Friday, April 12, 7pm – Wine in America: Cultivating New Vines and Palates

Wethersfield Historical Society and the  Wet Your Whistle Lecture Series welcome Rachel Black to present Wine in America: Cultivating New Vines and Palates. For many European colonists and missionaries in North America, wine was an important part of their cultural identity. It was part of religious ceremonies, it was seen as beneficial to health, and it was considered a nourishing part of a meal. However, bringing wine to America and cultivating European grapes was not a simple matter. The harsh climate in many areas and diseases such as phylloxera decimated imported grape stock.  Colonists deemed early attempts to make wine from native grapes a failure. Imported fortified wines such as Madeira were considered the first ‘American Wines’. It was not until the development of vineyards in the nineteenth century in California that the American wine began to take root. This history tells a complex story of ongoing relations with Europe, European identities, and a developing American taste for wine. Beginning with how wine became a part of agriculture in the United States, this talk looks at wine’s current place at the American table.

Rachel E. Black is an associate professor of Anthropology and chair of the Anthropology Department at Connecticut College. Her research focuses on issues of food and wine in Italian and French culture. Prof. Black co-edited a collection of essays on the Anthropology of wine, Wine and Culture: From Vineyard to Glass (Bloomsbury, 2013). Her last book Cheffes de Cuisine: Women and Work in the Professional French Kitchen (University of Illinois Press, 2021) is an investigation of the challenges that women face in the male-dominated field of French cuisine. Black is currently writing an ethnographic novel about the impacts of climate change and the power of cooperative agriculture and love to save a way of life in a wine-producing village in Northern Italy.

The lecture will be held in the ballroom of The Keeney Memorial Cultural Center (200 Main Street, Wethersfield). Admission is $10 at the door for the general public and free to current members of Wethersfield Historical Society.