Home > History of Wine > The Top Ten Wine Producing States in 1880 as Compared to 2012

The Top Ten Wine Producing States in 1880 as Compared to 2012

Colton's intermediate railroad map of the United States. 1882. Call Number G3701.P3 1882 .G15.  Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

Colton’s intermediate railroad map of the United States. 1882. Call Number G3701.P3 1882 .G15. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

In 1880 the Department of Agriculture submitted the Report Upon Statistics of Grape Culture and Wine Production in the United States.[1]  This report sought to summarize cultivation and production on a per county basis.  The report was in part driven by the decline of European wine production, particularly that of France.  It was conceded that the young American wine industry did not yet produce wine which would be received the same as the European offerings.  However, it was noted that most Americans lived near areas of wine production, the quality of which was increasing, and perhaps could replace the imported casks of table wine.  The statistics were generated from approximately 7,500 inquiries on average production which were felt to underestimate the true levels.  For the following chart I ranked the states based on Total average wine production.  As I expected, California was by far the largest producing state.  I was surprised to find Missouri, Illinois, New Mexico, and Georgia highly ranked.  For those interested at the other end, Louisiana reported 9 acres of vines and Colorado 52 acres but neither state produced any wine.  The lowest production fell to the 262 gallons from the 55 acres of vines in Rhode Island.

  1. California    13,557,115 Gallons
  2. Missouri       1,824,207 Gallons
  3. Ohio           1,632,073 Gallons
  4. Illinois       1,047,875 Gallons
  5. New Mexico       908,600 Gallons
  6. Georgia          903,244 Gallons
  7. New York         584,148 Gallons
  8. Alabama          422,672 Gallons
  9. Iowa             334,970 Gallons
  10. North Carolina  334,701 Gallons

After looking at the top ten states for 1880 I thought they should be compared to a contemporary ranking.  The ranking of states is used to different effects as noted by Frank Morgan in Is Virginia Really the 5th Largest Wine Producing State? and Todd Godbout’s recent Who’s #5 Trying to Unscramble State Wine Production Statistics.  To produce my contemporary ranking of states I looked at the TTB Statistical Report by State – Wine for 2012.[2]  As Todd noted the Bulk Wine Gallons By State for Still Wines includes cider production.  As I am only interested in the general differences between the last 132 years I based my table on Bottled Wine Gallons by State for Still Wines minus Cider production plus Effervescent production.  Granted this does not account for bulk sales or other factors which would surely switch up rankings after the top three.

  1. California   542,456,564 Gallons
  2. New York      33,771,681 Gallons
  3. Washington    23,613,098 Gallons
  4. Oregon         5,944,277 Gallons
  5. Pennsylvania   5,666,831 Gallons
  6. Texas          2,445,443 Gallons
  7. Iowa           1,706,381 Gallons
  8. Ohio           1,680,495 Gallons
  9. Vermont        1,645,527 Gallons
  10. Florida       1,529,060 Gallons

Given the background on the two tables only California, Ohio, and New York persist from the 1880 list to the 2012 list.  California remains at the top, New York moves up, and Ohio with its similar production levels moves down in ranking.  The Washington Territory was not included in the 1880 survey but the state of Oregon was with only 126 acres of vines producing some 16,900 gallons.  It has come a long way since then!

[1] McMurtrie, William. Report Upon Statistics of Grape Culture and Wine Production in the United States for 1880. 1881. URL: https://ia601602.us.archive.org/26/items/reportuponstatis36mcmu/reportuponstatis36mcmu.pdf
[2] Statistical Report – Wine. January 2012-December 2012. URL: http://www.ttb.gov/statistics/2012/2012wine-final.pdf

  1. January 27, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    Great topic Aaron. I know why Missouri, Illinois, & Ohio are in the top 5 (Norton & Catawba) in 1880 – but New Mexico? And Muscadine must have been rather popular (Georgia, Alabama, & North Carolina).

    • January 27, 2014 at 3:50 pm

      Yeah, New Mexico is a bit surprising. I have read some agricultural reports from the early 1900s which indicate there were vineyards throughout the state but nothing indicating that quantity of production. Perhaps production decreased after that.

  2. January 27, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    Todd, to follow up it looks like in 1889 there were 1,186 acres of bearing vines from which 296,500 gallons of wine were produced. A further 9,000 acres had been planted apparently in anticipation of irrigation. Looks like Missions was the prime variety followed by some Muscat of Alexandria and Muscatel.

  3. January 30, 2014 at 10:00 am

    Interesting to see nearly identical figures for Ohio. Wonder what kinds of varieties were being used then as opposed to today. Vitus Labrusca (or other non Vitus Vinifera) exclusively?

    • January 30, 2014 at 10:14 am


      In reviewing the county comments for wine varieties they include: Catawba, Clinton, Colman’s White, Concord, Delaware, Diana, Elvira, Martha, Schraidt, Venango, Norton’s Virginia. One comment states that 961,702 gallons of wine were pressed the year before in 1879.

    • January 30, 2014 at 4:46 pm

      Panos, at present Ohio has ventured into the vinifera world and not just Bordeaux varieties Riesling & Lemberger too. But there is still some labrusca (Catawba, Delaware, Concord) as well as French Hybrids like Chambourcin & Vignole

      • January 30, 2014 at 6:46 pm

        In Montgomery County, William Kramer and another had planted Riesling. It was imported around 1868 from Europe by Nicolaus Grem.

  1. August 11, 2017 at 4:24 pm

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