This historian in me could hardly pass up the wine display for 19 Crimes I stumbled upon in a local grocer. Labeled with the conviction photos of Britain’s criminal class, the wine’s descriptors included brash and dramatic statements like:
Our red blend bears the same traits as those banished to Australia. Defiant by nature, bold in character. Always uncompromising. It's a taste you'll never forget.
The backstory to the wine proves compelling -- even for a teetotaler. Between May 1718 and the onset of the Revolutionary War, England’s jails overran with convicts. To relieve the nation of their care, more than 52,000 were transported to Britain’s American (and later Australian) colonies.
Crimes that warranted transportation as punishment included: Larceny (grand and petty), Buying or receiving stolen goods, Advancing the postage, and secreting the money; and Assault with an intent to rob. The majority arriving on American shores disembarked in Maryland and Virginia, where they were sold as slaves to the highest bidders.
While White slaves are not incorporated into the U.S. narrative of enslavement, British historians note it may have been because their value and enslavement were distinct from enslaved Africans. Hence, they were labeled “convicts” rather than slaves.
Additionally, slaves commanded a higher price, served in perpetuity (rather than the 7 years of a convict), and were considered more trustworthy as they did not have criminal records. Oddly enough, early eugenic theory was also applied the greater value of African slaves to that of White convicts: slaves were considered “generally fitter, stronger and healthier.” These are not synonymous terms. Fitter speaks to morality and character, stronger to physical strength, and healthier to overall wellness. These distinctions denoted tiers of whiteness that also shown in the disproportionate devaluing of White convicts (between £5 and £14 to the slave value between £30 and £60).
In April 2020, rapper Snoop Dogg entered into a multi-year partnership with 19 Crimes, introducing his “Snoop Cali Red” and “Snoop Cali Rose” to the winery. Snoop told CNN that wine had been a foreign concept to him growing up, as his taste for alcohol ran to the standards, Old Age, Gin & Juice and Hennessey.
“My homeboy Warren G popped some shit on us called Merlot. It just sounded expensive, so we started drinking that kind of red wine and we fell in love with it because it made us feel some kind of way about ourselves. Even the glass that you're drinking it out of, the way that you hold the glass, your posture, your conversation ... all of that comes with the feeling of drinking wine because it is all in one glass,” Snoop said.
Who said, “Crime doesn’t pay”?
Acumen loves 19 Crimes’ historical context and the modern spin of Snoop Dogg’s collection. Big ups and bigger Cheers!