Missouri Wine History

December 14th, 2009

Missouri Wine History is quite extensive and an interesting aspect of the state. Native Americans who lived in Missouri before settlement took place began cultivating an assortment of native grapes, which were further developed by the European immigrants who settled in the area. Missouri wine making officially began in the 1800s, when German immigrants settled in the central part of the state in an area known as the, “Rhineland.” Italian immigrants later became involved in wine making during the latter part of the 19th century and the industry soon took off.

The Germans and Italians found that the climate in Missouri worked exceptionally well with wine production. Missouri has incredibly long, warm summer months and moderate winter temperatures, which is perfect for wine making. The Missouri and Mississippi Rivers also provided convenient river access and made transportation quite easy between cities and towns, providing a never-ending supply to customers.

Wineries were very prominent in the Hermann area with many local wines winning awards domestically and abroad. The Stone Hill Winery, located in Hermann, was the third-largest winery in the world around the turn of the century and helped solidify Missouri’s stance in the industry.

Millions of barrels of wine were leaving the state and were shipped all over the world. When the wine industry in France suffered a tremendous setback from an insect that attacked their vineyards, it was Missouri entomologist Charles Riley who discovered that American rootstocks were unaffected by to the vermin. His experiments with French and American varieties saved the wine industry in France.

Missouri was the second largest wine producing state in the union before Prohibition began in the 1920s. All wineries had to cease operation and close, with the exception of a seminary in Florissant, which was permitted to make wines used in sacrament. Although the repeal of alcohol was eventually lifted and Missouri could resume its wine making, it has been argued that the area has never fully recovered. However, in recent years there has been a rebirth in wine making with several wineries popping up all over the state. Missouri now boasts 92 wineries as of 2009, and that number is expected to grow rapidly as demand is currently exceeding supply.

Source: Dufur, Brett. “History of Missouri Wine Industry.” Missouri Wine Country.

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