acreage dropped ten percent in the 1990s. The decline occurred almost exclusively in Europe.98
• Gallo was the largest producer of wines in the world.99
• British Columbia began the Canadian named origin system. It’s called called Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA).100
• With the return of democracy, the wine industry in Chile began a slow but steady recovery.101
• The November 17 edition of the U.S. TV program, 60 Minutes, reported on the French Paradox. This greatly increased awareness of the health benefits of drinking red wine in moderation.101 It quickly led to an almost one-third increase in red wine sales in the U.S.103 In fact, the moderate drinking of red wine, white wine, beer, and distilled spirits (liquor) all contribute to better health and longer life. That’s compared to either abstaining or drinking heavily. Visit Alcohol and Health.
• Denmark was prohibited by the European Union from producing wine. That’s because of the “European wine lake” of over-production.104
• France enacted the Loi Evin, which prohibits advertising alcoholic beverages.105
• Law 164 was passed. It was to strengthen Italy’s DOC law which had been passed in 1963.106
• Thailand lifted its ban on the production of wine.107
• Thailand’s first winery was established.109
• Portugal began creating a number of wine routes to promote wine tourism.108
• DNA profiling for the identification of grape variety was used for the first time.110
• The EU entered into a trade agreement with Australia. That country’s wines were given preferential tariff treatment. Australia agreed to prohibit the use of generic European wine names such as Burgundy and Champagne for its wine.111
• It was discovered that the “Merlot” in Chile is actually the “lost grape” of Bordeaux known as Carmenere. This was confirmed by DNA profiling three years later.112
• Sherry (also known as Jerez or Xeres) received the exclusive legal right to use of that name for wine marketed in the EU.113
• A standard measurement for grape color was developed. It measures total grape anthocyanins. They cause the color of red wine.114
• The Coalition for Free Trade was formed in the US. It’s “to legalize direct-to-consumer shipments of wine for out-of-state wineries.”115
• The prestige of Grange continued to rise. A six-liter bottle of the 1998 vintage sold for $46,080.116
• “Free the Grapes!” was formed by five wine industry groups in the US. It seeks to remove restrictions in states prohibiting buying directly from retailers in any state.117
Robert Parker is the “most followed and influential critic of French wines in the world.” So said President Chirac, who made him a knight in the Legion of Honor. (Legion d’Honneur.) This is France’s highest award. Parker was and remains the most influential wine critic in the world.118
Constellation Brands, Inc. became the largest producer of wines in the world.119
• A program was begun to control the spread of Glassy-Winged Sharpshooters. Its natural predator was released into the environment.121
• Over the previous 50 years, annual per capita wine consumption fell 60% in France. It fell 45% in Italy, about one-third in both Portugal and Spain. And it fell about one-quarter in Germany.120
IV. Summary: Wine in the 20th Century
The world of wine in the 20th century was very eventful. Prohibition in the US (1920-1933) forced most wineries out of existence. A few survived by making wine for communion and wine for Seder. Repeal of Prohibition breathed some life into wine but its recovery was slow.
Interest in producing fine wines arose in California in the late 1950s. In 1976, both red and white California wines were judged best in blind tasting by French experts. The Judgment of Paris opened eyes around the world. Winemakers in the New World realized that they could make first quality wines.
This interest led to productive competition and efforts to improve the quality of all wines. The results have beneficial to the wines of the New World. But also to those of France and of the rest of the Old World. Wine in the 20th century has laid the basis for even better wine in the 21st century.
The future looks bright for wine.
Wine in the 20th Century
- Judgement of Paris: Forever Changed the World of Wine.
- Wine vs Grape Juice: Which is Better for Health & Long Life?
- World History of Alcohol & Drinking Timeline.
- Wine Quiz.
- Alcohol and Drinking History in America Timeline.
- Wine Terms.
- Wine Fraud.
- Experts and Wine Snobism Exposed!
- Wine Trivia.
- World History of Beer Timeline.
- World History of Liquor (Spirits) Timeline.
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49. Lukacs, p. 280.
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51. Lukacs, p. 215.
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55. Lukacs, pp. 245-246.
56. Stevenson, p. 519.
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58. Esteicher, p. 125.
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70. Lukacs, p. 205.
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77. Esteicher, p. 136 .
78. McCarthy. and Ewing-Mulligan, p. 136.
79. Stevenson, p. 471.
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81. Taber, p. 276.
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144. The Am Mix, 2001, 1(1), 4.
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