April 19, 1783: On this day in 1783 Catherine II of Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from the Crimean Tatars as part of Russia’s southwards expansion towards the Black Sea, the Caucasus and the Balkans. The Crimea, with its hills, war climate and winds off the Black Sea possesses an ideal micro-climate for viticulture. While wine had been grown here since ancient times, this expanded considerably under Russian rule. In the decades which followed the annexation of the region by Catherine’s government the peninsula became one of Europe’s premier wine-producing regions, as it was used to supply the Russian aristocracy with fortified wines and sparkling wines. This tendency increased in the second half of the nineteenth century when the wine industry in western Europe was ravaged by the phylloxera epidemic. The Crimea has remained one of Eastern Europe’s most significant centers of viticulture down to the present day. For more information see Alan W. Fisher’s The Russian Annexation of the Crimea, 1772–1783 (Cambridge, 1970), pp. 57–59.
April 19, 1850: On this day, the law nicknamed the Indian Indenture Act was passed. The Native Americans of California were severely deprived of the majority of their rights via the Act, which was the first piece of legislation the state ever passed. Under the law any white person could label a Native American as idle, vagabond, or drunk, entitling a marshal or sheriff to apprehend and penalize the individual. Since the majority of Native Americans were unable to pay these fees, a week’s worth of their labor was auctioned off to the bidder who offered the greatest price. The Native Americans were unable to oppose their treatment since they were also forbidden by law from testifying in court against white males. Harris Newmark, a Prussian Jew who immigrated to Los Angeles in 1853, claimed as a result that “Much of the work related with the grape business was done by Indians.” They walked nonstop from morning till night while barefoot, wearing scant clothing, pressing the juice that formed the foundations for California’s profitable wine business.
April 19, 1970: On this day, Luis Miguel was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He is a best-selling Latin American musical artist, and was the youngest male artist in history to receive a Grammy, at the age of 14 years old. In addition to his wildly successful musical career, he is a self-taught sommelier, and released his own Cabernet Sauvignon vintage.
For more dates in wine history, click here.