Talk About Terroir: Winery Discovered in Alabama Sewage Plant

  • 62-year-old Allen Maurice Stiefel faces Class B Felony charges.
  • Authorities discovered over 100 gallons of wine in the plant after receiving an "anonymous tip"

Natural wine is the latest fad in the boujee food + beverage world. It’s wine made without chemical interference from the winery. Unlike mainstream labels that taste predictable year after year, natural wine showcases various environmental changes in each vintage. Results are unpredictable and fawned over by connoisseurs and plebs alike. So Allen Maurice Stiefel, 62, may have been onto something when he converted a section of the Rainsville sewage plant into a make-shift winery this past year.

Making wine is a felony for some reason?

Photo by Jim Harris on Unsplash

Unfortunately for him, it’s illegal to produce over 15 gallons of alcohol as an unlicensed “home” operation. Authorities busted the enterprising Stiefel with over 100 gallons of red and white wine in fermentation and bottling stages. It’s either an ignominious end to a 15-year career in public service or a glorious start to a new endeavor as a wine-maker for Stiefel; depending on your feelings about hooch, rotgut, moonshine, sauce, etc.

Like most of us, I’d wager, I have thought little about the ins-and-outs of what it takes to work in sewage. While I’m both squeamish and ignorant about the subject, I’ve got nothing but gratitude for the people who do it, and they probably don’t make enough money.

One thing I’d never considered, when not thinking about working in a sewage plant, was that it could not only be gross, but it’d also be boring. There are easier ways to make money on the side, so you have to assume the sewage winery was born from a genuine interest in fermentation and wine-making. It’s also not easy, aging and bottling 100 gallons of hooch–it takes some understanding of chemistry and a fair amount of manual labor.

Put this guy on Shark Tank

Photo by Vince Veras on Unsplash

Rainsville is a town of about 5,100. There’s no word yet on who in town was purchasing the illegal wine. Or, whether they knew from where it came. Ancient cultures used to mix wine with water to “purify” it, so it’s doubtful that there was anything dangerous or poisonous about the vintage just because of where it was made.

Photo by Jodie Morgan on Unsplash

You’ve got to feel for Stiefel in this situation. The mayor suspended him without pay, and he faces a felony charge for the wine. Based on pictures of the operation, it wasn’t a slap-dash affair. The equipment looks professional, with organized and labeled fermentation tanks. The guy seems like a grandfather who took up a new hobby. Then, his wife and kids banned him from crowding the garage or basement at home with his beakers and things.

Hopefully, someone starts a GoFundMe for him, and he’s able to open a real winery in 2021. Someone out there deserves something good to happen next year. It might as well be the Sewage Winery Guy.


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