Inventing Wine: A New History of One of the World's Most Ancient Pleasures

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Overview

Wine is some 8,000 years old, but the wines that people buy and drink today are for the most part quite new. Modern wine exists as the product of multiple revolutions—scientific, industrial, social, even ideological. Though the same basic chemical substance as its ancient forebear, it is in every other respect very different. Contemporary wines both taste unlike those from earlier eras and are valued in novel ways. For many thousands of years, wine was a basic need. Today it is a cultural choice, and the reasons ...
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Inventing Wine: A New History of One of the World's Most Ancient Pleasures

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Overview

Wine is some 8,000 years old, but the wines that people buy and drink today are for the most part quite new. Modern wine exists as the product of multiple revolutions—scientific, industrial, social, even ideological. Though the same basic chemical substance as its ancient forebear, it is in every other respect very different. Contemporary wines both taste unlike those from earlier eras and are valued in novel ways. For many thousands of years, wine was a basic need. Today it is a cultural choice, and the reasons why millions of people choose it tells us as much about them as about the contents of bottle or glass.

In Inventing Wine, Paul Lukacs chronicles wine’s transformation from a source of sustenance to a consciously pursued pleasure, in the process offering a new way to view the present as well as the past.

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Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
…meticulously researched history…
—Dave McIntyre
Publishers Weekly
Rather than an eternal cultural verity, wine is the product of innovative discontinuities, according to this flavorful history. Lukacs (American Vintage) argues that superlatively drinkable modern wines bear little resemblance to the barely potable swill—vinegary, quick-spoiling, adulterated (with lead!), used mainly to get drunk, commune with the gods, or decontaminate water—of centuries past. In his telling, that transformation is a story of technological revolutions, from the 17th century’s new-fangled bottles and corks that kept souring oxygen away to latter-day temperature-controlled vats and winery chemistry labs. Intertwined were cultural and economic shifts that transformed wine from an intrinsically sacred object first to a secular commodity subject to intense market competition and then to a bourgeois art-beverage valued more for aesthetics and cachet than inebriating power. Lukacs combines an erudite, raptly appreciative connoisseurship of fine wines with lucid analyses of the prosaics of wine production, marketing and consumption. At times he succumbs too much to the mysticism of terroir, “the complex interplay of soil, climate and culture” that makes a wine “true to its origins,” even as much of the book tacitly debunks such “invent traditions.” Still, his absorbing treatise shows just how much the grape’s bounty owes to human ingenuity and imagination. (Dec.)
Paul Jameson - New York Journal of Books
“Inventing Wine makes us grateful as wine lovers that we are living in the second golden age of wine, when the quality and choices far exceed anything possible before.”
Dave McIntyre - Washington Post
“Paul Lukacs’s Inventing Wine focuses on how the perception of wine has changed over time, through wars, revolution, prosperity and deprivation. ... Inventing Wine is broader and more ambitious in scope than his previous books, looking at how wine and Western civilization grew up together.”
New York Journal of Books
Inventing Wine makes us grateful as wine lovers that we are living in the second golden age of wine, when the quality and choices far exceed anything possible before.”— Paul Jameson
Washington Post
“Paul Lukacs’s Inventing Wine focuses on how the perception of wine has changed over time, through wars, revolution, prosperity and deprivation. ... Inventing Wine is broader and more ambitious in scope than his previous books, looking at how wine and Western civilization grew up together.”— Dave McIntyre
Kirkus Reviews
Noted American oenophile Lukacs (English/Loyola Univ. Maryland; The Great Wines of America: The Top Forty Vintners, Vineyards, and Vintages, 2005, etc.) tells the story of wine over eight millenniums and around the globe. This encyclopedic history arrives in what the author calls the great golden age of wine, with its popularity skyrocketing and quality unmatched. But it was not always so, a thesis that motivated Lukacs to track the dramatic changes that have shaped wine production and consumption over time. He begins in the ancient world, where wine played a role in religious rites but soured quickly and tasted "dense and unctuous." The secularization of wine in the Christian era and nutritional benefits in the Middle Ages (when it was safer to drink than water) made vin ordinaire widely popular, though it was still adulterated with additives and generally sour. Wine competed with beer and distilled spirits until the advent of the content-stabilizing glass bottle and vin fin from heralded viticulture regions like Burgundy and Bordeaux. A first, brief golden age followed in the mid 19th century with the rise of the wine-drinking bourgeoisie and fabled terroirs. However, vine disease and two world wars emptied cellars and left barren a quarter of the vineyards in France alone. Wine's gradual rebirth brought the introduction of appellation controls, new viticulture regions like Australia and California, and stylistic innovations emphasizing grape type over terroir. Themes of interest to oenophiles, from wine's longtime disrepute in North America to England's love affair with Bordeaux, and fascinating details--for instance, the unearthing of 26 casks of wine in King Tut's tomb--heighten the pleasure of this engrossing narrative. A richly readable and authoritative addition to the literature of wine.
New York Times - Eric Asimov
“Fascinating.”
The New Yorker
“Lukacs, well aware that his subject is often clouded with pretense, writes with an eye for pungent detail.”
Wine Enthusiast - Esther Mobley
“Thoughtful and provocative, this book shows that the history of wine is as complex as the history of human society.”
Eric Asimov - New York Times
“Fascinating.”
Esther Mobley - Wine Enthusiast
“Thoughtful and provocative, this book shows that the history of wine is as complex as the history of human society.”
Booklist
“In highly readable prose, Lukacs tells the story of winemaking’s worldwide history, recounting such ever-fascinating stories as the discovery of champagne and the creation of phenomenally unctuous and costly wines from what appear to be overripe, rotten grapes.”
Mark Kurlansky
“Just when it seemed that there was nothing new to be said about wine, Paul Lukacs tells an intriguing and original tale that is thoroughly enjoyable reading.”
Karen MacNeil
“I will always be grateful to Paul Lukacs for writing this book. Against a sea of contemporary wine reviews and tasting notes, he has written something far more significant—a book that takes us on a journey through wine's role in our history, our culture, our humanity. Inventing Wine is important because it's the story of what wine means, and ultimately, the story of why we love it.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393064520
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 12/3/2012
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 693,272
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul Lukacs writes regularly about wine for the Washington Times and is chair of the English department at Loyola College in Maryland. He lives in Baltimore.
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Table of Contents

Introduction ix

God's Gifts: Wine in Ancient Worlds 1

Worldly Goods: Wine through the Middle Ages 34

Particular Tastes: New Wines and New Challenges 66

Battling Air and Bottling Stars: Inventing Early Modern Wines 95

New Tastes and Traditions: Wine's First Golden Age 127

Crises and Catastrophes: A Century of Cheapening 167

Recovery and Revival: European Wine's Second Golden Age 202

Visions and Varietals: The Wine Revolution Comes to the New World 239

Globalization and Specialization: Wine Moves into the New Millennium 278

Notes 315

Bibliography 325

Index 331

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2013

    I found Paul Lukacs's book booringly repetitive. What he says co

    I found Paul Lukacs's book booringly repetitive. What he says could have been writtten in a 75 page term paper. It appears with all the errors in punctuation and text that his editors were on vacation. Summary: Ancient, even 19th centurn wine was "sour" since people did not understand how to preserve wine. If he had used the word "sour" one more time, I would have thrown a bottle at him. Readers may enjoy the last chapter, but the rest is plonk.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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