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A short history of wine
New York : Ecco, [2000]
Physical Description:
xxi, 369 pages : maps ; 23 cm
On the trail of the earliest wines: from the Fertile Crescent to Egypt -- Democratic drinking: wine in ancient Greece and Rome -- Were the 'dark ages' the dry ages? Europe 500-1000 AD -- Wine resurgent: the Middle Ages, 1000-1500 -- New wines, new skills: the revolution in alcohol, 1500-1700 -- Wine in new worlds: the Americas, Africa and Australia, 1500-1800 -- Wine, enlightenment and revolution: Europe in the eighteenth century -- Towards an age of promise: uncertainty and prosperity, 1800-1870 -- A time of troubles: wine and its enemies, 1870-1950 -- Into the light: a half-century of prosperity, 1950-2000.
A guide to the history of wine in the western world recreates each of the eras of wine production, from prehistoric times to the contemporary consumer wine culture, detailing the abundance of wine that has been consumed and enjoyed.


Call Number
641.2209 Phillips 2001

On Order



Variously regarded as a sacred, religious drink, inebriant, and even the work of the Devil, wine has always been much more than a commodity. From its origins in ancient Mesopotamia to its present incarnation as a vast, multinational business, wine has consistently generated passions that verge on mania.In A Short History of Wine, Rod Phillips sets out to tell the story of wine in the Western world with all its grandeurs and miseries. Packed with fascinating stories, unexpected insights, and the myriad tricks of the trade, A Short History of Wine is an essential book for anyone who treats wine with the zeal it deserves. Phillips re-creates each of the great eras of wine production, from the prehistoric fruits of the Fertile Crescent to this decades explosion of the consumer wine culture with its varied values and palates, and vividly conveys the sheer magnitude of wine consumption and enjoyment. Among the many engaging themes that Phillips explores is the endless struggle between nature and nurture -- is wine the pure product of the grape, or should it be enhanced by the addition of other substances? He revisits times when wine was a favorite among the American Founding Fathers (Ben Franklin praised it, as a God-given boon), and he sheds light on wines enemies, both natural and human, recalling dark times when disease struck vineyards, counterfeiting and fraud ran rampant, and anti-alcohol movements peaked.Spanning the globe from Hunter Valley to the Rhine, from Napa Valley to Burgundy (not overlooking Peru and Ohio), A Short History of Wine is an astonishingly enjoyable guide to the social, cultural, and economic worlds inside a bottle.

Author Notes

Rod Phillips has studied in Canada, New Zealand, and England. He is professor of history at Carleton University, Ottawa, where he teaches courses on the history of alcohol, the family, and French society. He has held fellowships in several countries, and his books have been widely translated

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

The consummate companion to any good glass of wine, this engaging book delves into the robust history of the beverage and investigates its vitality as what Phillips calls "a product, a commodity and an icon." An opening anecdote regarding the cancellation of a recent Iranian state visit to France (the French demanded dinner wine; Muslim law forbids alcohol consumption) perfectly frames both the range of cultural dispositions toward wine and the complex role it has played on the stage of world history. Investigating archeological and botanical evidence, Phillips, a professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, travels 7,000 years into the past to uncover the historical roots of wine-production and, by detailing the earliest bacchanals and trade routes through which wine entered public life and value systems, he investigates the role of wine as a commodity. In addition to studying the shifting economic and cultural importance of wine throughout history, Phillips also closely analyzes the effects of alcoholism and drink-induced violence. Wine, he poetically suggests, can be both a yield of the gods and the fruit of the devil, a commodity that paradoxically crosses borders while establishing lines between classes, and a product "of society more than of nature." Phillips's work wonderfully reveals all the histories readers might only have guessed at while thumbing through Chaucer, Boccaccio or Rimbaud, and his book provides a comprehensive reading of Western civilization through the bell of a wine glass. (Nov. 1) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Kirkus Review

A limpid overview nestles wine-that most charged and symbolic of foods-within its historical and cultural contexts. Wine's past is as rich and complex as anything ever put inside a bottle, writes Phillips (History/Carleton Univ.), as a result of circumstances both natural and social. And it is close attention to this pageantry that makes Phillips's history so estimable-besides its spirited writing (and his wisdom in avoiding the dreaded winespeak, tasting notes scarcely figuring in the text)-with its facility in mixing the big trans-historic picture with the anecdotal episodes that make it up, giving the tale a human dimension. Few subjects have such a wealth of oddments, and Phillips treats them like beloved children. Working chronologically, the author is able to pry out nuggets of wine lore as far back as the Stone Age (ironically, of course, it is in Iran where vines may first have been tended), but he really gets cranking with the Greeks and Romans, who truly appreciated the "gladness of the grape," as Euripides put it, both in terms of its medicinal use (Hippocrates was a champion of its consumption) and its democratic qualities (as Thomas Jefferson would later say, "No nation is drunken where wine is cheap"). Phillips points out that the Dark Ages had at least the glint of wine-wine cups have been found carved with the words "Give me a drink"-and that wine's ability to facilitate friendship and alliance has been deeply appreciated in social and diplomatic circles. He's as comfortable talking about the hot-cold relationship of wine and religion as he is discussing the advancements in viticultural and vinicultural techniques; he is also at ease, unlike most wine fans, talking about the dead end of chronic drunkenness. A laudably compact and versed telling of wine's story.

Booklist Review

In contrast to bread, wine, bread's sacred companion, is only rarely made at home. In A Short History of Wine, Rod Phillips traces wine's origins from the Middle East and its spread westward into Europe. Phillips covers both societal and scientific advances that made wine a central part of European daily life. Distinguishing this wine history from others, he also deals extensively with temperance movements around the world that culminated in America's Prohibition experiment in the early twentieth century. Phillips also outlines the development and growth of the Australian wine industry that has so transformed the American and European markets with its inexpensive, carefully crafted products.

Library Journal Review

Phillips, a history professor and author of several other books, including Society, State and Nation, looks at the various sociological, economic, political, and religious forces that have shaped the supply and demand for wine from ancient times to the 20th century. Phillips does a good job of illustrating how such factors as storage methods, means of transportation, changing tastes, and taxes have influenced what wines are produced and consumed in various parts of the world, but the broad scope of his work limits the amount of space devoted to any one particular wine-producing region in a given time period. The author's dense, scholarly writing style may deter readers in search of a quick, popular overview of this subject, for which Hugh Johnson's Vintage: The Story of Wine (1989. o.p.) would be a better choice, but academic and large public libraries in need of this type of historical survey should consider this for their collections. John Charles, Scottsdale P.L., AZ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

List of Mapsp. vii
Acknowledgementsp. ix
Introductionp. xiii
1 On the Trail of the Earliest Wines: From the Fertile Crescent to Egyptp. 1
2 Democratic Drinking: Wine in Ancient Greece and Romep. 29
3 Were the 'Dark Ages' the Dry Ages? Europe 500-1000 ADp. 64
4 Wine Resurgent: The Middle Ages, 1000-1500p. 84
5 New Wines, New Skills: The Revolution in Alcohol, 1500-1700p. 116
6 Wine in New Worlds: The Americas, Africa and Australia, 1500-1800p. 152
7 Wine, Enlightenment and Revolution: Europe in the Eighteenth Centuryp. 179
8 Towards an Age of Promise: Uncertainty and Prosperity, 1800-1870p. 218
9 A Time of Troubles: Wine and its Enemies, 1870-1950p. 271
10 Into the Light: A Half-century of Prosperity, 1950-2000p. 307
Appendix Historical Measures of Winep. 334
Select Bibliographyp. 336
Notesp. 345
Indexp. 365