FOOD: Transforming the American Table

American Wine Comes of Age

As the quality of American-made wine improved, consumers began to notice. Between 1968 and 1972, Americans doubled their spending on wine, much of it from California. Foreign travel and increased prosperity contributed to what Time magazine called a “growing ease and worldliness in American lifestyles.”

“A Wine and Cheese Party,” 1970

“A Wine and Cheese Party,” 1970

Julia Child taught Americans about wine as well as food. She devoted a 1970 episode of The French Chef to a wine and cheese party, encouraging viewers to learn about pairing wines with cheeses. Most of the wines on the table are from France.

Photo by Paul Child; courtesy of Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University

E. & J. Gallo

Brothers Ernest and Julio Gallo, sons of Italian immigrants, built their wine empire from the bottom up. Starting after repeal of Prohibition in 1933, the Gallos took over their father’s grape-growing business and set out to make affordable wine by becoming what Ernest called “the Campbell Soup company of the wine industry.” Ernest handled marketing and sales and Julio oversaw production, an arrangement that lasted until Julio’s death in 1993; Ernest died in 2007.

Ernest and Julio Gallo in the bottling room, 1966

Ernest and Julio Gallo in the bottling room, 1966

Courtesy of E. & J. Gallo Winery

 

Ernest and Julio Gallo were the largest producers of wine in America. With huge vineyards of their own, grape contracts with other growers, and enormous wineries in Modesto and Fresno, they drove many of the changes in the way wine was produced and marketed.

Time, 1972

Time, 1972

Magazine ad, 1965

Magazine ad, 1965

One of the new grape varietals developed by Harold Olmo at UC Davis was Ruby Cabernet, which could thrive in the heat of the Central Valley while retaining the flavor characteristics of Cabernet Sauvignon. This ad targeted a growing market of discerning American wine drinkers.

Magazine ad, 1975

Magazine ad, 1975

One of the new grape varietals developed by Harold Olmo at Davis was Ruby Cabernet, which could thrive in the heat of the Central Valley while retaining the flavor characteristics of Cabernet Sauvignon. This ad targeted a growing market of discerning American wine drinkers.

Gallo winery, 1967

Gallo winery, 1967

Photo by Merced Sun Times, courtesy of E. & J. Gallo Winery

The storage capacity at the Gallo Modesto, California, winery grew from 100 million gallons in 1965 to 330 million gallons in 1986.