Ancient Wine
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Ancient Wine : The Search for the Origins of Viniculture

By (author) Patrick E. McGovern , Foreword by Robert G. Mondavi

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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.

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  • Paperback | 392 pages
  • 154.9 x 228.6 x 20.3mm | 567g
  • 01 Feb 2007
  • Princeton University Press
  • New Jersey
  • English
  • Revised
  • Revised edition
  • 16 color illus. 35 halftones. 9 line illus. 7 maps.
  • 0691127840
  • 9780691127842
  • 220,062

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Author Information

Patrick E. McGovern is a Senior Research Scientist in the Museum Applied Science Center for Archaeology (MASCA) and is Adjunct Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. The author or editor of eight other books on archaeology and archaeological science, over the past two decades he has pioneered the emerging field of biomolecular archaeology.

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Review quote

Winner of the 2004 Organisation Internationale de la Vigne et du Vin Grand Prize, History, Literature and Fine Arts Category Winner of the 2004 Research Prize, Asociacion Internacional de Historia y Civilizacion de la Vid y el Vino Honorable Mention for the 2003 Award for Best Professional/Scholarly Book in Geology and Earth Sciences Professional/Scholarly Award, Association of American Publishers "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 "This is a prodigiously learned book by a prodigiously learned man... McGovern uses wine as a vehicle for exploring the reaches of ancient history, and for presenting some of the astonishing archeological discoveries that are still being made... By the time we get to Persia, Greece and Rome it has become truly urgent, because it is now a story of civilizations and their clashes--the story in which we are still involved."--Roger Scruton, New Statesman "This book is clearly written, generously illustrated, and thoroughly indexed."--Harvey Finkel, New England Wine Gazette "Princeton University Press has published the definitive book on grape and wine history. Ancient Wine by Patrick E. McGovern is history writing at its best. Thoroughly engaging, this is beautifully illustrated with photos of historical artifacts."--Connie Krochmal, BellaOnline "[W]ine lovers who want to discover more of the origins of their favourite drop will find Ancient Wine of great value and interest."--Louise Johnson, Heritage Key "Mr. McGovern is an exceptional scholar who employs a lively narrative and the latest techniques in scientific archaeology and historiography to help the contemporary reader peer into the most remote corners of early man's agricultural and ritual past. What we learn there is simply riveting. And while the book was first published in 2003, it remains a brilliant and at times prescient work which no civilised amateur of fine wines or modern wine cultures should be without."--Joseph Romero, Culturekiosque "Excellent maps and illustrations, many in full color, enrich the presentation... The price of the new paperbound edition is reasonable, even astonishing given the color plates, and should make it so much the easier for those interested in ancient history, in wine, or in both to acquire and savor it."--Victor Castellani, European Legacy

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Back cover copy

"I raise my glass to Patrick McGovern, who mixes authoritative knowledge of ancient viniculture with inspired writing into a heady drink for the mind. This is a beautifully written book, full of insight into the origins, culture, and economy of wine."--Roald Hoffmann, Cornell University, 1981 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry "Patrick McGovern serves us a magnificent feast of science and history that melds sophisticated chemistry with good, old-fashioned historical sleuthing. His innovative research has revolutionized our knowledge of the origins of one of humanity's greatest pleasures. This is an archaeological and gustatory delight for specialist and general reader alike."--Brian Fagan, University of California, Santa Barbara, author of "The Little Ice Age" ""Ancient Wine" tells a dramatic, factual story of wine's beginnings at the dawn of civilization 8,000 years ago, bringing to life what I have long believed-wine has been an essential part of the gracious way of life for many cultures. Patrick McGovern takes us on a fascinating journey back to the first experiments in making this marvelous beverage. He shows the central role of wine in human history, with insights drawn from archeology, chemistry, gastronomy, and the arts. "Ancient Wine" will please everyone who enjoys wine. I heartily recommend it."--Robert Mondavi, winemaker "What a great book! Patrick McGovern takes us along for the ride as he searches for the origins of modern wine. This is a very personal, engagingly written story, and we're privileged to watch over McGovern's shoulder as he unravels the mysteries of ancient vines and wines."--Rod Phillips, author of "A Short History of Wine" "Told with enthusiasm and verve, "Ancient Wine" is an illuminating discussion of an important area of research. It represents a substantial contribution to our understanding of the nature of consumption in early urban societies, and draws together investigations of some of the outstanding pieces of evidence that are of prime relevance to the story."--Andrew Sherratt, author of "Economy and Society in Prehistoric Europe"

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