The History of New World Wine

Before the Age of Exploration, the indigenous peoples of the Americas had a long tradition of distilling alcohol into alcoholic beverages. It is widely established that indigenous distilled alcohol from various products, including maize, potatoes, quinoa, and even strawberries. This information has been thoroughly recorded. Although there were species of the genus Vitis in North and Central America, wine was not made from the ancient inhabitants’ fermented fruit of these plants.

Napa Valley, California

Early Wines in America

Food-bearing animals and plants were among the first things the Spanish settlers to the Americas brought with them. Consequently, they adjusted their eating habits to be more like the Spanish and European cuisine they had grown to love. European wines sent to the Americas were more likely to be sour because they were not kept in bottles, and the corks were not sealed. This was crucial to developing the Spanish American wine market in the New World [1].

In 1494, on his second voyage to the New World, Columbus attempted to plant grapes for the first time on the island of Hispaniola. In 1503, the then-Spanish King Ferdinand II of Aragon prohibited the production of grapes on Hispaniola. In 1524, inspired by the early 16th-century success of grape cultivation in Hispaniola, the first vineyards were planted in Mexico.

Conquistador Hernán Cortés ordered the Spanish colonists on the Mexican Plateau to plant grapes on any newly gained area in 1524. He believed that by taking this action, the grape business would thrive. Some suggest that Bartolomé de Terrazas and Francisco de Carabantes planted the first grapes in the nation in the 1540s. The second group to settle in Ica started growing grapes for export to Chile and Argentina [2].

Mission (Spanish: Misión) is a dark-skinned grape variety that originated in Mexico, traveled to Texas, and was finally established in California. Peru also cultivated this dark-colored grape variety, known as “Peruvian black” (Negra Peruana). This grape’s ancestor was Pa’s variety, Chile’s most frequently cultivated grape. This grape originated in Chile and was carried to the now Argentina area, where the inhabitants gave it the name Criolla chica.

Although it is often believed that these grapes originated in Spain, the fact is that they likely originated in Italy. Due to their similarity to the Mónica variety, also commonly cultivated in Spain, these similarities may be explained by the fact that both individuals are Spanish [3].

Not until the second half of the 16th Century did Spain begin transporting substantial amounts of wine to Mexico and Cuba to satisfy the rising demand among Spanish colonists. This phenomenon is directly attributable to the increasing popularity of wine among Spanish colonists.

The Mexican populace consumed the great majority of this wine. Argentina, Chile, and Peru did not demonstrate this trend. Due to the lavish praise for Spanish vintages, wine exports have declined while local demand has soared. Compared to what they had planted in Peru and Chile, the number of grapevines the Spanish colonists brought to Mexico was tiny [2].

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Peru’s interior and southern coast was the most significant wine-producing region in the Americas. This was true from the interior to the coastal areas of Peru. This area consisted of cities like Ica and Pisco. In the 16th Century, despite the region’s high average temperatures, Paraguay became a significant wine-producing nation like its neighbors Peru and Chile. In 1602, Hernando Arias de Saavedra visited the city of Asunción and reported that the surrounding region included 187 wineries and 1,768,000 plant kinds.

According to another report, there were only 1,780,000,000,000 plants at this time. The river conveyed the Paraguayan wine to Santa Fe, where it was subsequently distributed in Platine. Moreover, it is reported that Paraguayan wine found its way to Cordoba, the old capital of Argentina [3].

The “Fall” in America Led to South Africa’s Growth

The Crown of Spain issued an edict in 1595 forbidding the production of fresh grapes in the Americas. Many of those involved disregarded the restriction prohibiting the cultivation of more vines. This embargo, implemented to prevent Peruvian wine from undercutting the price of Iberian wine, is a textbook example of commodity mercantilism. Some claim that the embargo is a kind of mercantilism. This measure was intended to preserve the existing market share of Iberian wines.

Taxes on imported Peruvian wine were collected in Panama and Guatemala in 1614 and 1615 while both nations were still under Spanish colonial control. Shipping Peruvian wine requires adhering to specific regulations. Winemaking and associated sectors were not heavily controlled throughout the Spanish Empire. This event focused on the business side of manufacturing wine. Iberian wine had economic success only in Mexico, the only American market the Spanish Crown could at least partly guarantee [4].

The mining sector is currently expanding in Potos. La Paz, the most important city in the Americas, is located in Bolivia. Hence wine demand was stable. Bolivia’s primary wine supply was the Peruvian wine industry. More specifically, Bolivia may be in Bolivia during that time. The citizens of Potos were not only paid in currency but also with wine for their hard work. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Peruvian winemakers supplied Lima, the political capital of South America [5].

Chile’s constant desire for wine may be attributed to the country’s regular army, the Force of Arauco, which fought against the indigenous Mapuche and was compensated with silver from Potos. The army’s budget was under Potos’s supervision. The people of Paraguay stopped growing grapes because they thought their wine would fail to compete in the United States, Europe, or South America. However, they emphasized raising capital by selling yerba mate and tobacco. In the 18th Century, winemaking in Paraguay was almost nonexistent.

As well as the remainder of Peru’s southern coast, the 1687 earthquake wiped down the cities of Villa de Pisco and Ica. Wine storage facilities and clay amphorae were also destroyed. Because of this incidence, wine production in Peru began to fall. The Jesuits were forced to sell their Peruvian vineyards at a high cost when the Spanish government exterminated them in America in 1767. However, the new owners lacked the Jesuits’ experience, so production fell.

Pisco production surged ahead of winemaking in the early 18th Century, and by 1764, it accounted for 90% of all grape drinks made in Peru. The development of Peru’s wine industry faced yet another obstacle. Although the pisco business flourished, Peru’s vineyards continued to suffer economically long after the sector moved.

This is because, in the second part of the 18th Century, the Spanish Crown relaxed its ban on rum production in Peru. This allowed for the production of rum, which could be created much more rapidly than pisco but was of worse quality. There was a rise in the availability of rum in Peru. Manufacturing pisco is more expensive than producing other types of alcoholic beverages [6].

The quality of Peruvian wine had declined significantly by 1795, prompting the government to begin importing wine from Chile. During that period, Lima acquired its first supply of wine from Concepción in southern Chile, amounting to 5,000 crates (botijas). As a result of this, Peru began receiving its first shipments of wine.

The importance of Chile as a winemaking region, particularly in contrast to Peru, was highlighted by the shipment of this cargo. After tasting the wines of Concepción, Eduard Friedrich Poeppig agreed with the many others who have said they are the best in Chile. He reasoned that this must be the case since the nation’s south had a more humid climate [7].

European colonists introduced wine to the New World for several reasons, but its primary significance was religious. South African Constantia wine, a favorite of European aristocracy beginning in the 18th Century, is an early example of probable bidirectional commerce.

History of New World Wine

Impacts of the Industrial Age

In 1788, after leading an expedition to the Cape of Good Hope, Governor Phillip brought several presents to the convict colony of New South Wales. Among these gifts was a collection of grape cuttings. The ship carrying the First Fleet had modifications to it (1788). Winemaking experiments with these ancient plants ultimately failed.

A small number of early settlers, however, took advantage of Australia’s favorable temperature and fertile soil to plant grapevines. By the 1820s, Australian wine was bottled and exported to the rest of the world. Gregory Blaxland was the first person to ship wine from Australia overseas, and he did so as early as 1822.

Not only that, but he also has the distinction of being the first and only winemaker in history to win a competition in a nation other than the one in which he resides and brings home the prize. Approximately 1830 saw the first commercial cultivation of grapes in Australia’s Hunter Valley. In 1833, James Busby brought many grape types back to England after travelling through France and Spain. They grew a wide variety of grapes, including almost all of the traditional grape varieties consumed in France. Those grapes were among the best for making fortified wine [8].

Many of the difficulties encountered by the first individuals to attempt making wine in Australia may be traced back to their inability to adapt to the country’s unique environment. Despite this, they eventually achieved a great deal of success. Some of the Victoria wines were liked by French judges at the Vienna Exhibition in 1873, despite their inability to read the labels.

After learning where the wine came from, however, the French judges revoked their approval. They had always assumed that only France could produce wines of this kind. As a result, every year, French wine competitions crown Australian wines as the best in the world [9].

Mendoza, formerly known as Cuyo, had meteoric expansion in the wine industry in the late nineteenth and early twentieth Century, rising to prominence as the world’s fifth most important wine-growing area. Several highly regarded wineries may be found in Argentina’s Mendoza province. Therefore, it was the first region in Latin America to begin producing wine.

Before the Buenos Aires-Mendoza railroad was constructed in 1885, goods had to be transported by carts between the two cities in Argentina. This was not only inconvenient but also time-consuming and costly. The success of the wine industry in Mendoza was also dependent on this factor. The influx of immigrants from Southern Europe enhanced the demand for Argentina’s traditional wines. This trend was especially noticeable in the wine business [10].

Compared to Chile’s 1,000 hectares (2,000 acres) in 1830, Mendoza’s vineyard area was substantially larger at 45,000 hectares (1,000,000 acres) in 1910. Chile’s economy had improved by the turn of the nineteenth Century, and the country’s vineyard plantings had grown. Vineyards, mostly using French rootstock brought from France, covered almost all of Argentina’s countryside by 1910. This bottle of Malbec contains mostly French-origin grapes. That lasted until 1816 when the country formally broke away from Spain [11].

The wine business in Peru continued its slow decline during the 19th Century, as it had since its inception in the 18th Century. It has been theorized that the precipitous decline of Peru’s wine and pisco industries may be traced back to the country’s vintners, who allegedly shifted their attention from planting grapes to growing cotton in response to rising demand in industrialized Europe.

As urban populations throughout Europe continued to grow, measures like these were taken to keep up with demand. It was born out of a growing fascination with the prosperous nations of Europe. The Union’s blockade of the Confederacy and its cotton fields during the American Civil War led to severe crop shortages and, subsequently, higher pricing (1861–1865). The cost of cotton has risen to an all-time high this morning.

When the Cobden-Chevalier Treaty was ratified in the 1860s, South African wines began competing for head-on with French wines in the British market. South Africa’s wine industry was hit hard when French wine shipments to Britain increased by three. This was because British wine drinkers were forced to choose between South African and French vintages once the treaty went into effect.

The agreement was finalized and made legally binding this year, and its terms are now being put into reality. The devastating Phylloxera epidemic of the 1880s compounded the problems facing South Africa’s wine sector. This time, a considerable sum of money disappeared [12].

vineyard in Mendoza, Argentina

In the 20th Century

Transporting wine from Chile to Argentina was complicated by a lack of acceptable land transport and a wave of war rumors occurring at the same time. The signing of the Pactos de Mayo in 1902 and the completion of the Transandine Railway in 1909 were two primary factors. These advancements facilitated trade and decreased the likelihood of conflict in the Andean area. All the nations have decided to collaborate on a free trade agreement. Fearing competition from Chilean wines, Argentina’s national winegrowers association, Centro Vitivincola Nacional, was adamantly opposed to the free trade pact. The majority of prominent members of this group are recent arrivals from Europe. Free trade agreements between Argentina and Chile were canceled due to opposition from the wine and livestock industries.

Also read: Argentina and Chile Wine History

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[1] Mishkin, David Joel (1966). The American Colonial Wine Industry: an Economic Interpretation (Ph.D.). University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. hdl:2142/61108

[2]  Rice, Prudence M. (1996). “The Archaeology of Wine: The Wine and Brandy Haciendas of Moquegua, Peru”. Journal of Field Archaeology. Taylor & Francis, Ltd. 23 (2): 187–204. doi:10.2307/530503JSTOR 530503

[3] Del Pozo, José (2004) [1998]. Historia del vino chileno (in Spanish) (3 ed.). Editorial UniversitariaISBN 956-11-1735-5.

[4]  Rice, Prudence M. (1996). “The Archaeology of Wine: The Wine and Brandy Haciendas of Moquegua, Peru”. Journal of Field Archaeology. Taylor & Francis, Ltd. 23 (2): 187–204. doi:10.2307/530503JSTOR 530503

[5] Clark, Oz (2004). Australian Wine Companion. Time Warner Book Group UK. p. s.12. ISBN 0-316-72874-8.

[6] Ponte, Stefano; Ewert, Joachim (2007). “South African Wine – An Industry in Ferment” (PDF). tralac Working Paper No. 8. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-09-19. Retrieved 2016-06-08.

[7] “History & Geography”Wines of Chile. 2015. Archived from the original on 8 March 2018. Retrieved 2 June 2016.

[8] Atkin, Tim (18 January 2009). “Happy returns”The Guardian. London.

[9] Hartley, Clive (2002). The Australian Wine Guide. Putney, NSW: Hospitality Books. ISBN 0957703449.

[10] Rytkönen, Paulina (2004). Fruits of Capitalism. Lund Studies in Economic History. Vol. 31. Almquiest & Wiksell Intl. pp. 56–57. ISBN 978-9122020943.

[11] Woodward, Llewellyn (1962). The Age of Reform, 1815–1870 (2 ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 179.

[12] “Phylloxera” Phylloxera and Grape Industry Board of Australia. Archived from the original on 5 December 2014. Retrieved 16 December 2014.

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