On Oct. 27, 1933, Earnest Hemingway published Winner Take Nothing, which included the short story, “Wine of Wyoming.”
It’s not one of his more well-known stories, owing to the fact much of the dialogue is in French. At the time, it was much more common for people in the U.S. to know a bit of French, but today, the French dialogue makes the story difficult for most people on this side of the pond to access.
The story explores the interactions of Americans with a kind French couple who immigrated to the United States. Whereas the couple is very clean, cultured, and orderly, they clash with the Americans of the Old West, who are much more crass and insensitive.
The story is set during Prohibition and involves a lot of bootleg drinking. While the cultured French enjoy making illegal beer and selling it to the Americans, they can’t understand how the cowboys drink it to get drunk, rather than for the taste. The Americans even pour whiskey into the beer to make it stronger, ruining the brew in the French couple’s eyes.
While the French are eager for wine, it’s not quite ready yet. The French wife insists the narrator, who must leave the French ranch, return the following night to try the wine. Being too tired to make the trip back, the narrator breaks the promise to the French couple that he would return that night. By the time he does return, the French husband had drunk it all.
So, the narrator leaves without ever getting a taste of the wine of Wyoming.
Hemingway had a long love affair with Wyoming—in addition to love affairs with multiple women—beginning in 1928, when he arrived at the Folly Ranch in July 1928. It was in Sheridan that he ate and drank wine with the Moncini family, who were immigrants from France. They would serve as the models for the characters in “Wine of Wyoming.”
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