May 5, 1789: The French Revolution began, and proceeded for ten and a half years. After the French Revolution, the church’s final vineyards were divided up and sold off starting in 1791. The Napoleonic inheritance laws caused further subdivision of the most valuable vineyard properties, and some farmers today only possess one or two rows of grapes. As a result, négociants started to emerge, who pooled the production of many vineyards to produce a single wine. Additionally, it has led to an abundance of small, little family-run vineyards, like the dozen or so Domaines belonging to the “Gros” family.
May 5, 1808: On this day, the French invaded the Iberian peninsula, which marked the start of a new struggle with England, new, high taxes were placed on French wine, allowing Portuguese wine to be imported and sold at a discount. These facts helped various Portuguese wines, like the white Bucelas, fortified Carcavelos, and a red wine known only as Lisbon, gain popularity in England.
May 5, 1818: On this day, Karl Marx was born. He was one of the most prominent revolutionary, sociologists, historians, and economists in European history, and is the namesake for the school of thought called Marxism. Marx’s family held a vineyard in Trier, Germany’s Mosel valley. Karl’s father, Trier lawyer Heinrich Marx, purchased the vineyard slopes as an investment and cultivated them for the next 30 years. Karl owned the vineyard until his father’s death in 1838.
May 5, 1833: On this day in 1833 James Busby arrived to the Bay of Islands on the Northern Island of New Zealand on board the HMS Imogene as the British Resident of the relatively new colony. A viticulturist by trade, he soon began cultivating several French, Spanish and German grape varietals at his residence at Waitangi. When the French explorer, Dumont d’Urbville, visited in 1840 he described Busby as offering him a sweet, sparkling white wine which was of a very good quality. Indeed Busby was central to the introduction of European grape varietals to both Australia and New Zealand and has been descrived by some as the ‘father of the Australian wine industry’. His wider legacy in New Zealand was also considerable, having negotiated a series of treaties with the Maori people while serving as resident and thus paving the way for more harmonious relations between the natives of New Zealand and the British crown than obtained between the aboriginals of Australia and the colonial government there. For more information, see this page on James Busby and New Zealand history.
May 5, 1870: On this day, phylloxera arrived in Spain in the 1870s via three different entry points: Gerona, Malaga, and the border district of Porto. Despite this, it had a significant effect on the region of La Rioja, which suffered a decline of 70 percent in the number of its vineyards.
May 5, 1985: Los Carneros was designated as an American Viticultural Area on this day. The region has a history of winemaking dating back all the way to the original Mexican occupation.
May 5, 1993: On this day, Ricky Schraub died. Schraub was a poet, performance artist, and wine critic. He spent most of his youth in California, and worked odd jobs until he became a field hand for wineries in Napa Valley in his thirties. He was then hired to work as a wine critic for the publication Berkeley Barb. His journalistic style developed a niche audience.
For more dates in wine history, click here.