Following the Wine Trail from Genesis to the Modern Age
By Randall Heskett & Joel Butler
(Palgrave Macmillan, 2012)
What wines would Jesus drink? Would he choose a classic French Champagne, a cult Napa Cab or perhaps a kosher wine from Israel? The authors of Divine Vintage speculate that if Jesus were alive today he would drink wines flavored with resin, spiced with honey or mixed with seawater — ancient styles with which he would already be familiar. Mas des Tourelles in France, for example, makes such wines today under the guidance of archaeologists.
Despite the title, Divine Vintage is less a book about religion than about eastern Mediterranean wine. Randall Heskett, a biblical scholar, and Joel Butler, a Master of Wine, each bring their own expertise to bear on the region’s ancient winemaking history as well as its contemporary wine industry. The first half of Divine Vintage is primarily concerned with references to wine in the Bible, which are put into a wider historical context and illustrated by archaeological finds, such as earthenware wine jugs and stone winepresses.
In the second half of Divine Vintage, Heskett and Butler provide historical and geographical sketches of eastern Mediterranean wine regions, including Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Greece. They also describe many of the wineries they visited, as well as their favorite wines. Many of the winemakers described are true pioneers, planting the first vines in a region, preserving old vineyards and championing native varietals like Bornova Misketi, Kalecik Karasi and Oküzgözü in Turkey and Agiorgitiko, Kotsifali and Mavrotragano in Greece.
An eclectic and wide-ranging book, Divine Vintage provides a window onto the obscure, yet fascinating subject of eastern Mediterranean wine. In doing so, it might encourage readers to visit this troubled region and samples its diverse, unique wines.
Reviewed by Barnaby Hughes
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