SPEAKER: This is a production of Cornell University.
ANNE KENNEY: I'm Anne Kenney, the very pleased and proud new university librarian here at Cornell.
Oh, thank you.
And it's my pleasure to welcome so many of you here to the library reunion lecture. Thank you all for coming this afternoon. I think you will find this a very stimulating lecture by Thomas Pinney on the history of wine.
As I thought about this lecture and the accompanying exhibit in Kroch Library, I looked for connections between wine and libraries.
Thoughts may come into your own head here, but-- and indeed, when I did a Google search, like a good librarian, on those two terms the top result was the Wine Library, which turns out to be a wine store that has gone to online sales run by the often irreverent director of operations and TV personality, Gary Vaynerchuk. Anybody know him? OK, a couple of you do. He's the star of-- get this-- "Wine Library TV." Gary has attracted a cult-like following of more than 60,000 viewers per day, who turn to him as a trusted source of information on wine.
So it seems like we have a lot in common. The library serves as a trusted source for scholarly information on campus. And while it might be a stretch to suggest that we have a cult status here, the library does host over 2 million visitors through its doors every year and many more times that amount online.
I continued my search for connections between wine and libraries and came across some really wonderful quotes, which I'd like to share with you. The first is from Evelyn Waugh, who wrote, "Port is not for the very young, the vain, and the active. It is the comfort of age and the companion of the scholar and the philosopher."
Duff Cooper writes, "Wine has lit up for me the pages of literature and revealed in life romance lurking in the commonplace." Oliver Goldsmith, the 18th century author of "She Stoops to Conquer," wrote, "I love everything that's old, old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wine."
And my personal favorite, from "The Times" of London around 1798, "To which university, said a lady, sometimes since to the late sagacious Dr. Warren, shall I send my son? Madam, he replied, they drink, I believe, near the same quantity of port in each of them."
Cornell University Library is really thrilled to be celebrating the 10th anniversary of its Eastern Wine and Grape Archive with an exhibition devoted to the story of winemaking. Formed in 1998, as a cooperative venture between the division of Rare and Manuscript Collections and the Frank A. Lee Library at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, the Archive was established to preserve the records of grape growers, winemakers, and associated industry participants.
Wine permeates our culture, our history, our politics, our economy. The number of wineries in the United States has doubled during the past eight years-- during the past eight years. And wine is now produced in all 50 states.
Cornell Library has made a commitment to preserving the history of American viticulture to ensure that current and future scholars, students, industry members, and anyone with a passion for wine will be able to study the growth, development, and impact of the America's grape and wine industries. Indeed, Cornell is currently the only institution with an ongoing defined program to document the history of production and consumption of wine in the United States.
Although the Archive encompasses materials documenting the history of the wine and grape industries in Eastern United States, early collecting initiatives have really focused on the Finger Lakes region, with records spanning from the 1830s onward. Rare and Manuscripts collection offers several 100 volumes of rare books and manuscripts on the moral, economic, and physical consequences of alcohol consumption dating from the 17th century onward, rare books on winemaking methods stating from the 16th through the 19th centuries, the papers and publications of the American Temperance Society and reformers, and materials documenting cocktail culture from the Prohibition onwards. And many of these are on display in the current exhibition in Kroch Library.
It is quite appropriate for Cornell to be the home to such materials, as the university is an important player in the wine industry. We sit here in the midst of a vibrant wine-producing region. In New York alone, the number of wineries has jumped to 212 from a mere nine 30 years ago.
And Cornell University's Experiment Station in Geneva, New York has long been a world leader in the fields of viticulture and enology. And here in Ithaca, the hugely popular Hotel School course, Introduction to Wines, has been complemented by the launching of a new teaching winery at the Cornell Orchards, which will open this fall, as will the beginning of an undergraduate major in viticulture and in enology from CALS. And Cornell's Adult University has a new week-long course called The Wine Course.
That the Finger Lakes region has become one of the world's great wine-producing regions and increasingly, wines from New York State take home major awards comes as a shock to some, mostly those hailing from California.
But I can tell you that, here in the East, at least we know the difference between wine and water. Several years ago, when visiting in Napa Valley, I stopped for lunch. And when the waiter asked me what I would like to drink, I said, I'd love a glass of water. He replied, white or red?
I am not making that up.
Following this afternoon's lecture, I invite you to attend the reception and opening of the exhibit, Song of the Vine, a History of Wine, which offers an overview of the art and science of winemaking through rare books, photographs, documents, and artifacts. It's a wonderful exhibit. I took about 15 minutes to whip through it and will spend more time over the coming months looking at it.
My only quibble with the curators is that they didn't pick up on my suggested name for the exhibit, which was Research Responsibly.
In addition to the exhibit in Rare and Manuscripts, there are many Cornell libraries that also have exhibitions to support the Wine and Grape Archive, including the Nestle Library and the Hotel School, the Entomology Library and Mann Library in CALS, the Lee Library in Geneva, Olin's map collection, and the Bailey Hortorium.
Before introducing our distinguished speaker, there are few people I want to thank publicly for bringing all of this about-- first and foremost, Evan Earle and Eileen Heeran for their wonderful work in curating this exhibit, and Katherine Reagan for managing the exhibit process, for Ken Williams for his wonderful sense of design and art in building the website and producing the posters. I want to thank Ronni Lacroute, class of '66, for her generosity in making this exhibit possible, and also the Frank family for donations of books and historic papers from the Dr. Konstantin Frank vinifera wine cellars, Hudson Cattell, editor of the Wine East magazine, who was instrumental in the establishment of the archive, the Frank lee Library at Cornell's New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, and then particularly, the librarian there, Marty Schlabach, for his help in establishing the archive. I learned at lunch that Marty is actually-- are you a founding member-- of the Wine Librarians Association? It's a pretty small number, I gather.
I also want to acknowledge the archive from the American Society of Enology and Viticulture, Eastern Section for an early seed money for the Archive, the library's alumni affairs and development office, including Jennifer Sawyer, Alex Wolf, and Sharon Kendall, and the library's communication department, including Ellen Marsh, CJ Lance, and Lynn Bertoia.
And now, what you've really come for, our featured speaker. It's a pleasure to introduce you to Thomas Pinney, noted wine expert and author of the two-volume history, Wine in America, a definitive account of winemaking in the United States from its origins through its development and expansion across the country after the repeal of Prohibition. This set has received very positive reviews. My personal favorite comes from Bruce Cass, editor of the Oxford Companion to the Wine of North America, who called it, quote, "an essential reference book for anyone wishing to sound authoritative at the dinner table." Put it right by your seat. By the way, Tom's books will be on sale in the campus store throughout this weekend. So a little pitch there.
Tom grew up in a dry state, Kansas, in a family of teetotalers, so he had few advantages in learning about wine. Indeed, I heard that you had your first glass of wine when you were a graduate student.
THOMAS PINNEY: Yeah.
ANNE KENNEY: He taught English at Pomona College for 35 years. But his first teaching job was at Hamilton College, where he spent four years. So he knows something about Upstate New York and knew the wine industry back in its unreconstructed days.
Tom has just finished editing Rudyard Kipling's letters in six volumes and is now at work on a complete edition of Kipling's poems. But his real hobby is wine history. He has written several specialized books on that subject in addition to the two-volume set, and is currently working on a wine book that is a series of biographies of people who made a difference in American wine, including Paul Garrett, who was a power in Upstate New York and whose mansion still stands on Bluff Point at Lake Cayuga. The title of his talk today is "A Very Short History of Wine in America."
So let me end with a final quote from Clifton Fadiman, writer, critic, editor, and radio personality-- "To take wine in your mouth is to savor a droplet of the river of human history." So Tom.
THOMAS PINNEY: Thank you. I'm always glad to return to Upstate New York. I began my teaching career at Hamilton College 50 years ago. And as I remember, at Hamilton, we had a very high opinion of Cornell. We thought it quite a reputable institution, not quite at the Hamilton level, but very good indeed.
That was 50 years ago. Now, whether that's still the attitude, I couldn't say.
The story of wine in America has a very simple theme. You might call it overcoming difficulties. And there are only, in my view-- I can move around, right?
I've divided it into the three chapters. The first one is called "Getting It Wrong." And the second one is called "Compromise." And the third one, of course, is "Getting It Right." I won't--
The interesting thing is that this one-- I'm taking 1607 as the beginning of organized settlement at Jamestown in Virginia. You remember, we were celebrating the 400th anniversary last year. From 1607 to 1807, it's the longest chapter. Complete, comprehensive failure.
Nobody made any wine. Everybody tried, and nobody succeeded.
The compromise begins roughly in 1807 and runs down, let us say, to 1960. And the third section begins in 1960, approximately, and runs down to the present.
Now, it's easy for me to talk in detail about the first two chapters because they're over, and we presumably know what happened. The third chapter, I will have to skim over hurriedly because it's still going on, and nobody knows what's important. Nobody knows what's significant. Nobody knows what's a failure. It's very difficult to write contemporary history.
Well, the question is, how did the American colonists get it wrong? The first thing explorers saw in North America were grape vines. North America has more species of grape vine than any other part of the world. And they're everywhere, not just in some places. They're still abundant in the woods of Upstate New York.
Now, they have names like riparia, the riverbank grape, or rupestris, the sandbank grape-- you never heard these names, I'm sure-- aestivalis, the summer grape, rotundifolia, the round leaf grape, which grows in the southern states.
Of course, these were immediately reported by the explorers. So when the colonists came over-- and this is something the history books typically don't say anything about-- what they had in their minds was to make wine. The official purpose of Jamestown was to make wine. The official purpose in the Carolinas was to make wine. The official purpose in Georgia, 100 years later, was to make wine. And everybody tried it. The first thing the Puritans did was to plant a vineyard and so on. You can multiply that kind of anecdote indefinitely. And there were official programs that encouraged this sort of thing.
But they immediately found out that the native grapes weren't any good for wine. The berries are too small. The flesh is too little. The seeds are too large. And the flavors are impossible. You can make wine from them, as many people, of course, did. But nobody would want to drink it.
So if the natives would not do, the obvious alternative was to import the so-called vinifera from Europe. This is a name given by Linnaeus himself, from the two Latin words that-- the wine bearer, the wine-bearing grape. And practically speaking, all the world's wine-- not all that world's, but the overwhelming, greater quantity of the world's wine is made from vinifera grapes, whether it's in Europe, or Australia, or South Africa, or California.
It's the process-- winemaking has been dated back to something around 7000 BC by the archaeologists. And whether the vinifera that we know today was available then is probably not the case. But the point is, people have been making wine for thousands and thousands of years. And all of that time, they've had the opportunity to interfere in the evolution of the grape vine and to select.
And after this long, long process of experiment and selection, you get the species called vinifera, whose varieties that are the ones that are familiar to all of you. Cabernet Sauvignon is vinifera. Chardonnay is vinifera. Sangiovese is vinifera and so on and so on.
But the native vines, the American vines, grew up all by themselves. There was nobody, no community in North America that was making wine. Nobody paid any attention to the grape, whereas-- well, the story of Noah you all know. The first thing that was undertaken after the flood had receded was to plant a vineyard, which is not a bad allegorical remark about the purposes of human civilization.
The Indians had no alcoholic drink. And they were not interested in studying the grape from that point of view. They certainly ate them, but probably reluctantly. But here, in this country, the grape grew just as it liked with no one paying any attention. And the direction of its evolution was not toward winemaking, but only towards survival.
Well, the vines from Europe, the vinifera vines, were brought over within a very, very few years of settlement and were imported all up and down the Eastern Seaboard, and from every possible source in every possible quantity. I think it's probably safe to say there is no place in the continental United States where grapes have not been grown with the intention of making wine, even in Kansas.
At least it was tried everywhere, certainly in the early days, from the Maine colony to Florida. And all of these trials failed uniformly and comprehensively. The vines might live a few years, but then they sickened and died before they produced any useful yield. The result was utterly baffling. No one knew why. No one knew what to do.
And it was a particularly baffling situation because they were, of course, surrounded by flourishing vines. But they couldn't grow the one they wanted to grow.
And the situation is also baffling because the experience was quite different from that in any other newly settled colonies, the New World colonies. In Australia and South Africa and South America, all you had to do was to take a vinifera vine, and put it in the ground, and jump back. They had no difficulty whatever in the immediate establishment of a wine industry on the basis of vinifera. And here in what became the United States, we had more grape vines than any place else in the world, and the wretched thing would not grow.
Well, there wasn't any scientific plant pathology then. There was no way for anybody to figure out what was wrong.
And the answer is a paradox. The vinifera vine would not grow in the United States-- I may use that term-- simply because there were so many vines here already. And accompanying all those many, many vines was a whole host of diseases, afflictions. And the American vines, in the long process of evolutionary accommodation, had learned to live with these diseases, not always happily. But still, they could get along. The European vine had no resistance whatever.
And the situation neatly inverts the experience of the American Indian. When the American Indian encountered the Europeans, they carried with them diseases that he had not known and that were unspeakably devastating. Whole tribes wiped out by smallpox. Well, North America returned the compliment with respect to the grape vine. The poor, innocent, European grape vine was introduced into this swirling mess of North American diseases and immediately expired. It took a long time to figure that out.
Now, I should say something about what the vine was up against. I guess it was a highly selective list here. The one you perhaps have heard most often about is called Phylloxera, which means-- the Phylloxera vastatrix. That name has been changed now. But I like the old name, which means devastating dry leaf creature. It's an aphid. It's an insect, a tiny aphid that has an incredibly difficult and complex lifecycle. But at one stage, ends up on the roots of the vine plant, and by feeding on them, destroys the plant.
This was a disease that was spread around the world in the beginning and the middle of the 19th century, when American vines were imported for experiment into Europe with Phylloxera on their roots, that-- the insect, it's not invisible, but it's very, very tiny. And it nearly wiped out the European wine industry. I can't go into that however.
But there are only a very, very few places in the world which have not been invaded by Phylloxera. Chile is one of them. And South Australia is another. I don't know of any others.
And then there's something called Pierce's Disease, after Mr. Pierce, who first described it. It seems unfair. This is a bacteria-- a bacterium I suppose I should say-- thought to be native to the Gulf states of the American South, where you still can't grow most grapes. It works by strangling the water flow to the vine, which then quickly dies.
Pierce's Disease is regarded as much more formidable now than Phylloxera. You can do things about Phylloxera. But nobody has discovered anything to do about Pierce's Disease. They know the pathology of it, but they don't have any remedy for it.
Then there are a host of fungus diseases, one of them called black rot, which you hear about a lot in the 19th century, that shrivels the grapes and makes them utterly useless. Then there's something called downy mildew, which needs damp conditions frequently found in places like New York, and powdery mildew, which is happy in dry conditions. So it's common in California.
And then there's the heat and humidity of the American climate, which you all know. And then, as people from Cornell are likely to know, there are winters. And the winters in North America, much of North America, are far more severe, far more troublesome than they are in the wine-growing regions of Europe. The northern limit of wine growing in Europe is Champagne in France and the Rhine in Germany. But most of it, as you know, is concentrated farther to the south.
No doubt there are many other things that could be added to this list. But those are the ones that recur over and over and over again.
Well, as I have said, there was no understanding of these things. There was no scientific knowledge of plant pathology. So there was utter helplessness in the face of these problems, and inevitably, all sorts of fantastic suggestions. Some said that if you pruned short, it would be all right. Some said you need to prune long. Or others said the roots were too wet, or the roots were too dry, or the soil was clay, or the soil was sand, or it was the dark of the moon, or the wrong conjunction of the planets. And they didn't get very far on that basis.
So it went that way for a full 200 years, a full half of the period of European settlement. People didn't stop trying, but the result was always the same. The vines sickened and died.
You've probably heard of the futile efforts of such men as Washington and Jefferson and other fathers of our country to make wine and their uniform failure. But they were only the most prominent among thousands and thousands of anonymous people who tried and failed to grow vinifera in this country.
Incidentally, I may say, it makes it very difficult to write this history. The narrative tension and the suspense are dim.
Tried it and failed, tried it, didn't work, tried it, no good.
How I got through 200 pages on that basis, I don't remember.
OK, so how did we get out of this impasse, the hopeless repetition of failed experiment? The answer is something called native hybrids. The vinifera vine always died, but it might have lived long enough to blossom. And if it blossomed, then it can enter into relations with the native vines, also blossoming. And this happened an uncounted number of invisible times. Nobody knew what was going on.
But in the middle of the 18th century, somebody came across one of these vines, not knowing what it was, supposing it was a vine like all the others. And that turned out to have the capacity to survive. Well, nobody knew why. The notion that it was an accidental hybrid simply didn't occur.
But it gradually became the basis of what might be called a successful viticulture. You could plant a grape that was a little bit better than the standard native. It might have some of the virtues of the vinifera. It might have some of the resistance of the native vine, whether it was aestivalis, or riparia or rupestris. And so you got what I call a compromise.
Here, I've written this out. It may be more eloquent. The result might be an improvement on the native stock. The vine would have some of the resistance to the native. The fruit might have some of the quality of vinifera. It was tougher than vinifera and better fruit than the native.
The first of these grapes to have a name is called the Alexander. It's now disappeared, as far as we know, from cultivation and from existence. It's known about and written about. And it's even been pictured. But nobody can find one. Maybe we will.
That was, by the way, discovered near Philadelphia on a site where William Penn had planted vinifera. Like everybody else in early America, Penn imported vines. He also imported French vine dressers. And like everybody else, he failed. But maybe his vines contributed to the notion of a native hybrid.
Following the introduction of the Alexander, there was then-- a flood of people then set out deliberately to look for native hybrids, and after no very long time, began to hybridize themselves-- that is to say, they, themselves, undertook hybridizing.
Some of these names are still familiar, especially in Upstate New York-- the Isabella, the Catawba, the Delaware, the Duchess, the Niagara, and one called Clinton, which was growing by a professor's house at Hamilton College. It's a red wine grape. I've never seen it, never had the wine. It's said to be quite awful.
When these grapes were planted in vineyards, it was found that they would survive when all the vinifera died. They didn't produce wine that tasted like vinifera wine. Some of it tasted very strange indeed. But they had the incomparable virtue of staying alive and producing a crop. And they were a definite improvement on the pure native vine. And that's how the first commercial production of wine in this country came about.
It's interesting to know where that happened. It came about in the hands of a Swiss immigrant named Jean-Jacques Dufour who came here at the end of the 18th century, just after the Revolution with the deliberate purpose of making wine. He had read about the wineless condition of America and thought it was absurd, he would do something about it. He himself came from a wine-growing town, Vevay on the Swiss side of Lake Geneva.
He made the usual mistakes. He planted vinifera. They all died. His first vineyard was in Kentucky on the Kentucky River with Henry Clay as one of his patrons. But he noticed that one grape stayed alive. He'd bought it in Philadelphia from a Frenchman who said it was the Cape grape. It came from South Africa, and it was vinifera. And by god, it lived.
And after some time-- in the meantime, he and his family had migrated to the Ohio River in what is now Indiana in a town called after his Swiss hometown, Vevay. But I went there a couple of years ago and discovered the local pronunciation is "Vivi."
And they're just beginning to wake up to the fact that they have a significant wine history.
He and his associates, mostly his family, planted the Cape grape, that they'd gotten from Philadelphia, which was really the Alexander. They always maintained it was a vinifera. But it grew, and they were able to make wine from it and to sell it. And that is almost certainly the first successful commercial production of wine in this country, more or less around 1807.
It didn't last very long. And I'm sure the wine was awful. But an idea had been started. And the spread of winemaking on the basis of the native hybrid was soon established.
Nicholas Longworth in Cincinnati took up the work, largely using German immigrants to cultivate vineyards. Then the Germans migrated to the Lake Erie shore and established winemaking there. Another set of Germans set up business on the Missouri River in Missouri in a little town called Hermann.
And New York was not far behind. The early history is still in flux. We don't quite know all the details. People at work now are discovering quite interesting new things. But the beginnings were probably in and around the 1830s.
There was a grape boom after the Civil War. Everybody was planting vines. Everybody was thinking about making wine. And there was fairly established winemaking not only in New York, but in New Jersey, in Ohio. Ohio led the nation at one time-- Missouri, Arkansas Virginia, and scattered about in other places. There were minor enterprises everywhere.
If you scratch the surface of local history almost anywhere in the United States, you'll find some evidence of local winemaking, but not necessarily very successful winemaking, and almost certainly not very large scale.
And incidentally-- this is just a footnote-- it was the Germans who dominated early wine growing in this country, not so much in New York perhaps, although there was a German element, but in Ohio, and in Missouri, and on the West Coast in California. The great names of early California winemaking are often German, Kohler & Frohling, Charles Krug.
The Italians-- and I suppose most of us, when we're asked to respond to the term "American wine" would say, Italian-- Gallo, et cetera, Sebastiani. But they came very late.
It's probably best to say that the work of winemaking in this country has always had a very strong international flavor. Obviously, the English couldn't contribute much, apart from drinking it, since they did--
But if you look into wine history, you find that the Hungarians, and Germans, and French, even English, Russian, even Japanese-- the manager of the old Fountaingrove Estate in Sonoma County was a Japanese baron, which is an interesting exoticism.
But by the end of the century, the general enthusiasm for making wine from the natives had declined. The trade had its own difficulties. The native hybrids were tough all right, but they had diseases too. Oftentimes, it was not economic to grow them. And there was growing competition from California, which, after the Civil War, fairly quickly rose to dominance.
And the markets were unreceptive. Americans by this-- after 200 years of failure, you can hardly blame them. They drank whiskey, which was reliable and in abundant supply. And the competition from California-- I think I said that-- it was serious.
So wine production in the East shrank quite considerably. It made its major home here in Upstate in New York. And I'll take up New York very briefly.
There's always been an experiment with wine growing around New York City. But obviously, the conditions are not good. The Hudson River Valley has its own history, but it never became very substantial. It was the Finger Lakes in the 1830s and thereafter that was the real home of encouraging work. And there's also a Western movement to the Lake Erie shore, where winemaking was carried on almost as early as in the Finger Lakes.
But a strange thing happened. In the 1870s, a teetotaling dentist in New Jersey named Welch learned about Pasteur's processes for sterilizing liquids and applied it to grape juice. He was a deacon at the Methodist Church, and he was deeply troubled by the intoxicating powers of wine.
I don't know if you know about this, but there was a long controversy in the 19th century about what was meant when the Bible said wine. And a important constituency said it was not intoxicating wine. There are two different words. And one means real wine, and one means good wine.
This was quite seriously maintained. It was the president of Union College, I think, who first put forth the theory. I don't know if he's remembered for that [INAUDIBLE].
Well, Welch's grape juice, which he first called Welch's unfermented wine, was first established in New Jersey. But the New Jersey vineyards, largely based on Concord, were smitten by blight. And so he pulled up stakes and relocated in Western New York. And that changed the history of the grape belt in western New York. It turned away from winemaking to the production of grape juice. And it's only in quite recent years that that tendency has been altered.
Now, the wines made in the east, especially in New York, were made to a high technical standard. There was all kinds of know-how. The technology was first rate. The standards were high.
But still, even though it was publicly not admitted, the winemakers knew they were working on a compromise, that the native hybrids were OK but not that good. I was clear that what was wanted was something better.
That brings me now to chapter 3, which I think I can get through on time. Things looked very stable and even backward for many, many years.
When I lived in New York, there were four major wineries in the state. They were the three on-- what's the name-- Lake Canandaigua. Do I mean that? No, Kueka, Keuka, near pleasant Hammondsport, Gold Seal, Great Western, and Taylor. And a few miles to the west, Canandaigua was Widmer. And those four controlled the trade.
And they didn't quite have national distribution, but they were familiar. And we took them for granted in Upstate New York. A bottle of wine, it was something from Widmer. And they were very good winemakers.
But the Taylor plant was a model of technical efficiency, with Pyrex glass tubing, all that sort of thing, marvelous hospitality room.
But people knew something was needed, something better was needed. And the first step in that direction was through the introduction of what are called French hybrids. It's not a good word. But they're called that because the most substantial work on them was done by the French. These are not the simple native hybrids that the America trade had been working with. They were much more complicated and sophisticated hybrids. I don't know anything about plant hybridizing, but these were combinations carried out from generation after gen-- so that the end result was a complex genetic mixture capable of yielding better crops than anything that the American hybrids could do.
The man who greatly promoted this development was a journalist in Baltimore named Philip Wagner, who didn't really much care about commercial winemaking, but he cared a lot about home winemaking. And he wrote a series of books on home winemaking which featured the use of these so-called French hybrids.
But some of the professional winemakers became interested too, particularly a man named Charles Fournier, who is a Frenchman who came from the Champagne region, who was the head of Gold Seal Winery at that time and had a very high reputation for his abilities. He was interested in the French hybrids and began to plant them, as did some other wineries.
I remember buying a bottle of French hybrid Rosé from Widmer about 1958 or '59. But they didn't make-- and they're now, of course, terribly important in New York and other states. And they continue to be produced, and they continue to be refined.
They first came out under the names of their hybridizers with a number attached to them, so they didn't mean anything. This is Baco 102, or Seyve-Villard 2,970. You could hardly sell that as a label.
So they began to give them more interesting names, more expressive names for public identification. And you must have seen these names on various labels, names like Chambourcin or Seyval, or Chancellor, or one that you would particularly respond to, which is called Cayuga. And the people at Cornell have done a lot of work in this kind of hybridizing.
So these modern hybrids have given a new character to New York winemaking. They've got it greater variety and greater quality.
And then there's vinifera. The Agricultural Experiment Station had not given up on vinifera. They had a collection of 101 varieties by the end of the 19th century. And they'd begun a serious study of cold climate cultivation as early as 1902 and a hybridizing program, and published a bulletin on vinifera in New York in 1917.
But then Prohibition shut down in 1920, 14 years, till the end of 1933, which put an end to that work, and had that the even worse consequence of scaring researchers away from the question of wine for the next generation. The United States Department of Agriculture, for example, immediately after Prohibition, attempted to set up some research wineries across the country. And they were immediately shot down by the Prohibitionist element in Congress. Your entire appropriation will be cut off if you pursue the wicked work of winemaking. So they did not pursue it.
And the equipment of the wineries was sold off to the trade. There's a building still at the great Experiment Station in Beltsville, Maryland, which I think is called, now, fruits and nuts, something like that. And it's the relic of the winery, the model winery, that was built in 1934 and had never crushed a grape.
Well, the same kind of atmosphere prevailed at Geneva. You didn't dare talk about wines. the work at Geneva in grapes after Prohibition for many years was largely devoted to table grapes. Wine was something too problematic to touch.
But in the 1950s, a refugee from, ultimately, Russia, but a German-speaking German, from the great German colonies imported into Russia by Catherine the Great in the 18th century, who maintained their German identity through all those years, a man named Konstantin Frank, who had done much work with cold climate viticulture in Russia, wound up in the United States, and after some difficulties was hired by Fournier at Gold Seal to see what he could do in cultivating vinifera.
He had ideas about winter hardiness. I won't go into those for two reasons. One, I don't know much about it. Or one, I don't know much about it, and two, it's still controversial.
But he succeeded certainly to his own satisfaction and to the satisfaction of quite a few other people. And as early as 1962, he founded what he called-- and you can see how-- what [INAUDIBLE]-- how polemical the name is. He founded Vinifera Wine Cellars in a country where you couldn't grow vinifera. And it's still going. And you'll see material about it in the splendid exhibit, which I hope you'll all go to look at.
But Frank's work was also assisted and complicated at the same time, beginning in the 1960s, by what has come to be called the wine revolution. Nobody quite understands that. But the fact is unavoidably clear.
The wine in this country from Prohibition and down to the 1960s has been dominated by so-called fortified wine. Californians don't call it that. They call it dessert wine. But it's fortified wine. It's got brandy in it. It's called things like sherry, and port, and Muscatel, 18 to 21 degrees of alcohol.
Three out of every four bottles produced in America were fortified wine down to the 1960s. That was what wine was. The table wine was just plonk. Nobody interested in it.
That suddenly altered. The sales of fortified wine disappeared. And they're still in a desperate condition, which is a pity because you can make very good fortified wine. And correspondingly, there was a great rise in the consumption of table wine. And the situation, in a very few years, was reversed. Instead of three bottles out of every four being fortified wine, it was now nine bottles out of 10 were table wine.
At the same time, there was a creation of a great many new small wineries, not just in California, but elsewhere.
Oh, I've gone too long. No, no.
AUDIENCE: No, keep going.
THOMAS PINNEY: Well, anyway, there was a big wine boom. And there was a transformation in the consumption habits of the American public.
In 1966-- I'll give you this much to figure in. There are 165 million gallons-- or 187 million gallons of the American wine market. 10 years later, it was 376, precisely double. And that trend has not stopped.
Well, if the New York industry was going to participate in this boom, it was going to have to do so on the basis of something better than the native hybrids. The wine revolution really put an end to their flourishing, even their existence. Oh, they're still here, of course. But it wasn't possible to compete on that basis. You had to do something other.
And that's where the new hybrids and vinifera come in. The success of this new grape growing is qualified. It's still difficult. There are some states that can't pull it off. Missouri doesn't grow vinifera. And you mentioned the fact that wine is made in all 50 American states. I would add the qualifier, more or less.
I haven't had North Dakota wine yet, and I'm in no hurry.
Well, I'll wind this up. The ability to make wine on a new basis, of course, is obviously dependent upon a new scientific understanding of plant pathology and the possibilities that that gives to us. It wasn't available earlier.
But the great thing is that good wine from the latest generation of hybrids and from vinifera is now being made on an important scale in New York and elsewhere in eastern North America-- good wine, sound wine, wine in great variety. So when you examine the display of the literature and lore of wine assembled in this Cornell exhibit, keep in mind the powerful obstacles that lay in the way of successful winemaking in this country. They were daunting and difficult. No wonder that it took a long time to overcome them. But they have been overcome. And that's a wonderful achievement. Thank you.
We've received your request
You will be notified by email when the transcript and captions are available. The process may take up to 5 business days. Please contact email@example.com if you have any questions about this request.
"Good wine is a necessity of life for me," said Thomas Jefferson.
The founding father's words are on display in the Cornell Library Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections' newest exhibition, "
Song of the Vine: A History of Wine." To mark the exhibit's opening, author Thomas Pinney lectured Cornell alumni on the history of wine in America June 5 in Hollis E. Cornell Auditorium.
Pinney, author of the two-volume "A History of Wine in America," took his audience through the turbulent journey of the American viticulture industry. "The story of wine in America has a very simple theme," he said. "You might call it overcoming difficulties." ...
more at Chronicle Online