Wine is a drink with a long history. It is produced in every continent apart from Antarctica, and there are very few places on Earth where its sale and consumption are prohibited outright. It should not then come as any surprise to discover that it has had a hand in shaping society and culture across the globe. Taking a thematic approach to his subject, wine historian Rod Phillips discovers the profound effect this seemingly simple grape-based drink has had on our landscapes, politics, language and social interactions. Along the way he unearths some surprising facts that demonstrate the important part wine has played in our lives. For example:
- During the First World War French soldiers were given a ration of 1 litre of wine a day, after experiments showed that soldiers who drank wine were more alert and energetic than those given beer. The eventual defeat of the beer-drinking German army served to prove wine's superiority in the eyes of the French.
- The first known wine labels were discovered in the tomb of Egyptian King Tutankhamun, who died in 1323 BC. They not only give details of the wine's estate, vintage and winemaker, but also provide some notes on quality and style.
- Men have been boasting about their wine-drinking prowess for centuries, with eighteenth century port drinkers aiming to assert their masculinity by claiming to be 'three-bottle men' - able to drink three bottles of port without suffering any ill effects.
- Wine and cheese may be a common pairing these days but up until the nineteenth century most cheeses were synonymous with the peasantry and said to reek of the countryside. No fashionable host would have served cheese with wine.
- One modern American victim of wine crime discovered that he had over the years paid $4 million for 400 bottles of counterfeit wine, including four bottles bearing the initials of Thomas Jefferson, which on close examination were revealed to have been engraved using a power tool.
Wine is an entertaining and informative exploration of the drink's social and cultural impact and an essential addition to the library of any wine enthusiast.