From the earliest evidence of fermented grapes in 5000 BC, to the popping of corks at the start of the year 2000, wine in its various forms has always been more than just a drink. Throughout its heady and volatile history it has aroused extraordinary passions: as a gift from God or a curse from Satan; as a marker of social sophistication or drunken revelry; in religious ritual and in sexual seduction; as a healthy tonic and something that can kill. Rod phillips distills the rich, often fruity story of our palates through the ages, from the debauched drinking parties of Ancient Greece and Rome, where wine was mixed with sea water or honey; through the flourishing trade of the Middle Ages; to 17th-century Venice, where a wine fountain was constructed for shipyard workers; and on to the birth of port, champagne and New World wines. Ending with the industry of today, this is a hugely entertaining celebration of "the gladness of the grape" everywhere.
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"Glory, the grape, love, gold, in these are sunk The hopes of all men, and of every nation."
Byron never held back when it came to drinking deep of life and wine, and he recognised the passion for wine that was shaped by and shaped cultures. No other item in our diet can claim such a fascinating story. The journey from the vine to the glass is one of collaboration between humankind and nature, and any history is a history of that relationship and its tensions. The production of wine for thousands of years provokes the question, why make wine at all? Why do people drink wine? Why do they drink the wine they do in the quantities they do on the occasions they do? Rod Phillip's A Short History of Wine serves those serious about wine with a deep-bodied and robust history that sets out not only to describe but to explain the story of wine as a product, a commodity and an icon.
From the traces of its earliest use in ancient Mesopotamia, Phillips vividly portrays each age of viticulture and viniculture, his huge sweep never obscuring some of the more entertaining and enlightening aspects of its production and consumption. Wines, like people, are not created equal, and as such it has long been a marker of social distinctions, including class and gender as well as age and religion. As the story of wine spreads across nations and through time, Phillips masterfully draws together powerful cultural developments such as its prohibition by Muhammad, its spread by conquest and colonisation to the New Worlds, to decades of trouble due to blight, fraud, overproduction, Prohibition movements, two world wars, tariff barriers and economic depressions. Readers can savour how this remarkable story ends in the industry's present incarnation as a vast, multinational business. Phillips blends a knowledgeable historical sweep with primary sources and social commentary to create a fascinating narrative of the world inside a bottle.--Christine ButteryReview:
"Rather than buy an expensive bottle, next time you have a thirst (for knowledge) consider buying this book instead" Colin Price Beech, Literary Review "A serious but unassuming little book - you'll be amused by it's lack of presumption." Iain Finlayson, The Times "...every page contains a nugget or two which astonishes." Andrew Jefford, Evening Standard
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