The good grain and the chaff: Wine yes, no alcohol! 1870-1942


Abdelhak El-Mostain

Abdelhak El-Mostain is a Doctor in History and Civilization and is interested in epistemology, the history of science and technology. He teaches economics and management at IUT Le Creusot (University of Burgundy Franche-Comté). He is an associate member of the FEMTO-ST / RECITS UMR 6174 laboratory, UTBM, University Bourgogne Franche-Comté. His PhD thesis, defended in 2017 at the University of Technology of Belfort-Montbéliard, focuses on "The distilling industry in Fougerolles from 1839 to 1940: growth strategies and socio-economic dynamics of rural family firms".

France has a long history with alcohol, especially with wine which has been considered the national drink for centuries. It is perceived as one of the vectors and signs of the unity of the nation. Until the beginning of the 1870s, wine was the leading product in France; he does not suffer from any competition. The advent of an aphid, phylloxera, during the 1860s devastated the French vineyard and forced the winemakers to proceed with the uprooting of their vines. This crisis brought down the production of wine in France for twenty years (the time to rebuild the vineyard through new plants) which benefits unfermented alcohols with their head, the liquor of absinthe. This is the beginning of a confrontation between fermented alcohols represented by wine and unfermented alcohols that will last until the early 1940s. This fight is marked by a first victory of the wine supporters in 1915 with the ban on the green fairy, absinthe. Paradoxically, this ban frees the market for alcoholic beverages and promotes the emergence of a variety of alcoholic beverages during the period between the wars. This fierce struggle is arbitrated by the public authorities under the influence of anti-alcoholic and wine lobbies.

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