Shifting the American Palate: UC Davis & Evangelizing vitis vinifera

14:00, Sunday 9 May 2021 (30 minutes)

Gabriella Petrick, University of Stavanger, Norway

This project examines the technological, sensory, and environmental consequences of industrial wine production beginning in the years after Prohibition. I argue that new technologies, including biotechnology, controlled malo-lactic fermentation, micro-oxygenation, and even refrigeration, have drastically altered not simply the taste of wine but the ecosystems that support its large-scale, global production.

By favoring the palate of Robert Parker and other noted wine critics, who have the power to dramatically swing wine consumption from one vintage or vineyard to another by a single review, producers in the United States altered the landscape of wine and the American palate for wine. As iconoclastic wine makers like Joe Heitz, Robert Mondavi, and scores of others sought to prove America was far more than the treacle the Central Valley produced, so did the viticulturists and oenologists at UC Davis. Certainly France dominated this field, but Americans were making new contributions like suggesting classic European varieties as appropriate for California wine production. Beyond renegade wine makers—scientists at UC Davis advocated for Table Wine even as they tread a fine line between serving farmers, and “reforming” the California wine industry towards dry table wine from vitis vinifera. This paper explores the shift from sweet to dry wines in the U.S. during the post-war era.

University of Stavanger