Monday, August 22, 2016

United States wine production: 1880 versus 2015

The first successful commercial vineyard and winery in the USA was established in 1798 in Lexington, Kentucky, by John James Dufour. There had been attempts as early as 1619 in Virginia, but none succeeded. After Dufour, Nicholas Longworth built the Ohio wine industry, and George Husmann founded the Missouri wine industry; and in the 1850s, Ohio was the largest wine-producing state, based on the American catawba grape. Vineyards had been established at Spanish missions in California in the late 1700s, but a commercial industry was not established until the mid 1800s, by people such as Charles Kohler and Andrea Sbarboro. You can read about this history in the book by Thomas Pinney, The Makers of American Wine: A Record of Two Hundred Years (University of California Press, 2012).

From these beginnings, wine production has clearly increased in the USA. There was a serious set-back during Prohibition (1920–1933), but there has also been a dramatic increase since 1970. It therefore could be of interest to make some sort of quantitative comparison of "then" versus now.

The data that I have used are for the years 1880 and 2015, and come respectively from these two sources:
In both publications, annual wine production data are provided in gallons for each state of the USA for which there was significant wine volume at the time.

These data are shown in the graph (click to enlarge). In the scatterplot, each point represents a single state, located according to its volume of wine production during 1880 (horizontally) and 2015 (vertically). Note the logarithmic scale for both axes. Also, note that the states labeled in red actually had less wine production than is shown by their position on the graph — they have been placed directly on the graph axes for convenience.

US wine production in 1880 and 2015

The pink line on the graph shows equivalence. That is, any state on (or near) the line had the same volume of wine production in 2015 as it did in 1880; any state above the line had a greater production in 2015 than in 1880; and any state below the line had greater production in 1880 than in 2015.

Clearly, most states increased their wine production from 1880 to 2015. This includes five states that now produce considerable amounts of wine but which were not listed as wine-producing states in 1880 — these are labeled in red at the left of the graph.

There are also five states that have increased their production by more than two orders of magnitude: Oregon (800 times), Florida (165), Pennsylvania (135), Minnesota (130) and Massachusetts (110); along with Wisconsin (90 times).

California has always been the biggest wine-producing state in the USA, and it now produces 50 times as much wine as it did in 1880. Washington, New York and Pennsylvania all now (2015) produce more wine than California did back in 1880, with Oregon producing about the same amount.

Interestingly, there are two states (labeled in blue on the graph) that have hardly changed their wine production at all — Iowa and New Mexico. This does not necessarily mean that their production has never changed through time. In fact, it probably decreased during Prohibition, and has now returned to former levels but no higher.

Finally, there are eight states whose wine production is now considerably less than it was 135 years ago. Indeed, two of these states (labeled in red at the bottom of the graph) are not now recognized as producing much wine at all, even though they were ranked 14th and 15th back in 1880. Other states are making a comeback, after having their wine volume drop to a low level. Missouri, in particular, was the second-biggest producer of wine in 1880, and it is now slowly making a comeback, with the establishment of new vineyards.

This post was inspired by an earlier one from the Hogshead blog: The top ten wine producing states in 1880 as compared to 2012.

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