n a historic tasting of French and
American wines in 1976,
scored highest. The unexpected triumph
vindicated two centuries of American
winemaking and brought the industry
new respect and prominence. But
American wine was in fact a long story,
reaching across cultures and
The only wine made in America prior to the arrival of Europeans was produced by the Tohono O'odham people of the desert Southwest from the fruit of the saguaro cactus. As Europeans explored, colonized, and settled North America, they introduced other ancient wine- growing traditions to the vine-rich continent the Vikings called "Vinland."
After cultivating native grapes for sacramental wine and daily use, colonists began to import European varieties. Vineyards and wineries spread rapidly across the country in the 19th century. The 20th century brought several disasters--from Prohibition to pests--but America's wine industry survived, enjoying since 1976 the accolades it deserves.