Wine and Vine…Churches and Prohibition

By Justin Taylor

The United States is a highly diverse collection of religious backgrounds that was born out of the movement to immigrate to the states during the 19th century. Along with many of those who moved here, they brought other skills from their native roots, such as tailors, cobblers, and coopers. One of these trades was the small-scale craft of making wine for the family unit or community.
During the course of a great American experiment, prohibition really took aim at the professionals in the alcohol production business and did the best they could to shut down such nonsense. However, the loophole of the 18th Amendment to produce wines for religious purposes could largely explain how wine production survived in America. Sacramental wine was the only safe place for a grower of grapes and a winemaker to collaborate and still make a living.
Today, a facility in Los Angeles called San Antonio Winery produces 500,000 cases annually of sacramental wine for use all across the United States. It has been one of the longest operating and largest producing sacramental wineries to rise up to glory shortly after the repeal of prohibition. The irony of the church being on both sides of the battle for alcohol production seems minor today, but we have a lot of sacrament to thank for the continued success of making wine in America.
The answer to last issue’s trivia: As described, San Antonio Winery. The Wine and Vine trivia for the next issue: What tropical fruit can make sparkling wine similar to grape wine?

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