Home > History of Wine, Image > “coming in as freely as they did before 1914”: An early post-WW2 bottle of German wine once sold in America

“coming in as freely as they did before 1914”: An early post-WW2 bottle of German wine once sold in America

The triple punch of World War I, World War II, and Prohibition cut off American wine lovers from German wines for nearly 40 years.  The first significant German wine imports into America did not appear until five years after the end of World War II in 1950.  This is not surprising given the need to rebuild the transportation infrastructure not only within Europe but also between Europe and America.

Under the Marshall Plan, European countries saw a period of rapid growth from 1948 through 1952.  Trade agreements were reached such as that between the Allied High Commissioners for Germany and France in 1950.  These agreements naturally involved wine as one of many products.  By Christmas 1950, not only were Rhine and Mosel wines plentiful in West German stores but so were the wines of France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, North Africa, and Chile.

That same year, during August 1950, West Germany showcased wine, amongst other goods, at the first International Trade Fair in Chicago for the Marshall Plan countries.  Some 35,000 people attended the Fair through which European merchants established trade partnerships.  There was even a German Wine Tasting Ceremony of 24 wines for some 100 tasters.  New trade partnerships soon bore fruit for by the end of 1950, Central Liquor Store of Washington, DC, was selling a selection of German wines including 1947 Liebfraumilch Madonna, Spatlese at $2.39 per 24oz.

You can imagine my surprise then when Vladimir Srdic of Novi Sad, Serbia, sent me pictures of 1950 Otto Caracciola, Piesporter imported by Dreyfus, Ashby & Co for the Central Liquor Store.


The Caracciola family were wine merchants and hotel operators since the mid 19th century.  For further history and historic images related to the Caracciola family please read the section Otto Caracciola und der Apollinaris-Keller on the Rhein Wine Bruderschaft website.  This particular bottle of 1950 Caracciola represents an early selection from the resumption of German wine imports.


Macy’s held their first all-German wine tasting in 1953.  Jane Nickerson of The New York Times noted the wines were “coming in as freely as they did before 1914”.  She felt that Macy’s in particular was acting “as if to make up for time lost.”  The following year Frank Schoonmaker was importing German wine exported by Deinhard & Co of Coblenz. It was during the fall of 1954 that Central Liquor first sold the 1950 Caracciola vintage imported by Dreyfus, Ashby & Co of New York City.  These selections of Liebfraumilch, Hohannisberg, Niersteiner, Domtal, and Moselblumchen were consistently amongst the least expensive wines.  They were priced at $0.89 per 24oz compared to 1950 Huegen Piesporter Goldtropchen at $1.49.  Central Liquor continued to sell the Caracciola wines through the end of 1957.  It is not clear whether Dreyfus, Ashby & Co stopped importing the Caracciola wines or the market for inexpensive German wine in Washington, DC, dried up.


This wine bottle bears no indication of vineyard nor grape.  With no other designation than Piesporter, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, it is possible this is not a Riesling based wine rather one from Muller-Thurgau or Elbling.  Both Andre Simon and Frank Schoonmaker wrote that the wines of Piesport were amongst the very best of the Mosel.  However, there was a fair amount of inexpensive Piesporter exported out with Frank Schoonmaker going so far as to write in The Wines of Germany (1956) that more was sold than produced.  With this in mind he felt it was “particularly important” to insist on estate bottled wines with a specific vineyard name, the label indicating Original-Abfullung, and a producer’s name.  Of the 1950 vintage, Frank Schoonmaker felt it was a very good year for the Mosel wines but by the mid 1950s they were already past prime.  Michael Broadbent echoed this sentiment noting that most wines of this vintage had been drunk up by the middle part of the decade.


You might be wondering, as did I, how a bottle of wine imported into New York City then sold in Washington, DC, came into the hands of Vladimir in Serbia.  It turns out a friend of his lived in New York for a long time.  When he moved back to Serbia he brought with him interesting bottles of wine and liquor including the one featured in today’s post.  Many thanks to Vladimir for letting me include his images in this post.

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