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AP Story Section

December 18, 2008

I’ll drink to that: Prohibition repeal turns 75

NAPA, Calif. (AP) — Here’s a word that can still send chills through wine country: Prohibition.

The great temperance tryout, which ended 75 years ago this December, may not have done much to stop drinking, but it did succeed in putting a cork in America’s burgeoning wine industry — and ushering in an era of plonk that lasted decades.

“There was a lot of wine made and drunk during Prohibition, but the standards were poor. It set things back very seriously,” said Thomas C. Pinney, author of “A History of Wine in America.”

With wraiths of the 1930s seemingly lurking around every corner — Stock panic! Bank failures! Cloche hats! — the appeal of repeal is particularly strong this year, with a number of bars and restaurants planning to mark the milestone.

“It’s a great day of the year,” said Jackson Cannon, bar manager of Boston-based Eastern Standard Kitchen & Drinks, which has been serving Prohibition-inspired cocktails all year and arranged a party to begin Dec. 4 and carry through to Dec. 5 — the official anniversary of repeal.

Even all these years later, there still are a few hangovers from the days when (officially) no liquor or wine was served at any time.

“Its lasting legacy has been a fundamental misunderstanding between use and abuse by the American public,” said Eileen Fredrikson, a wine analyst with Woodside-based Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates. “There are still places where wine on the table is just not part of the culture. People grow up with iced tea. They don’t even think about wine as possibly an enhancement to a family meal.”

On the legal side, repeal was orchestrated to let individual states set their own rules, creating a jumble of laws that continues to complicate wine shipping.

Still, Fredrikson plans to raise a glass to the 75th anniversary of repeal.

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