Larger social and cultural forces influenced changes to the area in vines between 1900 and 1950. The temperance movement had a powerful impact. Between 1880 and 1920, the state responded to the electorate by regulating to restrict the sale of alcohol, and particularly wine.
Licensed wine shops were allowed, but over the whole country only four licences were granted. Sale of wine by single bottle from wineries was not permitted. Some restrictions were geographically specific. From 1895, certain electorates, including part of West Auckland, voted to go ‘dry’. No alcohol could be sold in them even from their wineries. Such restrictions affected small wineries in particular because they found it difficult to get access to the many hotels controlled by the breweries.
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Temperance combined with widespread prejudice against non-British citizens to cultivate a suspicion toward wine and its makers. Prime Minister W. F. Massey warned in 1914 of the manufacture and sale of what is called Austrian wine a liquor that is sold in the district north of Auckland. I have never seen the stuff, but I believe it to be one of the vilest concoctions which can possibly be imagined. I do not know what its ingredients are, but I have come across people who have seen the effects of the use of Austrian wine as a beverage, and from what I have learned it is a degrading, demoralising and sometimes maddening drink
Many Dalmatians had immigrated to New Zealand in reaction to the political turmoil in the Balkans and the incorporation of their province into the Austro-Hungarian Empire. These were the ‘Austrians’ that Massey is referring to. Their lot, and the attitude of some members of the Anglo-Celtic society toward them, was to deteriorate as the First World War progressed.
The nascent industry suffered as a result of the temperance movement and such suspicion towards non-British citizens, together with the penchant for beer among New Zealand’s working class and the preference of social elites for imported wines. By the 1950s, New Zealand’s annual wine consumption was less than 2 litres per head compared with France at 96 litres. Beer consumption in New Zealand was over 100 litres per head – third in the world after Belgium and Australia. At the same time, France was consuming less than 30 litres of beer per head. The New Zealand brewing interests exerted enormous economic and political power in distributing their products.
The First World War, the 1930s Depression and the Second World War began to change these conditions and set the environment for the rise of the modern wine industry. The experience of New Zealand troops serving in continental Europe, shortages of imported wines – indeed all alcohol during the Second World War – and the establishment of a series of wineries committed to earning a full-time living in the industry, all contributed. Modest increases in the area in vines began during the Depression but accelerated rapidly during the Second World War when alcohol of any description was in short supply. American troops stationed in New Zealand increased the demand. Wine consumption from New Zealand grapes increased rapidly, but it was almost all fortified wine, a style that was not playing to New Zealand’s environmental strengths.
While the period from colonisation to 1960 represents the prehistory of the New Zealand wine industry, it is the regional and varietal revolutions since 1960 that have shaped its modern configuration.