North Carolina provided the United States with its most purchased wine during the early 1900s and before Prohibition: Virginia Dare red and white wines. The product’s popularity rested in great part because winemaker Paul Garrett led an innovative and aggressive advertising campaign.
Although Virginia Dare wine was a grape blend, each variety contained the scuppernong grape—a muscadine grape that has been North Carolina’s state fruit since 2001. The wine was noted for its sweet taste and was used commonly as a dessert wine.
Garrett’s innovative salesmanship catapulted this North Carolina wine into national favor. After Paul Garrett’s Special Champagne won the coveted sparkling wine prize at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, he used the new fame to create a winemaking empire. He published The Art of Serving Wine to introduce wine etiquette to a potential market—of course, he promoted scuppernong wines in the text by using them as examples and by presenting the scuppernong’s history that dated to and before the earliest English settlers. To that end, he also used Sally Cotton’s The White Doe: The Fate of Virginia Dare to promote his wines; it used a romantic “Indian legend” to explain why some grapes are red. He also used drawings of Roanoke Indians and photographs of the Mother Vine to promote his Virginia Dare wines. Placards and posters were also used in the advertising campaign.
Selling Virginia Dare wines, Garrett was a pioneer over the airwaves. The first radio advertisement for wine, according to historian Clarence Gohdes, was a Virginia Dare wine jingle. Across the nation people heard the words “Say it again—Virginia Dare.”
Clarence Gohdes, Scuppernong: North Carolina’s Grape and Its Wines (Durham, 1982) and Elizabeth Scheld Glynn, “Wine and Wine Making” in William S. Powell, ed., The Encyclopedia of North Carolina History (Chapel Hill, 2006).