I find wine history fascinating. This is because I’m a geek not only about wine, but also about history in general – a trait I picked up in undergrad when I roomed with two good-natured History majors at Saint Joseph’s University. My undergrad studies centered on English Lit., and so the combination of overdosing on fiction and being subtly influenced by my roomies has led to, well, let’s just say several years of reading fascinating non-fiction.
No surprise then that Rod Phillps’ A Short History of Wine should be right up my alley. And while it is a very good read – I’d certainly recommend the book to budding wine geeks – I’d caution that it doesn’t exactly jump out of the gate with intoxicating speed.
Like a young Barolo, Phillips’ book starts dryly and slowly. In fact, it took me several months of starting, stopping and restarting it before I finally got into the rhythm of A Short History of Wine. I’m pleased as syrah-spiked punch that I did stick with it, though, because it offers up a dizzying array of well-researched and fascinating wine facts (along with subtle notes of Phillips’ opinion) on nearly every page – that is, every page after wine hits its heyday (Medieval times) as a precursor to the beverage and industry that we now know and love.
I thought that I’d offer up a couple of the mythbusting tidbits that Phillips’ deftly provides in A Short History of Wine, both to tempt those budding History buffs out there and to( hopefully) clear up misconceptions about a few assumptions that even experienced wine lovers tend to make about the history of their favorite beverage.
Francophiles be warned, I’m going to bust up some French-related wine myths first. Also, if you’re French, note that the next few paragraphs involve both the Dutch and the English. Try not to let your thousand years of mutual aggression get in the way of the enjoyment, ok?…
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- Pronunciation: \-jē\
- Function: noun
- Inflected Form(s): plural et·y·mol·o·gies
- Etymology: Middle English ethimologie, from Anglo-French, from Latin etymologia, from Greek, from etymon + -logia -logy
- Date: 14th century
1 : the history of a linguistic form (as a word) shown by tracing its development since its earliest recorded occurrence in the language where it is found, by tracing its transmission from one language to another, by analyzing it into its component parts, by identifying its cognates in other languages, or by tracing it and its cognates to a common ancestral form in an ancestral language
2 : a branch of linguistics concerned with etymologies
I’m not sure exactly when I fell in love with words. I think it happened in high school; though I’ve been a voracious reader for as long as I can remember, I distinctly recall a time in the early Summer during the middle of high school where I became fascinated by the English language, obscure words, and their histories. I vividly remember devouring books like The Endangered English Dictionary. It just sort of… happened, not terribly different from how I fell in love with wine, actually.
Mind you, my love affair with wine happened well after high school, since I was of course too young to legally drink alcohol back them… ahem…
I was recently contacted by Charles Hodgson, an author and podcaster about receiving a review copy of his latest book, History of Wine Words – An Intoxicating Dictionary of Etymology and Word Histories from the Vineyard, Glass, and Bottle. I’m sure that Charles wanted to send me a copy because of the blog (mine, I mean), and not because of my closet desire to be an etymologist, since there’s no way he could have known about that unless he’s also a clairvoyant (to the best of my knowledge, his podcast is about etymology and not long-distance cross-border mind-reading).
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We have WINNERS!
As promised in my recent review of Michele Scott “Wine Lover’s Mystery,” titled Corked by Cabernet, I’ve got two giveaway copies of the book to, well, give away/
I’ve used a super-secret random process involving my dog to select two random winners from the list of commentators for that post, and here they are…!
1) RichardA of passionatefoodie.blogspot.com
2) S Goodwin of… well, I dunno where S Goodwin is from, actually.
Lucky Winners – Please e-mail me at your mailing info. at joe (at) 1winedude (dot) com and I’ll get you your prize copies of Corked by Cabernet with all-speed.
Giveaways have returned to 1WineDude!
I was recently sent giveaway and review copies of the latest Michele Scott “Wine Lover’s Mystery,” titled Corked by Cabernet. Michele is the author of other wine-related mystery novels, including A vintage Murder and the unfortunately titled Silenced by Syrah.
Giveaway copies mean, of course, that I’m gonna give them away – and YOU could be a winner!
Here’s an excerpt from the Corked by Cabernet book description:
Nikki Sands, manager of the Malveaux Estates in Napa Valley—and girlfriend of the owner—is blissfully happy. Until a guru’s devotee is killed on the famous Napa Valley Wine train and ruins her peace of mind.
Despite the fact that this book includes such potentially awesome story elements as a gruesome demise, spiritually enlightened gurus, prostitutes, and Japanese real estate tycoons, it’s still not really my cup o’ vino – so I asked a friend if she’d give it a whirl.
Her review (I’m paraphrasing):
“It sort of kept my interest. It feels like one of those Harlequin romance novels – if you like those and you like wine, then it’s probably decent Summer reading.”
So, there you have it. Corked by Cabernet also has a few wine and recipe pairings sprinkled throughout, including a chili recipe that I tried (which was very tasty indeed). That chili was spicy – but not spicy enough to make me want to kill…
Anyway, I’ve got TWO copies of Corked by Cabernet to give away, so let’s get down to the brass tactics. If you want to win one of these suckers, you need to leave a comment on this post by midnight ET on March 18 (yes, 2009), sharing your favorite wine book that is NOT a reference book. This means that way-cool tomes like the Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia and Andre Domine’s Wine are NOT eligible.
Using a top-secret process that involves my dog and used wine corks (you don’t want to know…), I will randomly select two winners from the comments, and reveal the identities of those lucky folks on Friday, March 20th.
To kick things off, I will tell you about my all-time favorite wine book that is NOT a reference book: Hugh Johnson’s The Story of Wine.
Simply put, The Story of Wine is a masterstroke. 2009 marks the 20th anniversary of the first edition, and few wine-related books have aged so well (unless they’ve had Johnson involved, that is). Johnson’s The Story of Wine gently unfurls the history of our favorite beverage, with attention to detail that brings the whole twisted tale to life in a way that, like a colorful balloon whose patterns aren’t fully seen until it’s airborne, can’t be truly appreciated unless you’ve taken it in as a whole. It might be the best example of prose ever dedicated to the subject of wine.
So, yeah, I sort of dig it.
If I have a problem with The Story of Wine (and of course I do, because I’m incorrigible), it’s that a better title might be The Story of Wine as it Pertains to the United Kingdom and All of Her Glorious Subjects, as the book has a serious bent towards wine history’s impact on western Europe, and England in particular. But that minor cavil doesn’t stop Hugh Johnson from seriously (and brilliantly) delivering the goods.
And I want to point out that I’ve penned this entire post without making any juvenile phallic references to the later author’s name. Or does that count as as a reference?
Anyway – let’s hear your favorites!