We begin the session by asking Christopher Beros, Asia Director of California Wine Institute, and Elaine Chukan Brown, American specialist of JancisRobinson.com and contributing writer with Wine and Spirits Magazine, to share a little more about the history of winemaking in California. "How much time do you have?" Mr Beros jokes. Such a light statement belies the fact that wine making has had a long presence in California since the late 1700s, with roots from Spanish missionaries bringing vines and practices of wine making. But, as Ms Chukan Brown shares, it didn't become as big until the gold rush of the mid-1800s, where a population boom that occurred in California meant a huge influx of people interested in food and wine. "The first Golden Age of California wines started in the 1880s, and lasted all the way until Prohibition in the 1900s till 1933," says Ms Chukan Brown.
The era, which forbade the development and creation of alcohol unless used for religious or medicinal purposes, was detrimental to any development of wine culture in California, and slowed down any development of wine. Wine grape varietals, to that end, were less planted in favour of juice grapes. It only took off again at the end of the 1950s to the early 1960s, due to one significant factor: the loss of knowledge in wine making thanks to Prohibition, due to the loss of people who understood the craft to war, death and dying out. For it to bounce back, it needed time for aspiring wine makers to understand the technical know-how of creating wine.
This story has been summarised from its original story California Dreamin', located in Jan/Feb 2020's edition of Cuisine & Wine Asia under the column Who's + Who. To read more, please get your copy at Kinokuniya and MPH bookstores, or subscribe via Magzter.