December 5, 1933: On this day in 1933, after years of flagrant flouting of the Prohibition laws and an attendant rise in criminality, the 21st Amendment to the US Constitution is passed. This effectively revoked the 18th Amendment or Volstead Act which had prohibited the sale and supply of alcohol in the United States back in 1920. Unlike other amendments to the US Constitution, the 21st Amendment was introduced on a state-by-state basis and while most states implemented it almost immediately, many states and even counties did not. For instance, Mississippi, which was the last state to revoke the 18th Amendment, only did so in 1966. Other communities have refused to do so altogether over the last ninety years and there are still dry counties in some small pockets of America today where wine, beer, and spirits still cannot be purchased legally.
December 5, 1941: On this day, Michael-Jack Chasseuil, a wine collector, was born. French collector Michel-Jack Chasseuil, who has approximately 50,000 bottles of great wines in his massive cellar in western France, may have the world’s largest wine collection. Chasseuil feels his collection to be an essential part of French history, and after several museums turned him down for displaying it, he decided to turn his cellar into an exhibition venue. People say that it costs 500 EUR (£430) just to glance around the cellar. Later in 2021, Chasseuil aims to open his “Louvre of Wine.”
December 5 1985: On this day in 1985 a new record price for the sale at auction of a single bottle of wine was set when the famed auction house, Christie’s, sold a bottle of 1787 Chateau Lafite for $156,000. The bottle was believed to have been owned by Thomas Jefferson, the main author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the third president of the US from 1801 to 1809. Jefferson served as the American ambassador to France for a few years in the mid-1780s, in succession to Benjamin Franklin in that role. While he was in France he developed extensive trade connections there, particularly amongst the wine merchants of the city of Bordeaux. As such it makes sense that the bottle of 1787 Chateau Lafite would have been provided to him, but many have questioned the authenticity of the bottle sold by Christie’s in 1985. For more information, see Joseph Lelyveld’s article ‘$156,450 Wine Sets a Record’, in The New York Times, 6 December 1985, as well as Benjamin Wallace’s book The Billionaire’s Vinegar: The Mystery of the World’s Most Expensive Bottle of Wine (New York, 2008).
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