Homemade Wines Were Popular With Italian Immigrants

homemadewinelabelMany Italian immigrants from the early 20th century brought their wine making skills with them and continued to make wine in their homes, even during prohibition (1919 – 1933). My grandfather Nicola was one of them.

He continued to make his wine throughout his life. I remember, when I was a small boy in the 40’s, the annual ritual. The grapes were shipped from California at harvest time. They were packed in wooden crates with colorful lithographed labels on the ends. Grandpa would take me by the hand and we would walk along the avenue, looking at the cases of grapes that the merchants had stacked outside their stores, on the sidewalk.

Grandpa would pluck a couple of grapes from a crate and taste them, nod or shake and we would move on. When he finally found what he wanted he would haggle with the merchant about the price. When the deal was done the merchant would send his men down the avenue to Grandpa’s house, carting the crates on their hand-trucks.

Once at the house we would get the grapes downstairs to the cellar where the press was. When all was said and done there would be a gallon jug of red wine on the floor, at Grandpa’s feet, at the Christmas dinner table. All of us, even the kids, got to taste Grandpa’s wine then.

Enjoy more memories of the early 1900s Italian Americans in my book, The Brooklyn Iceman, available on amazon.com.