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This instrument was used by winemaker Mike Grgich in various Napa Valley laboratories beginning in the late 1950s. The ebullioscope (or ebulliometer) is used for determining the alcohol content of a sample of wine by heating it to the boiling point. The instrument includes a copper chamber and lamp for boiling the sample, as well as a precision thermometer for taking a reading. It works from the principle that alcoholic solutions have a lower boiling point than water. A winemaker first heats a sample of water and observes the boiling point, then repeats the test with a sample of wine. (The higher the alcoholic content of wine, the lower the boiling point will be.) After calculating the difference between the two boiling points, the scientist uses a sliding scale provided in the instrument box to determine the sample’s alcoholic content by volume.
Born in Croatia in 1923, Mike Grgich began his studies in viticulture and enology at the University of Zagreb in 1949. Fearful of political unrest, he left Croatia in 1954 by accepting a United Nations fellowship to continue his studies in West Germany. Months after completing the fellowship he received a visa to Canada, where he lived for two years before landing a job in the place of his dreams, California’s Napa Valley.
Grgich worked briefly for Lee Stewart of Napa’s Chateau Souverain, and for Brother Timothy at Christian Brothers. In 1959 he began working in the laboratory at Beaulieu Vineyards, under the supervision of André Tchelistcheff, a Russian enologist and fellow immigrant. In 1968, Grgich was hired by Robert Mondavi to be part of his new winery in Oakville, and in 1972 he became the winemaker at Chateau Montelena.
Grgich made the 1973 Chardonnay for Chateau Montelena that placed first in the 1976 Paris Tasting, an event that brought international attention to the wines being produced by a new generation of California winemakers. Grgich’s success allowed him to establish his own winery with Austin Hills in 1977.
Physical Description
wood (box material)
copper (instrument material)
box: 10 3/4 in x 7 1/2 in x 3 1/2 in; 27.305 cm x 19.05 cm x 8.89 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Miljenko Grgich
See more items in
Work and Industry: Food Technology
FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000
Food: Transforming the American Table, 1950-2000
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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