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Vintage Photos: Drinking Wine in the 1950’s

The inspiration for this set of vintage photos started with a simple question: What did we used to drink? Today most wine is viewed as a prestige product, but has it always been that way? Follow along as we explore how much wine culture has changed in the last few decades.

Vintage Photos: How We Drank Wine

Housewives pick up wine from a local delivery van in post-war France. credit
Veuve Clicquot is served at a gala in wide coup glasses. This style of classic sparkling wine glass was later determined to reduce bubbles faster than in a Champagne flute. credit

Wine during the 1950’s

During the 1950’s, France was recovering from a decade of war. Despite the post-war depression, things were on the up-and-up. The United States’ fascination with France brought a keen interest in travel, wine and food. As a side note: Air France produced some of it’s most iconic ads during the 1950’s.

What wines were popular in the 1950’s?

We took a look at several vintage wine lists and each was organized with the following sections:

  • Champagne Veuve Clicquot, Moët et Chandon and Dom Perignon would run you about $15-24 a bottle in a restaurant. “American Champagne” included brands like Cook’s for about $3-6 a bottle. Surprisingly, the price hasn’t changed.
  • Clairet/Claret (“Klair-ett”)a red blend from Bordeaux that was pale ruby –almost rosé– in color. Imagine a Bordeaux that’s more fruity and has less tannin; this is what people liked. Mouton-Rothschild was a very well-liked producer of the time.
  • White Bordeaux a white wine from Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc that was refreshingly dry, even during the 1950’s. In a time when sweet wines dominated the market, White Bordeaux made a splash as a more ‘manly’ white wine.
  • Burgundy The word ‘Burgundy’ was used rather loosely to describe Pinot Noir and other light dry red wines from nearly anywhere.
  • White Burgundy another loosely used name to describe oak-aged Chardonnay from anywhere.
  • Hock/Moselle The most appreciated wines were from Germany and were made with Riesling in a sweet and rich style.
  • Sherry A very popular category with many options on most lists. The ‘Sherry’ category also included many South African Sherries.
  • Madeira 1950’s wine lists usually offered only 1-2 Madeira wines.
  • Port a very popular category with many producer names and terms like ‘Crusted.’ Port could be labeled on wine from any country. The US and South Africa both offered Port during the 1950’s

1960s California wine ad
The California wine board in the 1950’s used terms from other famous regions to sell wine. credit
The 2 greatest Italian bicycle racing rivals, Coppi and Bartali, share a bottle of wine on the Tour de France. credit
1950s Dubonnet Ad
In the 1950’s, wine production quality was not as high as it is now. Thus, aromatized wines (such as Dubonnet and Vermouth) were popular served on the rocks. credit
By the end of the 1960’s, Champagne had solidified itself as the must-have celebratory beverage. credit

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