450+ Years Ago, Wine Landed On American Soil

The history of wine is similar to the timeline of your 21st birthday- major events stand out, but some of the details get a little muddy and controversial.

Much like you know your 21st happened despite the details, it’s thought that on this day, September 8th, in 1565 Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, a Spanish admiral, and his squad landed on the shore of what we now know as St. Augustine. What followed was what scholars debate as the (real) first Thanksgiving in America. Avilés and his squad were thanking their god for their safety, likely because only five of the 19 ships that set out on the expedition made it, and the new land, because at that time finding land was like Friday paydays.

After a traditional Spanish Mass led by the on-board Chaplin, the new settlers and the natives from the Timucua tribe ate together. Dr. Gannon, who is known for his study of Spanish colonial history (so much so he was Knighted by King Juan Carlos I of Spain) claims, “It was the very first Thanksgiving and the first Thanksgiving meal in the United States.”


Unlike the black-hatted Pilgrims that docked the Mayflower in 1621, this “thanksgiving” boasted of an entirely Spanish menu. The jolly gents ate what was probably “cocido, a stew made from salted pork and garbanzo beans, laced with garlic seasoning” as their main course. In addition, the men probably enjoyed some hard sea biscuits- yum? The Timucua probably contributed the healthy treats like grains, corn, beans, and squash. And can you consider it a  thanksgiving dinner without wine? Even the settlers of the 16th century knew that answer. They popped open the bottles and enjoyed a hearty pour to celebrate the victorious voyage.

So we have it- (arguably) the first wine introduced to Lady Liberty. And though the details are a little cloudy, the truths remain: we’re forever grateful for whoever brought wine to the states and our 21st birthday happened...no matter what we remember.

Emily HigginbothamComment