“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.
I love the intensity of man on the left who is looking directly at the photographer.
 Johnson, Fred. The grape leafhopper in the Lake Erie Valley. 1914. URL: https://openlibrary.org/books/OL25518229M/The_grape_leafhopper_in_the_Lake_Erie_Valley
The image in today’s post features a bill of lading from John Searle & Company to General George Washington. A bill of lading is a document used in international commerce to detail the goods being shipped as well as transfer title. I often look at these bills when I study early Presidential wine orders. They sometimes contain additional information that has not been transcribed such as the markings used to identify the goods. These markings often take the form of the recipient’s initials and the type of wine if several were being shipped.This particular bill covers two pipes of Madeira, two baskets of Portuguese figs, and a box of citron. The letter that accompanied the bill of lading describes the Madeira as, “Two other Pipes of very choice Particulr Madeira Wine, of a fine Amber Colour, High Flavour, & Three years Old”. What I find interesting about this bill are the initial “HE” and “GW”. “GW” are clearly the initials of George Washington. But what of “HE”? John and James Searle were agents in Madeira for Mayne, Burn, & Mayne so those do not match. The answer lies in the bill itself which declares the goods for “His Excellency General Washington, Esq.” Thus “HE” stands for His Excellency.
 “To George Washington from John Searle, 15 July 1783,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/99-01-02-11598, ver. 2014-05-09). Source: this is an Early Access document from The Papers of George Washington. It is not an authoritative final version.
 John Searle & Company, July 16, 1783, Bill of Lading. George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799: Series 4. General Correspondence. 1697-1799. URL: http://memory.loc.gov/mss/mgw/mgw4/092/0600/0687.jpg
“French Wines may be said to pickle meat in the stomack; but this is the wine that digests, and doth not only breed good blood…of this wine, if of any other, may be verified that merry induction, That good Wine makes good Blood, good Blood causeth good Humours, good Humours cause good thoughts, good Thoughts bring forth good works, good Works carry a Man to Heaven; ergo good Wine carrieth a Man to Heaven.”“If this be true, surely more English go to Heaven this way than any other, for I think there’s more Canary brought into England than to all the World besides.”
 Howell, James. Epistolae Ho-Elianae. 1705. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=qzkIAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP7#v=onepage&q&f=false
 The Physician and pharmaceutist. 1868. Open Library. URL: https://openlibrary.org/books/OL25483078M/The_Physician_and_pharmaceutist
The British Library hosts a fantastic website for the Endangered Archives Programme. This program seeks to preserve and digitize documentary archives from around that world that are deteriorating or about to be discarded. The photos featured in this post are sourced from Georgia’s central state audio-visual archive. This archive was established in 1944 and contains photographs that date back to 1858. It is believed that the early photographs will be totally destroyed within one or two decades. This archive is in the process of being surveyed so there is a broad but sparse set of photographs available online. I am always searching through archives so was thrilled to find three wine related photographs taken by Constantine Zanis in the late 19th to early 20th century.
I have chosen two photographs that were taken in Kakhat’i region of Georgia. The first image shows a man spraying vines from a tank on his back. Perhaps the dog in the foreground is his companion. The second image is fantastic, showing two men stomping grapes in a hollowed out log. Some evidence of the construction of this trough appears at each end where wooden pegs are sticking out. The left side of the trough appears to have some sort of tool handle, perhaps that of a rake or shovel. There also appears to be a lid for the trough leaning against the wall. Do you think the lid was used when the press was empty?
These officers appear to be drinking red wine out of metal cups and a glass tumbler.
 Bain News Service. French Officers at luncheon in the field. Between ca. 1914 and ca. 1915. Call Number: LC-B2- 3188-2 [P&P]. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. URL: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/ggb2005017079/
This image shows six soldiers sitting down, enjoying wine and pipes. One soldier is using a cork screw to open an unlabeled bottle of wine, another soldier holds a tumbler of wine, and a third is holding an upright bottle. This upright bottle is interesting because it bears a neat label. The bottle is shaped like a Bordeaux bottle with sloped shoulders, which reminds me of Chateau Haut-Brion. I downloaded the highest resolution image and the label unfortunately is slightly out of focus and all white. Too bad we cannot determine what it is!
 [Six unidentified soldiers in 45th Ohio Infantry Regiment officers’ uniforms with sabers]. Between 1862-1865. Call Number: AMB/TIN no. 3018 [P&P]. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. URL: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2012650002/