Did the Pilgrims Drink Wine at the First Thanksgiving?
I think it’s pretty safe to say that most Americans enjoy wine with their Thanksgiving feast. (We at www.winefactor.com are especially partial to Pinot Noir as our go-to wine for the holiday). Have you ever wondered if the Pilgrims drank wine that day?
Unfortunately there is no clear documentation about what they ate or drank, but there is enough information to speculate.
First a little background. The Mayflower was a cargo ship used for transporting wine and other goods between France and England. It was capable of carrying 180 casks of wine. However, when it was commissioned for the trip across the ocean to the New World in 1620, there was not much room for wine. Take into account that there were 130 passengers squeezed onto an approximately 90′ x 25′ ship! They spent 66 grueling days at sea before spotting land on November 9, 1620. It is documented that one of the reasons they decided to stop where they did was because they were almost out of beer! (No mention of wine – if there was any on board when they set sail, it was probably gone before they lost sight of England). God forbid they drink water – everyone knew that plain water was poison! (And so it was back in their home country).
The Mayflower was their home through the first winter in the New World. If there was any beer or wine unconsumed after the voyage across the Atlantic, you can bet it did not last long in that cold, dark winter on board the ship.
The first Thanksgiving took place a year after the Pilgrims arrived. It was a 3-day feast, and it is generally thought that the menu’s main courses consisted of fowl such as duck and possibly turkey, shell fish, and venison. (I know Pinot Noir pairs really well with duck and turkey, but I’m not sure about venison…)
Earlier settlers elsewhere in the New World had tried to make wine from the native grapes they found in America, but the taste just didn’t cut it for them. So the Virginia Company exported French grapevines to Virginia in 1619. Sadly, not soon enough to bottle up a vintage for the big feast up in Plymouth!
So it makes sense to conclude that, sadly, the Mayflower Pilgrims did not drink Pinot Noir or any other wine with their Thanksgiving feast. Some people are pretty sure that the Pilgrims and their Native American friends drank hard apple cider during their celebration. A pity, if you ask me – a celebration as important as Thanksgiving deserves a great wine, like Pinot Noir!