The Economic History Review

Selling to reluctant drinkers: the British wine market, 1860–1914

Volume 57 Issue 1
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Pages: 80-108Authors: James Simpson
Published online: September 21, 2004DOI: 10.1111/j.0013-0017.2004.00273.x

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Attempts to stimulate wine drinking in Britain in the early 1860s succeeded in tripling wine imports, but this increase proved short lived, and per caput consumption was no greater in 1914 than it had been in 1815. Supply volatility, together with difficulties in establishing impersonal exchange mechanisms in place of those based on the personal reputation of economic agents, made it difficult to create a mass market. Not only did consumers receive insufficient information to identify quality prior to purchase, but the high price of some wines also encouraged cheap imitations, some of which were prejudicial to the health of the drinker.