The 20th century wine industry

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About
The first half of the 20th century was a period of deep recession in the German wine industry. The area under vines shrank still further, from around 90,000 ha/220,000 acres in 1914 to less than 50,000 ha/123,000 acres in 1945. Both World Wars placed severe strains on Germany’s domestic economy and caused considerable dislocation in its export markets. Exports had reached a peak of 190,000 hl/5 million gal by 1914, but in the aftermath of the First World War the situation was bleak.

The major growing regions on the left bank of the Rhine were occupied by France until 1930. In the pfalz region, moreover, the activities of separatist groups severely disrupted civilian life up to 1924, which hit the wine industry in particular. A series of bad vintages from 1922 until 1932 in combination with the raging inflation and the economic hardship of the Weimar period ruined many wine merchants and growers, especially the smaller proprietors. A flood of imports from France and Luxembourg, as specified by the Versailles Treaty, undercut the prices which German producers could charge; many growers faced bankruptcy, and by 1928 exports had collapsed to no more than 39,000 hl/1 million gal per annum.