April 8, 1838: On this day the SS Great Western departed from Bristol in England bound for New York City. It was the first steamship built for the specific purposes of crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Prior to this traditional sail ships had taken between three and a half and six weeks to cross the Atlantic. The advent of the steamship reduced this considerably and just over two weeks after it left Bristol the Great Western was in port in New York. However, the reduction in time to traverse the Atlantic which steam-powered ships brought about had peculiar consequences. With the reduced time invasive species which had stowed away on board ships had a much better chance of surviving the Atlantic passage. One such species was the phylloxera aphid which was consequently able to arrive to Europe in the 1850s on board steamships. In the decades after its arrival, this sap-sucking insect began decimating Europe’s vineyards and destroying grape yields. Thus, the phylloxera epidemic was intimately associated with the rise of steam-powered naval travel in the mid-nineteenth century. For more information, see Helen Doe’s The First Atlantic Liner: Brunel’s Great Western Steamship (London, 2017).
April 8, 1894: On this day, after the phylloxera invasion, Émile Fleury, a visionary winemaker became the first to plant grafted Pinot Noirs in the Champagne region. After the phylloxera invasion, he rebuilt the family vineyard, laying the foundation for the Fleury estate as we know it today.
April 8, 1933: On this day, people could legally consume beer and wine with a lower percentage of alcohol thanks to the Cullen-Harrison Act, which was passed around ten months before the 21st Amendment was enacted. The incoming president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, had the Volstead Act altered so that individuals might drink a beer or two while waiting for the 21st Amendment to be adopted. This allowed people to enjoy themselves while waiting for the Amendment to be ratified. To present President Roosevelt with a symbolic case of beer, the very first team of Budweiser Clydesdales was sent to the White House.
April 8, 1952: On this day, Nicholas Lander was born. He works in the restaurant sector as a consultant and writer, and has established a reputation within the London restaurant industry. He has authored several books. He is married to Jancis Robinson.
April 8, 2021: Around this time, a cold front that caused significant damage to French vineyards made its way to Italy. Over several nights, Piedmont and Tuscany were subjected to frigid temperatures. The extent of the damage varied based on the grape variety, height, and the vines’ growth progress since that March.
April 8, 2021: On this day Rudy Kurniawan was deported from the United States following prosecution for his controversially fraudulent practices in the selling and distributing of rare wines.
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