On January 16th, 1920, the United States enacted the 18th amendment which stated that the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors. The ban on alcohol was a result of religious movements throughout the country that viewed alcohol as an extreme threat to the country as a whole. Prohibition greatly affected the alcohol industry forcing a lot of breweries, distilleries, and wineries to go out of business however, there were certain individuals in the wine community who didn’t give up. Vintners from Napa Valley found ways around the ban through various loopholes provided by the Volstead Act as they were the main producers of wine in America at the time.
The Volstead Act was enacted to provide enforcement for the eighteenth amendment and is named after Rep. Andrew Volstead who was chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. The Act was allowed the sale and transport of fresh or dried grapes only if the shipper knew that the final buyer of said grapes weren’t going to use the grapes in order to make wine, and if they did then both parties were breaking the law. The loophole was that ideally the vineyard owners trusted the fact that their product would go from customer to customer, whether they be wholesalers or regular buyers, they would most likely avoid charges and claim plausible deniability. Although this was risky on their part they preferred over simply ripping out their vines and replacing them with orchards, in assuming that prohibition would be permanent. Not only were they carrying their own hopes and dreams regarding wine, they also had the weight of the North American wine business on their shoulders (“”How Wine Bricks Saved the Wine Industry During Prohibition, 2017).
A second loophole gifted through the Volstead Act was that grape growers could produce grape juice and juice concentrate as long as the products were not used for alcohol consumption, however another part of the Act allowed the consumption of up to 200 gallons of homemade wine as long as it remained in the customers home (“”Prohibition in Wine Country, 2010″”). Using these two loopholes they implored the same tactic they used for the grapes and made sure to always be able to claim deniability. Leading to the invention of “”wine bricks”” which were a brick of concentrated grape juice (legal to produce) that were sold to customers who could use the bricks to ferment and turn into wine. In a rather brilliant way the suppliers came up with a way to instruct their customers on how to make their own wine. Warning labels, these would be attached to the brick with instructions on how to dissolve the concentrate in a gallon of water. Following those instructions were warnings that stated not to cool the jug of grape juice for 21 days because it would begin to ferment, and the customer would be breaking the law by doing so (How Wine Bricks Saved the Wine Industry During Prohibition, 2017″”).
Religion normally plays a role in society around the world and religion’s role in prohibition wasn’t any less effective. While prohibition did start partly due to certain religious and moral beliefs, it also helped refrain wine from completely dropping off the map. Wine was allowed to be produced for religious reasons, which led to wineries obtaining exclusive deals with different major religions i.e. Christianity, Catholicism, and Judaism. A prime example of this would be when the founding member of the Beaulieu Vineyard, Georges de Latour made a deal with the then archbishop of San Francisco to sell wine all of the priests.
Sacramental wine, wine bricks, and the sale of the grapes themselves all proved to be very prosperous for the few California vineyards that remained intact. So successful that the price of grapes and their concentrate rose to a startling $375 per ton, which according to statistics, was a 3,847% increase from when the price was merely a lousy $9.50 per ton. The prices were able to skyrocket the way they did due to the fact that many vineyards in California had decided to play it safe and replace their grapes with orchards, taking away most of the competition in the wine industry.,
Analyzing the data on how prohibition affected the wine industry, one begins to realize that for the most part prohibition actually helped the wine industry. Sure, it made things difficult and vineyards had to close down, yet the ones that stayed open flourished like never before. Furthermore, prohibition helped create some of the most dominant wineries in the country who continued to develop wine over the years taking it further and further.
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