"A vintner’s blend of science, history, travel, and tantalizing drink recommendations." --Amy Stewart, author of The Drunken Botanist
In search of a mysterious wine he once tasted in a hotel room minibar, journalist Kevin Begos travels along the original wine routes—from the Caucasus Mountains, where wine grapes were first domesticated eight thousand years ago, crossing the Mediterranean to Europe, and then America—and unearths a whole world of forgotten grapes, each with distinctive tastes and aromas. We meet the scientists who are decoding the DNA of wine grapes, and the historians who are searching for ancient vineyards and the flavors cultivated there. Begos discovers wines that go far beyond the bottles of Chardonnay and Merlot found in most stores and restaurants, and he offers suggestions for wines that are at once ancient and new.
Oenophiles will raise a glass to Begos's excellent exploration of the science and history of wine, now a $300 billion global market. Begos, a former Associated Press correspondent, found an unusual red wine in a Jordanian hotel's mini-bar while on assignment. The wine was produced in Bethlehem a place not generally known for its wine and this piqued his curiosity about the origins of wine. Begos visited vineyards around the globe, beginning with the Caucasus Mountains, where grape vines were first cultivated, and making stops in Israel, Greece, Italy, France, and the U.S. Along the way, he consulted with experts such as Shivi Drori, an Israeli scientist studying indigenous grapes; University of Pennsylvania archaeologist Patrick McGovern, whom Begos calls "the Indiana Jones of wine and beer" for his work in biomolecular archaeology; and Swiss scientist Jose Vouillamoz, a "John James Audubon for endangered grapes." Begos discusses the many variables that can affect a wine's taste, including soil, the material of the barrels in which the beverage is aged, and pesticides. He helpfully finishes many chapters with lists of recommend wines. This mix of memoir and wine education guide is all-around satisfying.