Virginia wine of 1619, vintage, history

The Virginia vintage of 1619

You may not have heard about the Virginia vintage of 1619.  I hadn’t until I started looking into the history of wine in America. In any case, the French produced wine in the colony of Virginia starting that year. From imported vines, to be sure…

But here’s something that jumped out of the data. According to, the Virginia vintage of 1619 was not greatly successful, due to “puritanism.” Not sure of the implication. The idea of slight inebriation violated community principles and therefore proper cultivation and care were not exercised (?).

Geez, what a surprise.

Puritan vs. gonzo

Actually, I don’t know what the actual state of viticulture was in the early 17th century. Nor, come to think of it, do I really know what “puritanism” is, beyond general preconceptions. It appears to be the opposite of what my colleagues call “gonzo” here at Wharf 21. Note: there doesn’t seem to be much that is coherent about “gonzo philosophy” except perhaps its incoherence. And its extremes. So what I just proposed about gonzo versus puritanism may not be accurate.

If “gonzo” draws a blank for the reader, some Hunter S. Thompson might help. He was “the father of gonzo journalism.” Or — quick fix — you can read in a few words what my friend Mike wrote about it.

***Hunter S. Thompson’s best-known book, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, is available here.***

The early efforts by the French to introduce the colonies to wine, do give Virginia bona fides. Not to mention the inspired tenacity of the colonists themselves. There is a lot of money in wine, so the regional history of the drink can become contentious. has a nice little chronology of wine in America, here. Like with most history, no one can agree on all the facts but today’s Virginia has around 200 to 300 wineries. Some of them very good.

Wine and social order

On a less cheery note, 1619 is also the year given in many accounts as the formal beginning of slavery in America. Yes, it’s sobering — but if you research the year with reference to Virginia, you’ll encounter that fact along with data about wine.

Some 20 captives were brought on a private English ship to Port Comfort, Virginia in August of that year. In fact, The New York Times Magazine has the “1619 Project,” designating 1619, not 1776, as the more formally correct founding date for the United States. This is not something on which anyone at Wharf 21 can contribute anything authoritative or significant, but it deserves to be mentioned.

As far as Virginia and wine, however, we will have more to say in future posts. In the meantime, the “Virginia is for Lovers” website has a diverse menu of wine-related info and resources for the state. Tripadvisor is also informative.

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