FOOD: Transforming the American Table

Wine for the Table

Close-up of wine poster


Wine—the fermented juice of grapes or other fruit—has been part of European life for centuries. But in America, wine traditions struggled to take root. From the first attempts by Spanish missionaries in California to Thomas Jefferson’s failed efforts to cultivate French grapevines in Virginia to the onset of Prohibition, the desire to produce wine for the table on American soil seemed beyond reach. But in the second half of the 1900s, a community of California dreamers would spark a revolution in a bottle that changed the entire world of wine.

Grape crate label, mid-1900s

Gift of Nanci Edwards

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California was at the forefront of the transformation of American wine production and consumption in the last half of the 1900s. But winemakers in New York, Virginia, Maryland, Missouri, Oregon, and Washington also revived and reinvented vineyards and wineries, and more new wineries emerged across the country. With help from agricultural extension services, university scientists, and increasing consumer demand for wines made in America, by the year 2000 wine was produced in all fifty states.

Sources: Wine Institute; U.S. Department of the Treasury--Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Tax and Trade Bureau, Bureau of Internal Revenue, Alcohol Tax Unit