About Me

My photo
London, United Kingdom
A mythical beast - a female wargamer! I got back into wargaming in the summer of 2011 after a very, very long break. My current interests are Ancients, ACW, 30YW and SciFi gaming.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Honestly officer, it's just grape juice

Evan picked up on the caption to one of my pics on Sunday and observed that I'd been reading up on the Prohibition era.

He's right - I have.

An interesting snippet I came across was the basis for my caption. Rather than rehashing in my own words, here's a snippet from Wikipedia:

Winemaking during Prohibition[edit]

The Volstead Act specifically allowed individual farmers to make certain wines "on the legal fiction that it was a non-intoxicating fruit-juice for home consumption",[98] and many did so. Enterprising grape farmers produced liquid and semi-solid grape concentrates, often called "wine bricks" or "wine blocks".[99] This demand led California grape growers to increase their land under cultivation by about 700 percent during the first five years of Prohibition. The grape concentrate was sold with a warning: "After dissolving the brick in a gallon of water, do not place the liquid in a jug away in the cupboard for twenty days, because then it would turn into wine."[15] One grape block producer sold nine varieties: Port, Virginia Dare, MuscatelAngelicaTokaySauternesRieslingClaret and Burgundy.[citation needed]
The Volstead Act allowed the sale of sacramental wine to priests and ministers, and allowed rabbis to approve sales of sacramental wine to individuals for Sabbath and holiday use at home. The Bureau of Internal Revenue maintained a list of ecumenical organizations that could be used for verifying licensure.[citation needed] Among Jews, four rabbinical groups were approved, which led to some competition for membership, since the supervision of sacramental licenses could be used to secure donations to support a religious institution. There were known abuses in this system, with imposters or unauthorized agents using loopholes to purchase wine.[34][100]

In case you're wondering what the bricks and cautionary label look like, here are some pics:

Thank goodness that jug has only been in the cupboard for 19 days. I'll remove it now so that I can't be nabbed by the G-Men for making illegal liquor!

On a separate note, it would seem that my blog has become very popular in the Ukraine over the past 2 days as I've had over 2000 visitors from there. If it's a spambot, it isn't doing a very good job as none of the hits are producing referral links in the hope that I'll click through to a dodgy website.


  1. Fascinating! Thanks for the education.

  2. Interesting stuff. I toured an old Catholic church here in Houston a few months ago. Behind the altar is a door leading into a basement - very rare in Houston. The door was metal, and had an inset lock. This was the strongroom in which the sacramental wine was stored.

  3. There are some real interesting ways that the Volstrad act was circumvented. How they ever thought it would work is beyond me!

  4. Very good read - even if I originally thought it was about you and HM Constabulary . . .


  5. The fun never stops with the Prohibition. If you ever visit New York I could show you the 21 Club the most notorious speakeasy in America where the Mayor of NY drank. When the G-Men tried to raid it while he was in the back room he called the police commissioner and had the G-Men's cars towed.

  6. Ken Burns did a great documentary on the Prohibition Era. If you can find it, you would love it.

  7. Interesting bricks. Maybe a sudden swell of wargamers in the Ukraine?.......nah!

  8. Very Interesting Tamsin and you are getting me into thinking I need gangsters now and a glass of wine too

  9. Interesting facts... Thanks for sharing.


  10. Well I never! You life and learn, now a gallon of water you say?

  11. There was a lot of side-stepping the "law" in the prohibition era. The 5 part PBS TV series whenn talking of this also mentioned that there wa an increase in the number of registered Rabbis called Kelly !

  12. I remember reading that during the supposedly prudish 19th century in America, there was a popular guidebook for all the top brothels in Missouri, the intent of which, as the book's forward assured, was to ensure that a gentleman knew to avoid such places. The instruction on how not to make wine reminded me of this.

  13. And this is just one of the reasons I love this hobby; it leads one down so many interesting highways and byways of knowledge!

    Thanks so much for the pics, Tamsin, it's great to be able to put some visuals to the bits and pieces I've picked up over the years, much appreciated!

  14. Very interesting read! At only 19 days you will be fine, I'm sure!!!!!!

  15. I thought you'd all find this post interesting.

    @ J Womack - that cellar would probably also have been used to store the church valuables

    @ Robert - if I'm ever in NY I'll take you up on that offer. I'd also want to see some of the places that inspired Damon Runyan's tales.
    I recall reading of one raid where they netted the mayor, chief of police, a senator and a number of judges.

    @ Anne - I'll have to see if I can find that documentary online

    @ Brendon - definitely something weird going on with them. There were about 2500 hits on Sunday's post which didn't result from search terms and didn't flag up referring sites.

    @ PK - glad to have been of (dis)service!

    @ Michael - it needs to be a grape brick. Ordinary bricks won't work ;)

    @ Zabadak - I really need to find some of these documentaries to watch

    @ 1mac - I can just picture many a young gentleman taking the precaution of buying that guidebook in order to know where not to go ....

    @ Evan - Google Images is a marvel for these things once you get the right search terms

    @ Rodger - I miscalculated how many days and it was over 20 so I've got wine. Just waiting for Elliot Ness to kick down my door. Mind you, it's the weekend, so maybe I can dispose of the evidence ;)