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American Vintage: The Rise of American Wine Paperback – November 17, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 372 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (November 17, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393325164
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393325164
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #987,757 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In a volume that is clear, persuasive and lively, Lukacs charts the history of American viticulture from a brief, promising beginning through the moribund dark ages that lasted for decades after Prohibition, to its rapid upswing in the latter part of the 20th century. Lukacs, the wine columnist for the Washington Times, tells how early wine pioneers had problems producing a quality vintage, as American grape varieties produced wine that was too "foxy" and imported ones scarcely produced any wine at all before falling victim to native diseases. Just as promising work was underway, Prohibition quashed it; afterward, wine gave way to the mass-produced, skid-row fortifieds that dominated the market until the 1960s. Though it took people with an almost artistic vision to reconsider making high-quality American wine, Lukacs explains that it was the intrinsic American faith in science that allowed these dreams to become reality. Today premium, distinct American wines come even from Texas, as "perhaps the most important legacy of the rise of American wine has been the realization that inherent quality rather than reputation defines a classic." Lukacs has a real feel for story, which makes his history exceptionally entertaining. Woven in among facts about American wine species and details about production methods are portraits of important figuresAlike Robert Mondavi and enologist professor Maynard Amerine, whose research into wine's biochemical composition profoundly influenced the way wine was made in California. This combination of erudition and narrative savvy should make Lukacs's work popular even among wine lovers who are not usually readers of history. 8-page photo insert not seen by PW. Author tour. (Nov.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Wisely avoids technical data, wine industry jargon, and the tasting notes that pass for so much wine writing. This is social history; it deals with people and, in Mr. Lukacs's hands, a fascinating lot they are."

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 14 customer reviews
This is an exhaustively researched book, written in a clear, easy to read style.
C. L. Smart
Against the backdrop of 200 years of American life, wine columnist and English Professor, Paul Lukacs, takes us on great ride through the history of wine.
Bob Sammarco
Anyone who loves wine and enjoys a little historical perspective will adore this book!
Susan J. Stengel

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Lisa Shea HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 6, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is definitely one of the most interesting books I have read recently, on or off the topic of wine. It is a fascinating story of changes in morality, of perceptions of wine and the world around us, and how an entire nation moved back and forth on its thoughts about food, culture, wine, and much more.
The story begins back with Jefferson, who in the late 1700s was a huge proponent of wine. He tried unsuccessfully to grow his own vines, and promoted European winedrinking at the white house and in his circles of friends. In 1803 winemaking really begins with Nicholas Longworth in Ohio, with sweet whites.
In the 1850s a huge temperance movement began, and in the 1860s rot came in and destroyed practically all of the vines. At the same time, phylloxera hit heavily in Europe, destroying vines there. It wasn't until the 1870s that solutions began to be implemented for both of these situations ... but by the 1890s there was once again a boom in planting. At the 1900 Paris Expo, 40 American wineries won awards. Wine was on its way up.
Or so people thought. Shortly, the guillotine descended. The death knell for most wineries came with Prohibition in 1917.
Ironically, prohibition resulted in more people drinking to get a buzz, and fewer drinking it reasonably with meals. Home winemaking was legal, so the vineyards that remained open did so by selling "pretty" grapes to this market. These were usually bad for actual winemaking, and the home winemakers worked on making sweet, fortified wines for maximum results and to overwhelm the taste. By the time prohibition ended in 1933, the US winery count had dropped from over 1000 down to 150. Some states stayed dry long after this - Mississippi was the last state to allow alcohol, in 1966.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Bob Sammarco on February 19, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Against the backdrop of 200 years of American life, wine columnist and English Professor, Paul Lukacs, takes us on great ride through the history of wine.
Starting with Thomas Jefferson and the earliest views of wine's role in American society, Lukacs' well-researched volume takes us through the country's movement west, prohibition, wine as big business and then wine as art. Along the way, we meet agrarian idealists, businessmen, teetotalers, bootleggers, immigrants and a host of factions all weighing in on the role of wine in American life.
Wine enthusiasts will love hearing the inside scoop on how some of the big names in wine got to where they are, and how American wine became a brash world leader. Lukacs covers much more than this, however. We learn about the science behind grape growing and wine making, the affects of government policies on wine availability, a bit about American cuisine, and no small amount of general social history.
Lukacs pulls it off. He moves us artfully through these varied sub-topics, and always with a lively, readable style.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Susan J. Stengel on January 3, 2001
Format: Hardcover
After seeing a review of this book in the WSJ I quickly ordered it from my independent bookshop. Am I glad I did. As a new owner of a wine shop I have felt overwhelmed by the body of knowledge required to properly sell my products. This book armed me with a solid background on American wine history. It has already helped me sell my local VA wines! It gave me an increased level of comfort with the background of wine in the U.S. and subsequently increased my comfort level when I talk with cusotmers - both the novice and the wine snob.
Anyone who loves wine and enjoys a little historical perspective will adore this book!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Robert I. Sutton on April 28, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is one of the best books I've read in a long time. I loved the the history and, as a wine lover, it helped me understand the product and the industry in a way I never did before. I am a management professor at Stanford, so the best part for me was reading about the innovative practices used in the wine industry, the constant experimentation and information sharing that should serve as model for other industries. After reading this book I realized that the wine industry, not the computer industry, is the best model other firms and industries that want to flourish. I'd give this book six stars if I could.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By K. Floy on January 14, 2002
Format: Hardcover
In this work, Lukacs traces the origins of American grape growing and wine production from the early 19th century to present. Much of the work is focused on the last 30 or 40 years when grape growing and wine production began to be serious pursuits in the U.S.
This book is entertaining, interesting, and educational but I give it only 3 stars due to its highly repetitive nature. It is as if the book was written so that each chapter can be read independently and not lose the totality of the work. Obviously, this leads to undue repetition. I would have much appreciated Lukacs slimming the book down and avoiding his urge to tell once more what he has already told us.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan on May 19, 2001
Format: Hardcover
American Vintage is a wonderful combination of history book and fascinating narrative. Lukacs manages to keep the reader captivated by the history of the wine grape in America.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By FahtMeister on August 9, 2006
Format: Paperback
I agree with all the above praise. The book was meticulously researched and well written. Great personal recollections from the people who were there.

There were two minor annoyances

1. The author repeats himself fairly often.

2. You get bounced back and forth in time a bit. From pre-prohibition to post and then to the 90's then back to WWII.

Minor issues that probably won't bother you unless you're reading the book on and off over the course of a couple of weeks.
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