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Inventing Wine: A New History of One of the World's Most Ancient Pleasures Hardcover – December 3, 2012

4.3 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Because of the similarity of wine’s color to that of blood, the ancients regarded wine as sacred, a gift of the gods. Until the introduction of scientific management to winemaking, wine’s creation and manufacture continued to have an aura of mystery. Some batches turned out well; others spoiled or took on unpleasant aromas and flavors. Such unpredictability did not hinder a very early worldwide trade in good wine around the Mediterranean basin. Until Pasteur showed how yeasts fed on sugars and produced carbon dioxide and alcohol, only really experienced and adept vintners could forecast outcomes. 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. And no history of wine would be complete without reference to America’s misguided rejection of wine in Prohibition. --Mark Knoblauch

Review

Rather than an eternal cultural verity, wine is the product of innovative discontinuities, according to this flavorful history.... [Lukacs’s] absorbing treatise shows just how much the grape’s bounty owes to human ingenuity and imagination. (Publishers Weekly)

Noted American oenophile Lukacs tells the story of wine over eight millenniums and around the globe. 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. (Kirkus Reviews)

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. (Booklist)

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. (Mark Kurlansky, author of Birdseye: The Adventures of a Curious Man and Salt: A World History)

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 - New York Journal of Books)

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 - Washington Post)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (December 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393064522
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393064520
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #197,588 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Author/Reviewer Geri Ahearn TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 9, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Paul Lukacs takes the reader on a fascinating journey of how wine was created and its symbolic meaning across the globe, from ancient time to the modern era. The author tells an amazing story of scientific findings of the influence of wine from the past to the present, the reasons why millions of people choose it, its role in culture, and much more. The history of wine recounts the discovery of champagne, the flavor of wine, and its uses throughout the world. The creation of wine began as a mystery as the ancients regarded wine as sacred, a gift from the Gods to winemaking by the experts worldwide. An invention that began with over-ripe rotten grapes to its role in humanity. Paul Lukacs describes the meaning of wine, and why millions of consumers love it. We learn about the distinctive tasting wines, and the reasons for necessity across the globe. The identity of wine and the power of invention in relation to appreciation and production is remarkable. In addition, the taste of contemporary wines verses wines from earlier eras recounts the reasons behind its basic need. The author highlights a new way to view modern day wine as well as its meaningful history of the past. Included in this presentation also explains the difference between social and industrial values since the creation of wine from one generation to another. As we are taken through winemaking across the globe, we learn about the literature of wine, and its place in the world. Interesting, engrossing, and highly recommended!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I can't praise this book enough . I have worked in the industry at the winery level and at the retail professional level. The insights offered here are expressed so reverently and methodically that I never tired of the wonderful prose. The historical research on display here is ample but not excessive and it never overwhelms the reader. What I most loved about this book was the power that it had to make me think and reflect on something I also truly love in more expanded ways. Loved this book and so will many others. Recommend without hesitation. If you love wine, you will love this. Cheers to the author!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Overall I enjoyed this book but I couldn't help feeling I would have enjoyed it more if it had been better edited. It is quite repetitive and several times technical terms were not defined until several pages after they were first introduced.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This review originally appeared on 205food.com

In the twenty-first century all new non-fiction books must have subtitles. It seems to be a rule. The book publishers do not trust their public to pick up a book and read a few pages. They don't imagine that we can imagine what is inside a book. No, they must spell things out for their dullard customers in a subtitle.

But hasn't the proliferation of subtitles robbed books of some of their mystery? Now, "Inventing Wine" is a nice title, isn't it? Most people tend to think of wine as a product as natural as corn or apples, so the idea that wine is somehow "invented" is intriguing. Invention implies the existence of inventors, and we all know that Thomas Edison was a very interesting fellow. Reading about the personal and professional zigs and zags which precede discovery is almost always a thrill.

The subtitle of this book tells us it is a "new history" of wine, and with these words the head scratchers will be somewhat reassured, while those of us hoping for an ingenious and novel take on wine will begin to doubt. There is good reason for doubt, for this book includes too much muddy history and not enough sparkling invention. In this light, perhaps subtitles should be regarded as subtle warnings, rather than insults to our intelligence.

In the beginning, wine was not invented, but discovered, the accidental byproduct of yeast, grapes, and desperate thirst. The creation of this miraculous fluid and its impacts were so mysterious, the ancients had no doubt wine was a gift of the gods. Naturally, the fermented juice was soon incorporated into religious rituals. Because of its presumed sacred nature, its cost, and its scarcity, wine was no everyday drink.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have hundreds of books about wine and I have to say, this one, aside from Hugh Johnson's history, is my favorite. I can't believe how succinctly and compellingly the story is told - and how many juicy bits there are in this history. It's "history" with the emphasis on "story" - i.e. a ripping good read.

There was a lot in here I had no idea of - that Bordeaux was not a place where wine grapes grew (until merchants realized they could save on shipping), that Bordeaux wine estates were constructed as branding for their wines - and made to have old-looking buildings to confer gravitas and "HERITAGE" as brand attributes - that sweet wines were the ne plus ultra for centuries...etc. etc. Riveting revelations in every chapter!
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Format: Hardcover
The book addresses the entire history of wine from it's pre-commercial uses through the current global marketing and mass production of today. Unlike books such as "Salt," Inventing Wine does not really explore the importance of wine after ancient historical era. Given its persistence and evolution over the centuries, a history of wine should include a more thorough discussion of why its cultural appeal grew over the last 2 centuries. In short, Lukacs weak explanation is that through technology, winemakers were able to make a product that didn't taste bad anymore. He hints at how the top vintners created a tradition to support their efforts to sell their wine, but he doesn't explore this important concept.

As other reviewers note, the book is frightfully repetitive. Wine's long history of having a very short shelf life could have been much briefer and replaced with more expansive narrative about its economic role or its role in promoting cross-cultural commerce.

While the book provides a considerable amount of interesting facts, particularly about wines role in early religions, what is most disappointing about the book, is its lack of charm. Its like a dry tannic wine. You can drink it, get a little buzz, but not really enjoy the experience. Wine is meant to bring pleasure. A book about it, should strive for the same.
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