January 17, 395: On this day Emperor Theodosius, who had ruled much of the Roman Empire since 379, died. Theodosius was one of the most acclaimed rulers of the Roman Empire in its later period, having waged a highly successful war against the Goths, a Eurasian nomadic people who had invaded the Balkans. He is known as Theodosius the Great, however, this name is largely owing to his decision to enact a series of persecutory laws against the Pagans of the empire from 381 onwards. These regulations effectively crushed the old Greek and Roman polytheistic religions practiced across the Mediterranean world. With them local cults of the old gods were shut down and their adherents persecuted. One of the less well-known effects of this was that it destroyed the cults of the old wine gods across the Roman world, not just the more famous ones such as Dionysius and Bacchus, but also those of Liber Pater, Ceres and others. As a result, the extensive wine festivals which were held to celebrate these gods were dispensed with. For more information, see Frank R. Tombley’s Hellenic Religion and Christianization, c. 370–529 (2 Vols., Leiden, 2014).
January 17, 1342: On this day in 1342, Philip II, also known as Philip the Bold, was born in Pontoise, France. During his time as a Duke of Burgundy, he passed the first-ever vine-making policies that banned Gamay in the Burgundy wine region.
January 17, 1920: On this day in 1920 the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution, which is colloquially known as the Volstead Act after Andrew Volstead, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee which championed the legislation in Congress, formally established the prohibition of intoxicating liquor in the United States. Prohibition would be enforced, with major difficulties, for the next 14 years, but throughout that time Americans continue to drink in speakeasies, jazz clubs and in their homes. Crime ran rampant in cities like Chicago and New York as mobsters such as Al Capone and Lucky Luciano made huge sums of money from the manufacture and sale of illegal alcohol. A less well-known aspect of Prohibition was that the California wine industry was badly impacted on. Nevertheless, it did survive, in large part as vintners were able to continue selling ‘wine bricks’ of concentrated grape juice to customers to make wine in their own homes, a clause in the Prohibition legislation which allowed millions of Americans to make and drink their own wine at home throughout the 1920s.
January 17, 1956: Anne-Claude Leflaive, a pioneer and significant winemaker in Burgundy, was born. After entering the family business in 1990 and taking over as manager in 1994 after her father Vincent passed away, Anne-Claude was named the top maker of white wines in the world by Decanter magazine in 2006 and also helped to establish the Ecole du Vin et des Terroirs in Puligny-Montrachet.
January 17, 1982: On this day, Dwyane Wade, a former professional basketball player, was born. Wade consistently played at the top levels of the NBA during his long career with Miami Heat. He is a renowned wine collector, and co-founded the winery Wade Cellars to explore his love for beverage and share it with others.
January 17, 2008: Known Hunter Valley winemaker Trevor Drayton and his cousin perished in an explosion at a Pokolbin winery on this day. At Drayton’s Winery in New South Wales’ Hunter Valley, the bodies of the two men were discovered in a wine processing shed. The two men’s remains couldn’t be quickly recovered, according to police, since it was too dangerous. The blast ignited a third individual, who was later discovered on fire in a farm dam nearby.
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