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
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.