An Essay on Prohibition

Prohibition—The Inconvenient Truth!

This year, we have delved into some of the more intricate aspects of wine.  From sugar to the subconscious, we are trying to empty our brains and give you, our customers, incredible insight into wine.

So now, we’re going to bring you the inconvenient truth about prohibition. First, let me preface this:  The way we act and think today is exactly how people acted and thought 100 years ago and 200 years ago… 300 years ago, and so forth.  History books are written altruistically and not realistically.  History is written with a political purpose in mind, and history is written by the winners, and not the losers, at the time.  Additionally, demonization of the other side has always been done to alter the thoughts of the masses.  If you look at wars for the past 1000 years, economics is the primary determinant cause, with religion a distant second.  Are history books written this way?  Not really.  Think of today’s politics.  They’re vile.  But are they really more vile than 20 years ago?  Seriously!?!  History books are seemingly written about people that appear to have higher, altruistic meanings, but in reality, self-preservation through the satisfaction of others who support them is the driving force for behavior, with economic stability and growth being the key force behind nearly every strategic motive.  Boy, the Max’s Small Batch Red produces some deep thoughts.  Now, how does this tie into Prohibition?  Simple.  To get to Prohibition, one needs to learn a little bit about wine and history.

Honeymoon.  Did you go on one?  The name is based on wine!!!  In Persia, 4000 years ago, it was a tradition for the bride’s parents to provide the newlyweds a month’s supply of mead, or honey wine.  They timed the amount of wine off the lunar cycle, so “honeymoon” literally means “mead lunar cycle”.  Essentially, we have been drinking wine for centuries.  Now for the economics.  It was believed that components within honey helped produce more boys than girls.  And, as we all know, alcohol consumption has produced plenty of babies over thousands of years. The Greeks figured out that multiple people living in the same area created dysentery issues.  Dysentery issues lead to diarrhea.  Diarrhea, if left uncontrolled leads to dehydration.  Dehydration leads to death.  Death leads to a lack of population.  Lack of population leads to no civilization.

The Greeks figured out that no known human pathogen can live in wine.  Therefore, if everyone drank wine, dysentery issues were eliminated. Wine, blended 10% to 25% with water, purifies water, which leads to the growth of both Athens and Sparta. The Romans learned very quickly about the purification processes of wine.  The Greeks, who didn’t take too fondly of being conquered, decided to add pine resin to their wines, in order to keep their wines from being plundered by Rome.  If you ever have a chance to taste Retsina, the Greek wine in which pine resin has been added to wine, you’ll realize it’s an acquired taste, and once you taste it, you will realize why the Romans wouldn’t want it.

I was always puzzled in high school as to why the Roman Empire was the size it was.  Why wasn’t it bigger, and why, from its base in Italy, did it not expand into Germany?  Certainly, it expanded into current-day France and Spain, and for a while, it expanded into Great Britain.  Since everyone needs to drink liquid on a daily basis, and since everyone needs to drink a safe liquid every day, I decided to overlay various Roman Empire expansion and contraction maps, climate maps, and vineyard maps.  Bingo!  It became very easy for me to see that the Romans only conquered lands in which they could grow grapes, and would contract when the climate got too cold in areas to grow grapes.  Since they didn’t have our current Interstate system we enjoy today, and since they didn’t have nice large glass, plastic, and stainless steel containers, it became simple to see that wine was created locally to serve the needs of the local areas.  When grapes no longer were viable, the Romans moved on. Take a close look at the 100 Years’ War between France and England.  Wine is directly tied to it.  Look at some of the Port Houses of Portugal and you’ll see names such as Cockburn and Dows.  Great Portuguese names, right?  Yeah, right…..they’re English.  Take a look at the early writings of Thomas Jefferson.  Why did he keep going over to France?  Why did he try so hard to set up vineyards in the United States?  Basically, the US struggled to grow wine commercially.  That’s why we have dandelions.  They were imported for the express purpose of making wine.

If you still don’t believe me, take a look at various city water records in the United States, and the concern of water-borne diseases.  Today, you’ve heard if you go to Mexico, “don’t drink the water.”  The same could be said of the US water supply until the early 1900s.  More on this topic later.

Let’s go back in time for a moment.  The Mayflower wandered endlessly while crossing the Atlantic.  They broke their charter by landing at Plymouth Rock.  And they knew they broke their charter by doing so.  However, the boat’s passengers were in great peril as they were running out of beer and wine.  Simply put, the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock to build a brewery.

Which brings me to this salient point, how long does it take a sailboat to cross the Atlantic from Europe or Africa?  Several weeks or several months, certainly.  Let me ask you a question since you have to drink every day, exactly what did the passengers consume?  Dasani or Evian bottled water?  Let me ask you this.  If you were to pour a barrel full of perfectly clean tap water, would you be willing to drink out of it for a month or two while you were traversing the Atlantic?  Do you think you might get sick by the second week?  Think you might want some wine or beer?  I thought so.  By the way, they didn’t have perfectly clean tap water back then.  More on that later too. This brings me to pregnant women and children, and what they drank.   Certainly, they had to drink liquid on a daily basis, correct?  Remember, the Greeks taught the world that blending 10% to 25% wine with water, removes all human pathogens.  If a bottle of wine contains 12% alcohol, what is 10% of 12%?  Isn’t it 1.2%?  Could a child or pregnant mother become inebriated off of drinking such little alcohol?  Not really.  Is anyone uncomfortable yet?  Is anyone uncomfortable with your history books yet?  If you’re comfortable with what I just wrote, can you see a mother on a boat, getting “Johnny” a glass of water, only to see him try to spike it with a little more alcohol?  Upon seeing this, good ol’ Johnny gets a great verbal lashing.  Mothers would have easily controlled how much alcohol to put in the beverages their children were consuming.  By the way, there are other comparative items to alcohol and safe consumption.  Silverware was made from silver due to the metallurgical properties of silver.  Simply put, bacteria cannot live on silver.  Wipe it, share it, and re-use it.  Gross thought today, huh?  No Dawn detergent?  No problem!!

With our continents separated by many millions of years, our ecosystem developed much more differently than that of Europe.  The settlers knew we had good land for growing grapes, but when they planted the grapes brought over from Europe, they all died.   European vines simply had no resistance to American diseases like Downey mildew, powdery mildew, anthracnose, black rot, and the root louse phylloxera.  Also, when the Europeans came to America, they saw plenty of Elm and Chestnut trees. Thanks to diseases they brought here, specifically Dutch Elm disease and Chestnut blight, those original American trees are nearly extinct.  Today, our Ash trees are suffering from an Asian import, the Emerald Ash Borer, and our Great Lakes could soon be in peril if the Asian Carp gets through.

So how did the Indians survive without alcohol?  I had to figure someone was thinking of this.  Simple!  They always located their settlements along fast-flowing rivers thereby assuring themselves of not mixing human or other animal waste into their drinking supply.

So what caused Prohibition?  Economics, of course!  Because we needed to consume alcohol on a daily basis until the water supply was cleaned up, Bourbon was the first economically viable alcohol in the US that tasted good and its taste and subsequent potency would lead to massive overconsumption and the temperance movement.  Please keep in mind what the definition of “temperance” is:  “moderation in action, thought, or feeling; restraint,” with the key word being “moderation”.  The root cause of Prohibition was that an employer could expect between 10% and 30% of their employees to show up drunk or not show up at all.  Worker safety, specifically fully trained employees getting injured on the job, along with absenteeism, lead to economic instability at companies.  Spousal abuse ran high due to alcoholism as well.  In looking closely at Prohibition, I have easily come to the strong hypothesis that had the US been suitable for growing grapes, we would not have endured the scourge that early Bourbon consumers wrought upon the US, and Prohibition would not have occurred.

Between 1857 and 1870, Louis Pasteur discovered microbiology, and with his discoveries and subsequent other scientists seeing molecules and bacteria they had never seen before, water-borne illnesses were discovered.  Additionally, by 1870, all of those nasty little diseases in the US vineyards were exported to Europe and subsequently set about to destroy the European vines as well.  With some seriously dumb luck, a blend of copper, lime, and sulfur, subsequently named “Bordeaux Blend” was discovered and its discovery became the catalyst for the development of fungicides.  Additionally, the root louse could be vexed through the hybridization of European vines with American vines.  And, through grafting, European vines could still grow if they were grafted onto American rootstock.  All of this new knowledge was developed prior to and during Prohibition. The US Army, 1910, discovered how to liquefy chlorine, and it was that discovery that ultimately allowed US cities to clean up their water supply.  Cleaning up the water supply eliminated the need for alcohol in liquids.  Prior to this, only good-sourced well water and spring water were clean enough to drink without treatment.  And, how many abundantly good sources of wells and springs exist in cities?  Are you getting a picture of the inconvenient truth yet?

With clean water supplies, the Prohibition movement could pick up steam.  However, the US Treasury was in the way.  Alcohol was a primary source of revenue for the US government.  I ask you this.  When in your life has the government reduced spending?  It never has and it only will when the government gets overthrown, which occurs everywhere, every couple 100 years or so.  So in order for Prohibition to be ratified a new tax had to take the alcohol tax’s place.  Ready for a big lie in your history books?  The Income Tax is labeled as the tax to pay for World War 1.  Do the math, look at the dates, and you will clearly see that it was implemented to replace the alcohol tax.

The original legislation for Prohibition targeted hard alcohol only and excluded beer and wine ( again, for purifying water).  But with the water supplies now clean, it was modified to include all alcohols.

Demonization, the act of “to represent as evil or diabolic” is a time-honored tradition in politics and is the single most used method to position one group of people against another.  If you look at alcohol consumption after Prohibition was repealed, the demonization efforts were well underway.  However, it wasn’t nearly to the degree as it is today.  In order for demonization to really take hold, all you have to do is wait for a generation or two, and with the newer generations having never personally experienced what the past generation experienced, then whatever is said about the past must be true.  Think of the hatred wars of the Balkans in Europe or the Congo in Africa.  Disagreements from 500 years ago are being fought today.  Why?  It doesn’t make sense.  But it does with disinformation and when disinformation becomes the truth, then real problems arise.

What I wrote about above has been widely researched, but our history books do not discuss it because it doesn’t fit the mold of today’s culture.  Seriously, ask anyone who thinks their ancestors didn’t drink what their ancestors drank on those long voyages when they immigrated from Europe or Africa.  Typhoid and cholera were rampant problems in the United States in the early to mid-1800s, especially in cities.   Louisville was actually known as “the graveyard of the West” due to polluted waters containing typhoid and cholera bacteria.

In summary, I believe we needed a temperance movement due to the severe overconsumption of alcohol in the 1800s.  People needed drying out.  Alcohol was widely available during Prohibition, but a decent number of people either couldn’t get it or couldn’t get enough.  Society changed.  Yes, it got more dangerous, but when Prohibition ended, we did not go back to the same drunkard ways before Prohibition.  I believe had we been able to grow grapes commercially then, Prohibition would not have occurred because wine would have been economically viable and not just for the elite class.  With a lower percentage of alcohol, we wouldn’t have had the drunkard times that the 1800s were.

I think the agenda of a certain segment of the population has done and will continue to do an excellent job of labeling the evils of alcohol.  I also think they are accidentally uneducated in the subject matter.  Demonization is such a lovely tool.  In February, when I wrote about sugar, and its inherent dangers, I clearly stated the role that processed foods and beverages spiked with simple glucose in the form of sugar and corn syrup are causing society today.  It’s funny, as we look more closely at those European diets and the lack of health problems they have, it’s their complex diets of fibrous foods and wine, which contains up to 1500 natural chemical compounds which contribute greatly to their success.  The nutrition of complex chemicals in wine can help the US population become increasingly healthy if consumed in moderation.  Instead, something that can help nearly everyone, wine, is demonized by some, yet products that contribute to health problems, such as the epidemic of avoidable type 2 diabetes, aren’t looked upon this way.

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