Winebits 575: Prohibition and the Klan, Oregon wine, Millennials and wine

Prohibition and the KlanThis week’s wine news: How the Ku Klux Klan supported Prohibition, plus Oregon tightens its wine label laws and Millennials are abandoning wine

Prohibition and the Klan: Lisa McGirr, writing in the New York Times, offers that Prohibition was about more than religious, anti-drinking fervor and trying to protect working families from the evils of early industrialization. In addition, “anti-liquor crusaders found a powerful new ally in the so-called second Ku Klux Klan. … the organization snowballed after 1920 in the Midwest and West … [and] drew in a bumper crop of new recruits with their anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant, white supremacist message. … the anti-liquor crusaders ushered in the mixed-sex, alcohol-laced, night-life leisure Americans have known ever since.” She describes one incident in the early 1920s in southern Illinois (where I later worked as a young newspaperman) that led to repeated violence, 14 deaths, and the National Guard.

Defining Oregon wine: The Oregon wine industry had to fend off a major challenge from an important California producer in 2018; the latter tried to label his California-made wine as “Oregon” in defiance of federal regulations. The Oregon legislature, not satisfied with what it saw as a tardy and insufficient federal response, will consider “a measure aimed at preventing out-of-state winemakers from hijacking the names and reputations of certain growing areas.” This dispute is not as wine geeky as it sounds. Rather, it speaks to the growing power and hubris of many large producers, who see bending the law to their advantage as just another way to do business.

Bye, bye Millennials: The Wine Curmudgeon and the annual SVB wine report aren’t the only ones who have noticed younger people don’t much care about wine. The Wine Intelligence US Landscapes 2019 report “found there was a ‘marked decline’ in the frequency that wine (and alcohol generally) was drunk among people aged under 35, with around 3 million people aged 21-35 falling out of the category.” Said the Wine Intelligence CEO: “As a category we need to realize we are in a pitched battle for the hearts and minds of the next generation. They are becoming less connected with alcohol generally, for a variety of health and lifestyle reasons. … This report should be seen as a wake-up call to our industry’s biggest and most exciting wine market.’ ”

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