wine & prohibition
Clubs of America | Jun 29, 2015
In the minds of most people, Prohibition affected the beer brewing industry the most dramatically. Your favorite Wine of the Month Club didn’t have to look very hard to find volumes written about illegal bootlegging of the hard-alcohol moonshine brewed in the mountain stills of our southern states. Surprising to many people, the manufacture, sale, barter, transport, import, delivery, possession, etc. of wine were also deemed illegal by our 18th Amendment, a law not-too-successfully enforced by the dreaded Volstead Act, from the years 1920 to 1933.
There were many people in high places who publicly stated and demonstrated their dislike of the new Amendment. Politicians were categorized as being “Dry” (non-drinkers who embraced the ban), or “Wet” (drinkers who believed individuals deserved the right to choose for themselves). The Wets chose to keep enjoying their drinks while lending support to those who chose to ingeniously manufacture it.
Encouraged by the Wets, it didn’t take long before enterprising brewers and vintners found it simple to get ingredients that, when mixed, manipulated or tweaked, formed alcohol and/or wine.
In spite of Prohibition, California vintners prospered throughout the many “dry” years. A former Assistant Attorney General steered many California vintners through the ins and outs of the Prohibition law. With his assistance, a legal product called Vine-Glo made its debut. When first bottled, it was simply a grape juice. But after 60 days stored in the cellar and “manipulated,” it turned into wine that somehow became 15% alcohol!
An enterprising vintner from New York State scored big when he invented his Brick of Wine. About the size of a pound of butter, the brick was a solid block of grape concentrate that was to be mixed with water. The brick came complete with a circular that “warned” the customer what he better not do, as the result would be the “accidental” making of illegal wine.
Wine-growers managed to expand their acreage during the Prohibition Era, from 97,000 acres in 1919 to 681,000 in 1926. In 1929, our government even loaned California grape growers/wine makers a large amount of money to further expand.
Smuggling became an art form during Prohibition. Hundreds of ships regularly moored three miles off the Atlantic Coast from Maine to Florida, well-stocked with all things alcoholic. They sold liquor, beer, wine and make-your-own ingredients to anyone who made the journey via speedboat, rowboat or backstroke.
IN SITU — RESERVA PINOT NOIR (Vintage 2013, Red) Country: Chile Region: Acongagua Costa Grape: Pinot Noir
Aconcagua Costa is a new Chilean DO established in September of 2012. The Ministry of Agriculture officially approved the coastal section of the Valle de Aconcagua as a new viticultural zone creating this new DO (appellation). Only 8 miles from the cool Pacific, this area has proven to be an excellent cool climate zone particularly suited to white varieties and Pinot Noir. Combined factors produce elegant wines with extraordinary intense aromatics, freshness, and crisp acidity.
This selection is made with 100% Pinot Noir grapes grown in a single vineyard that is situated 9 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Harvesting in the cool mornings helps the grapes retain their flavor integrity.
As promised, releasing this bright, ruby red wine into your glass will result in tantalizing aromas of raspberries, cherries and plums that carry through to the palate. Medium bodied and well-balanced, it is an elegant wine with soft tannins and a fine texture, closing with a delightful, lingering finish.
Ideal for present consumption, serve at room temperature or slightly chilled to about 65°. What’s best to pair with this Pinot Noir? Try any grilled meats such as burgers, sausages or steaks, or showcase this wine’s best side with your favorite lightly sauced pasta dishes.
In Situ Reserva Pinot Noir:
PINOT NOIR — One of the classics of the Champagne region of France, but its claim to greatest fame lies immediately south in Burgundy. In the right place, under ideal climatic conditions, it produces the most velvet-like smooth wines of any grape. Australia and New Zealand offer a climate and location similar to ideal. This finicky fruit is difficult to grow, a challenge successfully met by growers in Chile. With flavor variations from cherries to strawberries, Pinot Noir grapes are rather light in color, low in tannin, with relatively high alcohol. A loner, it is rarely blended.
MACCHIALUPA — GRECO DI TUFO DOCG (Vintage 2013, White) Country: Italy Region: Campania Grape: Greco
Campania is in the south of Italy, on the Mediterranean. The name comes from Campania Felix, a Latin phrase meaning “happy land.” This is one of Italy’s oldest wine regions, dating back to the 12th century BC.
Like many Italian regions, it is home to an impressive array of grape varieties, some found nowhere else on earth. Due to favorable climatic and geological conditions, this area of Italy was basically unaffected by the devastating phylloxera peril. This winery was founded in 2001 by Giuseppe Esposito and Angelo Valentino up in the hills above the small town of Chianche.
Estate grown Greco grapes from vines between 25 and 50 years old are the solitary ingredient in this impressive straw yellow wine. Minimal use of sulfites and no additives, as well as minimal filtration, makes this wine close to qualifying as organic.
You will greeted by an intense bouquet of fruity apricot. On the palate it is dry with excellent acidity and a clean flavor profile with lively freshness and aromatic persistence. The wine is best when young and is ready to be enjoyed now. Serve chilled with linguine with clam sauce, Branzino, shrimp Fra´Diavolo and vetetarian dishes. (Note: This wine tends to oxidize rather quickly, within a few years of vintage and produces some nutty, caramelized flavors. However, we recommend savoring it now, rather than later.)
Macchialupa Greco di Tufo:
GRECO — An ancient grape, the Romans called it Aminea Gemina because the vines generated some characteristic double bunches. According to Aristotle, the Aminea grape came from Thessaly, Greece. The Amines settled in Campania and planted the Greco on the slopes of Mt. Vesuvius. It’s best known for intense fruit-driven aromas. Wines of this grape lineage, when cellared for any length of time, change flavor nuances, becoming rather nutty and caramel in flavor. Some drinkers relish it, others find it rather disagreeable.
PETIT LIXANDRE — BORDEAUX ABP (Vintage 2013, Red) Country: France Region: Bordeaux Grapes: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc
Bordeaux, the largest wine producing region in France, consists of two major areas — the Left Bank and the Right Bank. Both lie in the heart of the Gironde estuary and are further divided by its tributaries, the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers. Merlot is the predominant grape in the Right Bank, as is Cabernet Sauvignon in the Left Bank. Bordeaux enjoys a cool marine coastal climate with mild weather and no dry season.
French wines, in general, are terroir-driven, a concise way to define a specific region and the characters of its wines. Bordeaux wines are known for the terroir, this Petit Lixandre selection a perfect example.
This bright garnet red estate bottled wine combines the finest from both regions (50% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon), and a further boost from an additional 20% Cabernet Franc. On the nose it shows subtle notes of fruit aromas of red berries. A round mouthfeel combines with gentle tannins and a lovely finish. The wine is ready to be enjoyed now. Serve at room temperature with prime rib, roast lamb, beef stew and medium cheeses.
Petit Lixandre Bordeaux ABP:
MERLOT GRAPES — Producing wines soft in fruit, grand in color, and rich in flavor, Merlot grapes are invaluable in fruity lusciousness and velvet quality. Merlot grapes are key to wines that are fresh flavored and vibrant. France is home to some of the finest Merlot grapes grown worldwide.
CABERNET SAUVIGNON — Widely planted, this is a prolific grower, small, dark, thick skinned and late-maturing. Makes tannic wines with black currant/cassis aroma and flavor.
CABERNET FRANC — Grown under neutral conditions, it’s hard to distinguish between the two Cabernets. Franc tends to produce an earthy style of wine that’s very aromatic.
VINA SAN ESTEBAN — RESERVE SAUVIGNON BLANC (Vintage 2014, White) Country: Chile Region: Central Valley Grape: Sauvignon Blanc
The Central Valley (Valle Central) of Chile spans the O’Higgins and Maule Region. Within it are four sub-regions, Chile’s most productive and internationally known wine region, due in large part to its close aproximaty to the country’s capital, Santiago. It is directly across the Andes from Argentina’s most well known wine region, Mendoza Province.
Vina San Esteban is located in Central Chile, near the city of Los Andes. The Firm began in 1974, officially incorporating in 1993. Today it is one of the largest producers of quality Chilean wines and a leading exporter. Successful wine production is due, in part, to the climate, soil and water conditions there.
The Aconcagua Valley is rich in wine making history, dating to the colonial period when wine making was first practiced there. (These XVII century colonists were also the first to introduce the “hacienda” architecture.)
The golden straw yellow wine is made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc from grapes grown along the riverbanks of the Aconcagua River. Aromatic, richly textured, elegant and complex, it has bright citric and floral aromas with a hint of honeysuckle. It shows flavors of grapefruit, apricots, peach and mango on the palate. A touch of spice lingers through the finish. Ready to enjoy now, it is best served chilled with cold hors d’oeuvres, fresh oysters, scallops in white wine and cream sauce, mussels mariniere or trout meuniere.
Vina San Esteban Reserve Sauvignon Blanc:
SAUVIGNON BLANC GRAPES — A white with very distinctive dusty character, high in acidity with up-front aromas and flavors. A climate-driven chameleon, Sauvignon Blanc wines may be fruity in character (ripe melon, fig, passion fruit), or vegetative and grassy. Mostly unoaked, the resulting wines are light to medium bodied and usually dry. They produce wines of different personalities, depending where they are grown.