Uncorking the Past: The Quest for Wine, Beer, and Other Alcoholic Beverages

Uncorking the Past: The Quest for Wine, Beer, and Other Alcoholic Beverages

Uncorking the Past: The Quest for Wine, Beer, and Other Alcoholic Beverages

Uncorking the Past: The Quest for Wine, Beer, and Other Alcoholic Beverages

Synopsis

In a lively tour around the world and through the millennia, Uncorking the Past tells the compelling story of humanity's ingenious, intoxicating quest for the perfect drink. Following a tantalizing trail of archaeological, chemical, artistic, and textual clues, Patrick E. McGovern, the leading authority on ancient alcoholic beverages, brings us up to date on what we now know about how humans created and enjoyed fermented beverages across cultures. Along the way, he explores a provocative hypothesis about the integral role such libations have played in human evolution. We discover, for example, that the cereal staples of the modern world were probably domesticated for their potential in making quantities of alcoholic beverages. These include the delectable rice wines of China and Japan, the corn beers of the Americas, and the millet and sorghum drinks of Africa. Humans also learned how to make mead from honey and wine from exotic fruits of all kinds-even from the sweet pulp of the cacao (chocolate) fruit in the New World. The perfect drink, it turns out-whether it be mind-altering, medicinal, a religious symbol, a social lubricant, or artistic inspiration-has not only been a profound force in history, but may be fundamental to the human condition itself.

Excerpt

At the end of my book ANCIENT WINE, I posed a question: Why have cultures around the world had a millennia-long love affair with wine? My short answer then was that alcohol has been the universal drug, and that wine provides the highest concentration of this simple organic compound (ethanol) available in nature. Humans throughout history have been astounded by alcohol’s effects, whether it is imbibed as a beverage or applied to the skin. The health benefits are obvious—alcohol relieves pain, stops infection, and seems to cure diseases. Its psychological and social benefits are equally apparent—alcohol eases the difficulties of everyday life, lubricates social exchanges, and contributes to a joy in being alive.

Perhaps most profoundly, alcohol’s mind-altering effects tap into mystical, unseen realms of the human brain. Wherever we look in the ancient or modern world, we see that the principal way to communicate with the gods or the ancestors involves an alcoholic beverage, whether it is the wine of the Eucharist, the beer presented to the Sumerian goddess Ninkasi, the mead of the Vikings, or the elixir of an Amazonian or African tribe.

Briefly put, alcoholic beverages are unique among all the drugs that humans and our early hominid ancestors have exploited on this planet for more than four million years. Their preeminence and universal allure—what might be called their biological, social, and religious imperatives—make . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.