Food - Drink
The Grape That Made Drinking Wine During Prohibition Possible
Prohibition of alcohol in the United States between 1920 to 1933 is considered by some to be a glaring failure in legislative history since, instead of curbing drinking, it led to more organized crime. However, a loophole allowed each household to make "200 gallons of non-intoxicating cider and fruit juice per year," as cited by the U.C. Davis Library.
Grape vendors, taking advantage of the loophole, began warning their customers to "not place the liquid in a jug away in the cupboard for twenty days, because then it would turn into wine," per Serious Eats — a “mistake” they wanted people to make. This at-home winemaking caused grape prices to jump from $9.50 per ton in 1919 to $82 per ton by 1921.
As a result, a massive expansion of vineyards in California took place, but shipping grapes out to the East Coast proved to be too tough on the fruit. Instead, they began to grow a particularly hearty type of grape called Alicante Bouschet, which grew in high volume and had thick skin that protected it during transport.
However, there was a problem — Alicante grapes made terrible wine that had a low alcohol percentage of only 8%, which led bootleggers to cheat their customers by diluting it with sugar and water. Once Prohibition ended and alcoholic drinks were legal again, wine sales plummeted and didn’t make a comeback until 1975.