The history of civilization is, in many ways, the history of wine. This book is the first comprehensive and up-to-date account of the earliest stages of vinicultural history and prehistory, which extends back into the Neolithic period and beyond. Elegantly written and richly illustrated, Ancient Wine opens up whole new chapters in the fascinating story of wine and the vine by drawing upon recent archaeological discoveries, molecular and DNA sleuthing, and the texts and art of long-forgotten peoples.
Patrick McGovern takes us on a personal odyssey back to the beginnings of this consequential beverage when early hominids probably enjoyed a wild grape wine. We follow the course of human ingenuity in domesticating the Eurasian vine and learning how to make and preserve wine some 7,000 years ago. Early winemakers must have marveled at the seemingly miraculous process of fermentation. From success to success, viniculture stretched out its tentacles and entwined itself with one culture after another (whether Egyptian, Iranian, Israelite, or Greek) and laid the foundation for civilization itself. As medicine, social lubricant, mind-altering substance, and highly valued commodity, wine became the focus of religious cults, pharmacopoeias, cuisines, economies, and society. As an evocative symbol of blood, it was used in temple ceremonies and occupies the heart of the Eucharist. Kings celebrated their victories with wine and made certain that they had plenty for the afterlife. (Among the colorful examples in the book is McGovern's famous chemical reconstruction of the funerary feast--and mixed beverage--of "King Midas.") Some peoples truly became "wine cultures."
When we sip a glass of wine today, we recapitulate this dynamic history in which a single grape species was harnessed to yield an almost infinite range of tastes and bouquets. Ancient Wine is a book that wine lovers and archaeological sleuths alike will raise their glasses to.
"A remarkable new book."--Adam Gopnik, New Yorker
"No one is better qualified to sift through the widely scattered clues [to the origins of winemaking] than McGovern, a skilled scientific sleuth who wields the most powerful tools of modern chemistry in his search for the roots of ancient wines."--J. Madeleine Nash, Time Magazine
"A rich treasury of lore on viticulture. . . . McGovern's book will likely remain a standard in every serious wine-lover's library for a long time. To that achievement--and to glorious wine itself--let us raise our glasses high."--Laurence A. Marschall, Natural History
"It takes nerve to tackle a subject as wide-ranging in chronology, geography and historical variability as the study of ancient viniculture, and it takes rhetorical flourish to make such a study riveting, informative and thought-provoking. Patrick McGovern has succeeded in doing just that. His Ancient Wine is a book to be highly recommended to lay and professional audiences alike."--James C. Wright, American Scientist
"It's obvious that McGovern has a passion for his research, and that his deep appreciation for wine is enhanced by his understanding of wine's role in civilization. Wine lovers who also enjoy delving into wine's rich history will find much to savor in this complex but intriguing book."--Deborah Scoblionkov, Philadelphia Inquirer
"The most fascinating scholarly wine book this year. . . . This is a tapestry woven from surviving cultural fragments and combines art, archeology, chemistry and gastronomy. It tracks the thread of wine through 8,000 years of human history and is not for the faint-hearted."--Toronto Star
Table of Contents
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