Wine and Glassware in Colonial America

Massachusetts is the cradle of United States history, and the history is preserved for modern day visitors to learn more about. Recreation villages help a tourist walk the paths and smell the aromas of old fashioned baking bread and cooking stew. There are Old Sturbridge Village set in the mid 1800s, and Plimoth Plantation set further back. How did wine figure in the lives of these settlers?

Cooper at OSV
Wine was considered a necessary part of these cultures, perhaps most importantly for health reasons. Water was often very unsafe to drink, and other liquids were expensive and hard to come by. Especially in the summer, cold water was through to be very unhealthy, and warm alcoholic cider was often substituted. Even children were encouraged to drink beer, wine and hard cider, because of the dangerous found in regular water.

Of the alcoholic drinks of the time, wine was easy to make. Instead of having to tend to and grow your supplies, you simply found some wild grapes, squashed them up, and let them sit to ferment.

The museum at Old Sturbridge Village has an entire building dedicated to the glassworks of New England in the 1700s and 1800s, and many shelves demonstrate the variety of effort put into creating bottles, flasks and glasses for wine. Here is one set of shelves.

Here is another set of flasks.

In the general store, barrels in back contain bulk items for purchase. While some contain items such as flower and meal, there is a barrel marked Madeira, a fortified wine which could last years without special storage. This would certainly help the settlers get through those long, cold New England winters!

Wineries were attempted in most states in the US at the time, but a lack of understanding about phylloxera, a root louse that affects European vines, meant that these attempts were mostly doomed. Still, local grapes grew well, and wines made from these became more popular. Other alcoholic beverages made at the time included apple cider and beer.

As shipping to and from the colonies improved, more and more European wine was brought in to meet the needs of the wine drinkers. At the same time, farmers in the states worked on refining their grape growing techinques here. We've been enjoying wine ever since!

Thomas Jefferson and Wine
Benjamin Franklin and Wine
Benjamin Franklin uses Madeira to get Cannons
Benjamin Franklin's Wine Quotes
George Washington's Eggnog Recipe

Glassware in History Page

All content on the WineIntro website is personally written by author and wine enthusiast Lisa Shea. WineIntro explores the delicious variety and beautiful history which makes up our world of wine! Lisa loves supporting local wineries and encouraging people to drink whatever they like. We all have different taste buds, and that makes our world wonderful. Always drink responsibly.