Will It Be Wine or Cocktails? The Quest to Build a Mass Market for California Wine after Prohibition
Abstract

Abstract:

This article examines why wine marketers struggled to build a mass market for American wine from the 1930s to the 1950s. Wine promoters worked to both surmount and accommodate existing preferences for spirits by casting wine both as a base for cocktails and as the budget-friendly alternative to them. Previously marked as either too highbrow or too lowbrow, wine gradually lost its foreignness as merchandisers learned to sell the glamour of wine without the demands of connoisseurship. Instead of setting their sights on urban sophisticates, wine promoters aimed for young married couples and budget-conscious new homeowners—the most recent entrants into the middle class. These populist marketing approaches, I contend, sowed the seeds of the table "wine revolution" not in bohemian enclaves and gourmet dining societies but in middle-class suburbia, where wine found its way to the American dinner table via the cocktail glass, the casserole dish, and the backyard barbecue.