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From Demon to Darling

From Demon to Darling: A Legal History of Wine in America

Richard Mendelson
Foreword by Margrit Biever Mondavi
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    From Demon to Darling
    Book Description:

    Richard Mendelson brings together his expertise as both a Napa Valley lawyer and a winemaker into this accessible overview of American wine law from colonial times to the present. It is a story of fits and starts that provides a fascinating chronicle of the history of wine in the United States told through the lens of the law. From the country's early support for wine as a beverage to the moral and religious fervor that resulted in Prohibition and to the governmental controls that followed Repeal, Mendelson takes us to the present day—and to the emergence of an authentic and significant wine culture. He explains how current laws shape the wine industry in such areas as pricing and taxation, licensing, appellations, health claims and warnings, labeling, and domestic and international commerce. As he explores these and other legal and policy issues, Mendelson lucidly highlights the concerns that have made wine alternatively the demon or the darling of American society—and at the same time illuminates the ways in which lives and livelihoods are affected by the rise and fall of social movements.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94320-9
    Subjects: Environmental Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. WINE IS LIFE: A Foreword by Margrit Biever Mondavi
    (pp. xi-xiv)

    I have always been fascinated—and often amused—by the intersection of wine and law, especially here in America. I was born and raised, you see, in the canton Ticino, the Italian part of Switzerland. Every day our main meal, what we call lunch, was a celebration, and be it outside between rosebushes and hydrangeas or in our dining room, there was always a bottle of wine on the table. No fuss, no muss, it was part of our daily meal.

    My first memories are of my little glass of water slightly tinted with wine and maybe a bit of...

    (pp. xv-xvi)
    Richard Mendelson
  6. NOTE
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-5)

    Two weeks after I arrived at Oxford in September 1975, I rambled down a corner staircase in the main quadrangle of Magdalen College to a nondescript door marked “Wine Steward.” Little did I know that it was the entrance to the college’s massive underground cellars and my future career. Over the next two years those cellars served as my introduction to the world of wine and led me to France and then America in pursuit of fine wines and their accompaniments—food, art, history, and culture. Law would come later.

    As a native Floridian, I had never drunk or heard...

  8. ONE Temperance
    (pp. 6-49)

    Since the early days of the republic, Americans have turned to the law to achieve their social goals with respect to wine, devising elaborate systems of legal incentives, subsidies, restrictions, and penalties in an effort to shape behavior. American laws since the early seventeenth century have regulated everything from the manufacture and marketing of wine to its distribution and consumption, and these laws have been almost continuously generated, dismantled, revived, revised, and reimagined.

    The content of the laws and regulations regarding wine has varied dramatically as cultural perspectives on alcoholic beverages changed.¹ Over time, wine laws have been used for...

  9. TWO National Prohibition
    (pp. 50-93)

    Law ways cannot change folkways.¹ The nation’s experience with National Prohibition from 1920 to 1933 attests to the truth of this adage. Even when the political, social, religious, and economic conditions in the country, along with widely accepted medical opinion, were aligned with the prohibitionists, and even after the closure of the nation’s saloons, prohibitory laws could not stop Americans from drinking.

    National Prohibition reduced liquor availability and increased liquor prices. The per capita consumption of all alcoholic beverages declined by nearly one-third.² This decline was particularly evident during the early 1920s and among members of the working class, who...

  10. THREE Solving Problems Past
    (pp. 94-136)

    At the end of Prohibition, a sprawling illegal liquor industry existed in America, composed of numerous manufacturers and distributors ranging from small family-owned businesses to national criminal syndicates. Domestic producers by then were accustomed to making alcoholic beverages of varying strengths with whatever ingredients were available. They did not pay taxes, and they reported to no one. Distribution was done by bootleggers, many of whom would continue their businesses after Repeal, relying on their extensive network of contacts. On the retail front, speakeasies were unregulated. They sold what they wanted—beverages, food, entertainment—when and to whomever they chose. As...

  11. FOUR Transforming Wine in American Culture
    (pp. 137-186)

    Wine consumption increased each year after Repeal, although not dramatically. Forty-two percent of Americans told pollsters in 1939 that they abstained from alcoholic beverages altogether.¹ Among wine drinkers, dessert wines (fortified and sweet), also known as “proof per penny wines,” outsold table wines approximately three to one.² The wine importer and connoisseur Frank Schoonmaker regarded this consumption ratio as “abnormal and unhealthy and ... temporary. At all events, it is a proportion which exists nowhere else in the wine-growing world.”³

    As Schoonmaker predicted, all that changed over the next twenty years as an authentic wine culture emerged and expanded in...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 187-190)

    Wine in America is a story of fits and starts, of lost opportunities followed by progress, and then by setback. Much of this can be traced to wine’s agricultural roots. Whereas the Founding Fathers were prepared to support a domestic wine industry, farmers lacked the expertise and plant material to grow decent-quality wine grapes. The propagation of hybridized vines solved that problem, but the winemakers then had to contend with adulterated wines already on the market. Just when the industry began to establish a reputation for quality, phylloxera took hold, and that scourge was followed by ever stricter state prohibitory...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 191-260)
    (pp. 261-272)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 273-302)