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Missouri Wine History

Missouri Wine Grapes are slightly different from the more common varietals from California, and places elsewhere. Missouri wine grapes are typically North American in origin, or hybrids from more common French varietals. In the interveneing years from the 1870's to today, there has been an interest in producing more common wines fro the general public.


German settlers established the town of Hermann on the banks of the Missouri River. Although too rocky for many crops, the ground around Hermann was well-suited for growing wine grapes. A decade later, Hermann’s wineries were producing more than 10,000 gallons of wine a year. Eventually, more than 60 wineries populated the small town, and by the 1880s, wine lovers in America and Europe were enjoying two million gallons of Missouri wine each year.


A dangerous vineyard pest, the phylloxera louse, destroyed enormous tracts of vineyards in France. Missouri helped rebuild the European vineyards by sending phylloxera resistant American rootstock to be grafted with French vine cuttings. The resultant vines proved extremely hardy, and soon the French wine industry was back on its feet.


Italian immigrants established vineyards in the St. James area of Missouri. Missouri’s wine industry thrived at the turn of the century, with about 100 wineries throughout the state.


Prohibition dealt a near fatal blow to the Missouri wine industry. When the 18th Amendment was repealed 13 years later, little remained of the once strong industry. Negative aftereffects of Prohibition, in the form of high liquor taxes and license fees, lingered for decades and prevented the wine industry from reestablishing itself.


The rebirth of the commercial wine industry in Missouri began with the restoration of several original wineries. The early pioneers worked hard to regain the former stature of the wine industry amid a slowly changing cultural and regulatory environment.


A new tax on wine provided for the establishment of the Missouri Wine and Grape program. A state viticulturist was hired to assist in the restoration process, and Missouri State University’s fruit experiment station began working with winemakers to determine grape varieties suitable for Missouri’s climate. Augusta became the first federally recognized American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 1980. The wine regions around Hermann, the southwest Missouri Ozark mountains and highlands, and the south central region around St. James have also been designated as AVAs.


The Missouri wine industry in the new millennium is thriving. The number of wineries has increased, and Missouri wineries are producing diverse, complex and sophisticated wines that easily earn top awards in national and international competitions.


The Norton/Cynthiana varietal is passed in legislation as Missouri’s official state grape.


The Missouri Wine and Grape Board is formed now. No longer an advisory board, the Wine and Grape Board now directs the marketing and research efforts of the Missouri wine industry.


The Institute for Continental Climate Viticulture and Enology is established. ICCVE, funded by the Missouri Wine and Grape Board, conducts research on grape varieties and vineyard management techniques that contribute to the growth of the wine industry in Missouri and the Midwest.


The state of Missouri proudly welcomed its 100th winery to its lineup.

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