Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

TASTING THE PAST: The Science of Flavor & the Search for the Origins of Wine

  • Written by  Geordie Torr
  • Published in Books
TASTING THE PAST: The Science of Flavor & the Search for the Origins of Wine
05 Oct
2018
by Kevin Begos • Algonquin Books • £20.99 (hardback)

About 8,000 years ago, somewhere in the Caucasus Mountains, humans began turning grapes into wine. Today, winemaking is big business; the global market is worth more than $300 billion, with total production in 2016 reaching almost 26 billion litres. As author Kevin Begos puts it: ‘The modern wine industry [looks] more and more like a dressed-up version of industrial agriculture.’

In recent years, there has been a slow shift away from mass-produced wines, sourced from sprawling vineyards, towards single-vineyard wines made by artisanal producers, a trend that mirrors the foodie movement which celebrates local, small-scale food production. Onto this bandwagon jumps Begos, who suggests that we’ve all been duped by ‘the clever marketing of international wine corporations’. As with other big agribusinesses, winegrowing has a diversity problem – about a quarter of the world’s wine is made from just six grape varieties: the so-called noble grapes. Begos wants us to wake up to this fact and begin to explore the wider wine world.

He sets out to trace the historical spread of winemaking around the globe (part of it, anyway – he mostly ignores the New World), encountering along the way some of the other 1,400 or so grape varieties currently used commercially to make wine. In the process, he discovers ‘a far-flung community of people fighting to preserve rare grapes’, tending the ‘forgotten vines that elderly people said their grandfathers had planted’. He visits a vineyard once owned by Leonardo da Vinci, builds stone terraces on a steep Swiss hillside and talks to numerous scientists, winemakers and growers.

Sadly, the resultant book suffers for want of the steadying hand of a strict editor. The writing is pedestrian, the author’s grip on the science and terminology often a tad slack. The us-versus-them, industrial-versus-artisanal, local-versus-global schtick gets a bit wearying by the end, as does Begos’s habit of regularly and clunkily shoehorning himself into the narrative. In all, it’s an interesting tale albeit adequately told.

Click here to purchase Tasting the Past by Kevin Begos on Amazon

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox by signing up to our weekly newsletter and get a free collection of eBooks!

geo line break v3

Subscribe and Save!

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

Sign up for our weekly newsletter today and get a FREE eBook collection!

geo line break v3

University of Winchester

geo line break v3

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Derby

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in REVIEWS...

Books

by Sudipta Sen • Yale University Press • £20 (hardback)

Books

by Jerry Brotton • Reaktion Books • £9.99 (paperback)

Books

by Colin Everard • IB Tauris • £30 (hardback)

Books

by Pete Brown • Particular Books • £16.99 (hardback)

Books

by Paul Dobraszczyk • Reaktion Books • £18 (hardback)

Books

by Parag Khanna • Weidenfeld & Nicolson • £20 (hardback)

Films

It makes you angry - extremely. It makes you sad…

Books

by Rory O’Grady • The Conrad Press • £18.99 (hardback)

Books

by Penny Johnson • Melville House • £25 (hardback/eBook)

Books

by Monisha Rajesh • Bloomsbury • £20 (hardback)

Books

by Jon Mathieu • Polity Press • £19.99 (hardback)

Books

by Matthieu Auzanneau • Chelsea Green Publishing • £25 (hardback)

Books

by Nancy Campbell • Scribnern • £14.99 (hardback)

Exhibitions

Paris is home to Europe’s largest science museum. Its latest…

Books

by Richard Wrangham • Profile Books  • £25 (hardback/eBook)

Books

by Yasha Levine • Icon Books • £14.99 (paperback)

Books

by Matthew Carr • Hurst • £20 (hardback)

Books

by Seamus O’Brien • Kew Publishing • £40 (hardback)

Books

by Simon Jenkins • Viking • £25 (hardback)