People are really fighting over the right to drink lately. Simon Doonan recently wrote an article for Slate about how he wished Prohibition was back in action. What??? I love Simon (he’s the Creative Director of Barney’s if you don’t know) so I wanted to see what his gripe with the grape was all about. In typically humorous fashion, he laments, “Being of a certain height, I am in the direct firing line of the boozy sprays that issue forth in a downward arc from the braying mouths of drunks.” I can also get down with his intolerance for drunken people getting behind the wheel. Drunks are dangerous and scary on the road and never fun at a party, but I wouldn’t want a few over-doers to ruin the amazingness for the rest of us grapefriends.
This year is actually the 80th anniversary of Prohibition’s repeal. On Broadway, Gershwin’s Nice Work If You Can Get It was just revived with Matthew Broderick and Blythe Danner, and it takes place during Prohibition. Of course the only people having fun are the bootleggers and those who get to partake in their goods. Plus, Blythe Danner gets happily wheeled around the stage with Champagne glass in hand at the end. I have to take her side over Simon’s on this one.
This is all probably a little bit more about hard liquor than wine, but Prohibition was an interesting point in history for American winemaking. People were only allowed to make wine for religious purposes – and if you’ve ever taken a sip at the altar, it ain’t exactly Lafite. Since no one was making wine for 13 years, American winemaking totally suffered. We were already decades and decades behind Europe and the rest of the Old World winemakers, and now our vineyards had been neglected and were in bad condition. Also, since everyone had been drinking bootleg schlock wine for so long that they had to add spirits to, people’s taste in wine was now all about sweet wine. Blech! Before Prohibition dry wine was three times more prevalent than sweet, and afterwards it was the opposite.
It wasn’t until the 70s when people settled down in Napa and got down to business that we started making good wine in this country. California has led the way but every year more and more states are figuring out what grapes work best in their climates and really upping their grape game. Luckily, they’re legally allowed to! Suck it, Prohibition.