“Flash! Good evening Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea” That was the staccato opening lines read by Walter Winchel the American newspaper journalist of the Roaring Twenties when he opened up his program, in the early days of radio. He was just one of many to announce that the Volstead Act was repealed. December 5 is the day the first great attempt by the American government to dictate the mores of society ended. Prohibition was over; that is the prohibition of alcoholic beverages. This was a government edict that crashed and burned and perhaps, in hind-sight, created America’s passion for alcohol. Americans were always proud, and when they were denied the right to drink, perhaps even more people took up the desire to drink.
In the first century of the United States of America, grapes were experimented with and grown in different states. The grapes were grown not only for fruit, but there were experimental attempts at harvesting the grapes for wine, as well. I would opine that in those days, the wine was not nearly as exceptional as what we have today, though I have read that even then the old Inglenook estate in Napa was doing some serious wine making. Most of the wine was produced for either personal use, or for jug production. In fact even during the Prohibition, there was limited production of wine produced for “altar” wine for the use of the churches, and there was also “cooking” wine, which was produced for the culinary arts, and this wine was salted, in the thought that the wine would be undrinkable, but would be useful in food preparation. Even back then, there were wine cellars, but this was only for the rich, who had the means and the space to devote to the storage of vintage wines, but it was a very small percentage of the population.
As in all mandates of the government that were vastly unappreciated, this law was eventually removed. Distilleries that were allowed to make “medicinal” alcohol for sterilizing had to begin the task of rebuilding inventories of the products, which were being demanded. The bootleggers were out of a job, and so were the smugglers, as America became a wet nation again. Even the beer manufacturers had to start up again, as everything was at a stop. Here in Detroit, one of the city’s largest breweries, the Stroh’s company, started producing ice cream, and they continued to make it, even after they returned to making beer. I would say that wine, was the slowest to return, and there really was a dearth of wine making, until the 1960’s of any note. This may have been because wine could be easily imported from Europe, and that is where most Americans thought that good wine came from for decades. Today we are now experiencing great new growth in alcoholic beverages; single barrel whiskeys, cult vodkas and gins, craft beers and of course some stellar wines that all were not even thought about when the Repeal came. Now eighty some years later, after America had eliminated the government deciding what was proper, they are back trying to dictate again; and I hope that they can sit back and realized what occurred in the Roaring Twenties.