Missionaries

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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missionaries, have doubtless played a role in the establishment of viticulture all over the world and, particularly, in documenting these achievements. Missions and missionaries had a particularly profound effect, however, on the history of wine production in much of Latin America, in California, in New Zealand, and, to a certain extent, in Japan.

Soon after European colonization of South and Central America, missionaries, particularly Jesuit missionaries, established missions alongside more commercial ventures and, whatever the commercial interest in establishing viticulture, the missionaries grew vines to provide some wine for the eucharist (although see south america, history). Both Argentina and Chile date their wine industries from the first successful attempts to cultivate the vine at missions in the foothills on either side of the Andes in the late 16th century, and by the 17th century, Peru’s viticulture, which probably pre-dated that of both Chile and Argentina, was concentrated around Jesuit missions in coastal valleys. Mexico, however, is the Americas’ oldest wine-producing country, and grape seeds were planted almost as soon as Cortés had landed there. Jesuit missionaries are believed to have been the first to cultivate vines for the specific purpose of winemaking in Baja California (northern Mexico) in the 1670s. It was not until the late 18th century that they established their series of missions up the west coast of what is now the American state of california, and brought with them the so-called mission grape from Mexico.