America’s modern infatuation with wine began in earnest in the 1960s. Compared to Old World countries in Europe, our wine culture is young. Since the time of the American Revolution there had always been a market among the upper classes for imported European wine, but consumption was small relative to other alcoholic beverages. The nineteenth century saw waves of immigrants from the Old World who brought winemaking knowledge to our shores. Many of these immigrants headed west where they helped build California’s wine industry. In the decades preceding Prohibition we made strides in local production and consumption, but the majority of those efforts were undone by our national booze ban.
Decades later wine began its steady march to where it is today. These advertisements show the changing ways we’ve perceived wine and our reasons for choosing it over beer or spirits. Wine was reintroduced to the American public in a period marked by the rapid rise of the middle class. The mid-century ads reflect that period in their stress on entertaining and hosting guests. Those ads also convey ease. Wine was a foreign product, literally in the case of imports, and figuratively for inexperienced drinkers. As wine’s popularity increased we see a shift to ads that focus on quality and diversity in tastes.