Wine in the French Revolution

Wednesday, November 17, 2021 

10:00 a.m. on ZOOM* 

* This is part of the History Interest Group's program. To join this group contact the convenor. If you are not a member of CFUW but would like to join us, email  to request a link to our ZOOM meeting. We always welcome new members. 

Professor Rod Phillips, D. Phil. Oxford

Department of History, Carleton University

Professor Phillips teaches courses at Carleton University in European history, the history of the family, and the history of food and drink.  He has published a number of books on European history, the history of marriage and divorce, and the history of wine.  His books include Putting Asunder: A History of Divorce in Western Society (1988),  Alcohol: A History (2014), French Wine: A History (2016), and Wine: A Social and Cultural History of the Drink that Changed Our Lives (2018).   He is currently working on a book about the French Revolution and wine.

Currently, Rod writes on modern wine and was the wine columnist for the Ottawa Citizen for 16 years. He published The Wines of Canada (2017) and is now writing a book on the wines of South-west France. Rod also judges wine competitions internationally. 

Rod earned his BA from Trent University, an MA from the University of Otago (NZ), and completed his D. Phil. at Oxford University in the UK.  He taught in New Zealand and then at Queen’s and Brock before coming to Carleton in 1989.    Rod's Faculty Page here 

Drinking the French Revolution:
Creating a new wine industry and drinking culture

Rod will discuss in broad terms the history of wine, French wine, and in particular the place of the French Revolution (1789-99) as a period that transformed the French wine industry and wine culture.

French wine was well known in Europe and further afield before the French Revolution, especially the fine wines from Bordeaux, Champagne, and Burgundy. While the elites drank these wines, the middle classes drank less expensive wines and the masses drank cheap, locally produced wines of very dubious quality.

During the Revolution wide-ranging changes took place in the French wine industry.  Almost all Church-owned land and buildings were confiscated, including thousands of hectares of vineyards and thousands of wineries (many owned by monasteries) that were auctioned off to lay owners.  With the end of restrictions on land-use, the area of land planted in grapevines expanded, allowing wine production to increase. Taxes on wine were abolished for a number of years, allowing consumption to broaden and increase.

In cultural terms, Revolutionary governments condemned fine wine as aristocratic and encouraged the production of good wine at affordable prices. Wine, especially red wine, was treated as a patriotic beverage that was emblematic of France.

The overall impact of the Revolution was to broaden wine production and consumption such that wine became the daily (or almost daily) drink of French people until the late 1900s.

This talk will focus on architecture built in the Art Deco style in Shanghai during the inter-war period (1919-39). It explores Shanghai’s colonial history showing why the city counts among the largest number of Art Deco buildings in the world, including hotels, department stores, cinemas and private residences. The talk will situate Art Deco within the growing Chinese interest at that period in Western concepts of luxury, nightlife, graphic art, fashion and furniture. Art Deco can be viewed as an example of how styles and products travel from one region to another. Now part of China’s architectural heritage, Shanghai’s Art Deco also asserts itself in the overall history of modern architecture while paying tribute to the Chinese and foreign architects and workers involved.
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