Gold Rushes

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

gold rushes, have played a significant role in the development of New World wine production through their influence both on demand for alcoholic beverages and also on labour supply. In california, commercial viticulture had emerged during the 1830s, and with the discovery of gold in 1848 there was a massive increase in demand for all types of alcohol in the gold-mining counties of Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Nevada, Placer, and Tuolumne. However, by the 1850s, once the first flush of gold fever was over, a number of the immigrants, seeking to profit from the rising price of wine, turned to grape-growing and winemaking as a more reliable source of income. By 1857 it is estimated that there were some 1.5 million vines in California, and only three years later, after the enactment of legislation in 1859 which exempted vineyards from taxation, this total had risen to some 6 million.