BOOK FACT FRIDAY

FACT: Tree resins were among the earliest additives to wine. Ancient humans made several intuitive leaps that lead to this development: if a tree oozed resin to heal a cut in its bark, then applying resin to a human wound should serve to cure it, and, by extension, drinking a wine laced with a tree resin could both help to treat internal maladies and prevent the dreaded “wine disease.”

Ancient Wine: The Search for the Origins of Viniculture
Patrick E. McGovern

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.”

“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

We invite you to read Chapter 1 here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s7591.pdf