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Wine making in the United States actually pre-dates the formation of the United States. It is widely known that the exploration and the settlement of the new worlds were spurred on largely by the search for commodities such as silk, olive oil and wine.
As the colonies were beginning to take shape, the wine making efforts began in earnest. While native grapes and grape vines were abundant in the States, attempts to grow European grapes in the U.S. did not go well at all, particularly in the hot and humid southern states.
While they continued to try to establish wineries and hybrid species of grapes that could be grown, the early Americans had very little success with it until Thomas Jefferson Became president.
Thomas Jefferson has lived in France and was a wine aficionado. He felt Americans should drink American wines. With a new focus on the wine making industry, the first truly successful and substantial wine making endeavors popped up along the Ohio River near Cincinnati.
The Eighteenth Amendment that made all trade in alcoholic beverages illegal went into effect in 1920. Prohibition had begun and the effect on the U.S. wine making industry was devastating. In 1919 over 55 million gallons of wine were produced in the U.S., by 1925 the total had dropped to less than 4 million gallons.
By the time prohibition was repealed in 1933, the U.S. winemaking industry, or what was left of it, was in shambles. Many of the best winemakers of the day had died, the equipment left was in disrepair and many of the best wine making grapes had been replanted with lower quality grapes in an attempt to survive prohibition.
The industry was largely dormant except in the California wine country. In 1976 wine from this region pulled off several huge upset victories during a taste test in Paris and kicked off a revitalization of wine making in the United States.
This surprise victory by U.S. wines woke up the world’s interest in American wines. Once thought to be substandard, U.S. wines were suddenly in demand as were U.S. wine makers and their techniques and processes.
In 2012 over 750 million gallons of wine were produced in over 30 states. California is responsible for about 90% of that total.
It seems likely that Thomas Jefferson would be very pleased.