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Distributed for Reaktion Books


A Cultural History

Distributed for Reaktion Books


A Cultural History

For oenophiles, casual wine-drinkers, and aesthetes alike, an informative and entertaining history sure to delight even the most sensitive palates.

From celebrations of Bacchus in ancient Rome to the Last Supper and casual dinner parties, wine has long been a key component of festivities, ceremonies, and celebrations. Made by almost every civilization throughout history, in every part of the world, wine has been used in religious ceremonies, inspired artists and writers, been employed as a healing medicine, and, most often, sipped as a way to relax with a gathering of friends. Yet, like all other forms of alcohol, wine has also had its critics, who condemn it for the drunkenness and bad behavior that arise with its overconsumption. Wine can render you tongue-tied or philosophical; it can heal wounds or damage health; it can bring society together or rend it. In this fascinating cultural history of wine, John Varriano takes us on a tour of wine’s lively story, revealing the polarizing effect wine has had on society and culture through the ages.
From its origins in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia to the expanding contemporary industries in Australia, New Zealand, and America, Varriano examines how wine is made and how it has been used in rituals, revelries, and remedies throughout history. In addition, he investigates the history of wine’s transformative effects on body and soul in art, literature, and science from the mosaics of ancient Rome to the poetry of Dickinson and Neruda and the paintings of Caravaggio and Manet.
A spirited exploration, this book will delight lovers of sauvignon blanc or pinot noir, as well as those who are interested in the rich history of human creativity and consumption.

280 pages | 88 color plates, 17 halftones | 6 3/4 x 8 3/4

Food and Gastronomy

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“Varriano’s beautifully illustrated and detailed study shows how wine has inspired us in art, literature, and religion. It is the perfect drinking companion.”


"Those who have overindulged in the subject might like instead to read about the culture of the vine. Drawing on poetry, art, and history, Varriano presses out some of the infinitely rich past of the fermented grape."

I (Independent mini version)

"Packed with interesting anecdotes, it’s beautifully illustrated and exhaustively researched, and romps along at a great pace."


"Offers a great deal of fascinating analysis that is precise, revealing, and engaging. Anyone interested in the history of Ancient Greek/Roman art or Western European painting should find it fascinating to discover exactly which role the depiction of wine played in them."


“Varriano offers a chatty, charming, and intelligent tale of wine from Neolithic times to the present. It is a delightful journey. . . . The book as a whole is fluent, fun, and filled with delightful scraps of history, literature, religion, and art.”

Kenneth Bendiner, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

“Not only is the author’s scholarship impeccable and discriminating, but his style and wit are such that the reader experiences a sensation of continuous enlightenment and enjoyment throughout.”

Robert Bagg, University of Massachusetts

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