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.