On Friday, October 12, 1492, at 2.00 a.m. a sailor by name was spotted from land by the Spanish caravel "Pinta". It was the Bahamas island of Guanahani, the name in the indigenous language of the time (as it is called again today), which Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) called San Salvador. This is considered until today as the day of the discovery of America or the New World. But already 500 years before Columbus someone else had entered the American continent. Around the year 1000, the Icelandic Viking Leif Eriksson (son of the Greenland explorer Erik the Red) sailed south from Greenland and reached the American coast. He called the area "Vinland". Whether the name Vinland really means "wine country" is not clear, it could also have meant "pasture" or "meadow". There were many attempts to identify the place exactly, one version names the island Manhattan at the place of New York.
The American historian Frederick J. Pohl (1889-1991) writes in his book "The lost discovery" that - a little further north - it was the Bay of Massachusetts at the site of the city of Boston. According to a written account - the Grenlinga saga (Greenlanders' saga) - Leif Eriksson found there gentle hills, abundant game, salmon, wild wheat and in the woods masses of wild vines with berries of enormous size hanging from the trees. One crew member left some grapes lying around longer until they began to ferment and was found drunk. Leif's brother-in-law Thorfinn Karlsefni then tried to found a settlement, but due to fierce resistance from the natives, who resembled Indians or Eskimos, colonization had to be abandoned after a few years.
When the first colonists landed on the east coast of America towards the end of the 16th century, they made the same discovery as Eriksson. Grapes with giant fruit grew in the forests. But mostly no tasty wine could be made from the wild vines, despite many attempts. American vines, especially those of the Vitis labrusca species, produce a wine with an unpleasant foxtone or penetrating strawberry aroma. That is why very soon attempts were made along the entire Atlantic coast from Massachusetts in the north to Florida deep in the south with grape varieties imported from Europe. But these soon died after planting. The American soil was literally drenched in phylloxera and, in addition, mildew, unknown in Europe, caused other diseases and extreme climatic conditions. Many of the American vines were resistant to these plagues through millions of years of adaptation, but the European vines were left defenceless. There were countless futile efforts to solve the problems. The causes were not recognised for over 200 years; they were only clarified by the phylloxera and powdery mildew introduced into Europe and their control in the last third of the 19th century.
The later US presidents George Washington (1732-1799) and Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) were great supporters of the wine culture. Jefferson was convinced that the only way to keep Americans from consuming stronger alcoholic beverages such as whisky was to create a suitable wine culture and sufficient quantities of wine. This was supported by a law in 1791, all alcoholic beverages were subject to an excise tax, with the exception of wine produced in America. He also carried out decades of experiments with European and American vines at his Monticello winery in Virginia. However, his dream of making the United States a top wine-growing nation did not come true during his lifetime.
From the beginning of the 19th century, people finally made a virtue out of necessity and tried to accept the peculiarity of American grape varieties. One bred hybrids all over the country or tried to produce wine from the existing American varieties. Already in 1562 French Huguenots planted vineyards near Jacksonville in Florida. They used a wild ancestor of the white variety Scuppernong, which is still planted today, which they gradually cultivated and also made wine from it. In 1843, Ephraim Wales Bull (1806-1895) planted seeds of a wild vine of the Vitis labrusca species near Concord in the state of Massachusetts, selected a red variety and named it after the town. This too is still in widespread use today, especially in the northeast.
In 1798, the immigrant Swiss winemaker Jean Jacques Dufour (1763-1827) planted a vineyard in Jessamine County in Kentucky and planted the historic Alexander variety, among others. This vineyard is considered to be the first commercially operated winery in America. Later he went to Indiana and also founded a winery on the Ohio River - also through a wine book written by him he is one of the most important American winegrowing pioneers. A great success was achieved by the surveyor John Adlum (1759-1836), who in 1820 cultivated a variety originating from North Carolina on a large scale in Georgetown (District Washington, DC). He named it Catawba after a river in North Carolina. In 1823 he sent a bottle of wine made from it to Thomas Jefferson, who compared it to a French Chambertin.
Cincinnati in the state of Ohio is regarded as the second birthplace of commercial American viticulture. In 1823, the lawyer Nicholas Longworth (1783-1863) attempted to plant European vines on the Ohio River, initially unsuccessfully for reasons already mentioned above. Then, in 1825, he received Catawba cuttings from Adlum and produced the first US sparkling wine "Sparkling Catawba". The success was also due to the fact that the Foxton is not so strong in a sparkling wine. The Ohio was then called the "Rhine of America" and the sparkling wine quickly became famous and Longworth rich. But the American Civil War (1861-1865), vine diseases and Longworth's death put an end to these first successes. But an important foundation stone for North American viticulture was laid.
But the American wine miracle on a large scale only began in California. In 1769 the Franciscan monk Junipero Serra (1713-1784), when founding the Mission "San Diego", planted the first vineyard with the European grape variety Mission(Listán Prieto) here - it was the first successful Vitis vinifera in America. The first commercial Californian winemaker is considered to be the Frenchman Jean-Louis Vignes (1780-1862), who imported European grape varieties from 1833 onwards. The Austro-Hungarian Agoston Haraszthy (1812-1869) gave a decisive impetus for California's supremacy in the 1860s by importing tens of thousands of European cuttings. But prohibition (1920-1933) brought about a total decline in wine culture. Many farms went under, many vineyards were cleared and, in addition, infrastructure and knowledge were largely lost. It took a generation for America to recover from this.
Starting in 1939, wine pioneer and writer Philip Wagner (1904-1996) initiated a new direction in American viticulture from his Boordy Vineyards winery in Maryland. He imported a large number of French hybrids and rootstock vines from the famous Baco, Seibel and Seyve-Villard vineyards, which were then spread throughout the East Coast of the United States. In the middle of the 20th century, American viticulture developed anew from California. The result of the legendary Paris Wine Tasting in 1976 is often cited as a milestone and turning point in the reputation of American viticulture. This was a "wine-country fight" between France and California. Of the approximately 2,200 wineries in the USA, more than 1,100 are located in California, where about 90% of the USA's wine is produced today. But other states like Oregon are catching up quickly.
Today, wine is produced in all 50 US states, even in Alaska (where there are no vineyards) and also in Hawaii. The last state to follow in 2002 was North Dakota with two vineyards. However, the extent of the production is very different, basically there is more viticulture in the west than in the east and more in the north than in the south. In the USA, wine is considered a luxury rather than an everyday product. As an after-effect of prohibition, wine is still considered a drug in many US states. After prohibition the three-tier system was introduced. This requires that producer, wholesale and retail trade must be completely separated. In 1983, the then competent authority BATF (now the successor TTB) declared the appellation system AVA (American Viticultural Area) to be generally valid. There are a total of 189 AVA areas, 107 of them in California alone.
In 2012, the total area under vines was 412,000 hectares, of which only 230,000 were planted with Celtic varieties (55%) for wine production. Of these, 21.7 million hectolitres of wine were produced. The five most successful US wine brands or producers are identified by the acronym GAMIT. Many states also produce large quantities of fruit wine (apples, berries etc.), table grapes, grape juice and grape jelly (jam). The 2010 grape variety table (statistics Kym Anderson):
|Grape variety||Colour||Synonyms or name in the USA||Hectare|
|Tribidrag||red||Interest rate trading||19.857|
|Durif||red||Petite Sirah, Petite Syrah||2.865|
|Garnacha tinta||red||Grenache Noir||2.666|
|Muscat d'Alexandria||white||Muscat of Alexandria||1.285|
|Gewürztraminer / Traminer||white||Gewurztraminer||1.144|
|Muscat Blanc / Muscat Plate||white||-||733|
|Malvasia Bianca di Piemonte||white||Malvasia bianca||554|
|Monbadon||white||Burger, Burger Elbling, Elbling (wrong)||498|
|Alicante Henri Bouschet||red||-||431|
Influential US wine authors and critics include Eric Asimov, Antonio Galloni, Steve Heimoff, James Laube, Peter Liem, Robert M. Parker, Frank J. Prial, David Schildknecht, Frank Schoonmaker, Mark Squires, James Suckling, Stephen Tanzer and Gary Vaynerchuk. They write for various wine magazines or wine guides, for example International Wine Review, Wine Advocate, Wine Enthusiast, Wine Spectator and Wine & Spirits.
The following 41 states are included as keywords in the wine dictionary in question: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, California, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.