Colonialism and Wine History

Wine has become so intertwined with human culture that it is now the study of many disciplines. And one of the interesting things about it is how it became a part of colonialism.

The Spread of Wine Culture in America

When the Europeans colonized the Americas, they brought with them their lifestyle from abroad. And one of them was wine production. They planted wine grapes in some of the colonized lands, which wine enthusiasts call as New World Wine .


Mexico is America’s oldest winemaking region because of Spanish explorers. When they discovered the native vines in the fertile lands of present-day Coahuila in 1549, they founded the Mission of Santa Maria de las Parras (Holy Mary of the Vines). After that, Spanish settler Don Lorenzo Garcia established the Hacienda de San Lorenzo along with other Spanish missionaries in 1597, where they founded the oldest winery houses in the Americas.


Today, Argentina has become the fifth biggest wine producer in the world. Just like in Mexico, the long tradition of winemaking in the country came about from the Spanish in 1557. But other immigrants like Germans and Italians had some influence in the industry too.


Viticulture in Chile also dates back to the Spanish Conquistadores. In the mid-19th century, the Bordeaux varieties came to the country.

For a long time, people thought that most of the vines in Chile were Merlot when they were Carménère, which became their signature vine.


Catholic priests were mainly the reason for wine production in Columbia. But when it became an independent country from Spain, they did not allow European immigrants to enter. So the wine industry did not develop like in other South American Countries. There is still wine production in Columbia, but locals mostly consume it.


Grapevines came to Peru after the Spanish Conquest. According to Spanish Chroniclers, the hacienda Marcahuasi of Cuzco is the place where the first vinification of South America before spreading to other countries.

United States

The history of wine production in America followed the same path as Latin American countries, with the first vineyards starting because of Spanish missionaries. Italian and Bordeaux immigrants would later bring their grape varieties, which created a thriving wine industry in Napa Valley.


When early European settlers came to the country, they tried cultivating the Vitis vinifera grape variety but had limited success. So they later focused on using native species of Vitis riparia and Vitis labrusca. However, most people didn’t like the taste, which they often called “foxy.” But, when they made Port and Sherry-styled wines with juice, people didn’t mind the taste. And in 1866, Canada’s first commercial winery opened on Pelee Island, Ontario.

Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa

Since Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa don’t have a wine tradition, they are considered New World Wine producers by wine connoisseurs.

South Africa first produced wine in the founding of Cape Town in 1659. Its purpose was to supply the ships coming to the area. The First Fleet then took Vine Cuttings from the vineyards of South Africa and brought them to Australia. It took some time for the settlers to adapt to new conditions. And in 1882, wine exports began.

Meanwhile, in New Zealand, Croatian immigrants began to gradually create the viticulture industry at the end of the 19th century. But it only flourished in the 1970s. There were plenty of grape varieties at first until New Zealand made Sauvignon Blanc its trademark wine in the 1980s.


Wine and colonialism have a long history with each other because when the Europeans began to explore and colonize parts of the world, they brought their culture with them, which included wine production. You can check this wine history timeline if you want to learn about wine and the impact it has made on the world.