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250 × 190 × 18 mm
280 pages
105 illustrations, 88 in colour
01 Nov 2010

Wine A Cultural History John Varriano

Wine has been made by almost every civilization throughout history, in every part of the world. It has played a part in religious ceremonies, from Dionysus and Bacchus in Ancient Greece and Rome to the Catholic Eucharist and the Jewish Kiddush; it has inspired artists, thinkers, writers and poets through the ages; has even been used as a medicine by the healing professions; and has been a pleasant relaxant for a huge number of people throughout the ages.

Yet overindulgence causes drunkenness and bad behaviour, and this has led to both spirited condemnation, and joyful justification, of its consumption. Wine can make you stupid or philosophical; it can heal wounds or damage health; it can bring society together or rend it apart. In Wine: A Cultural History eminent art historian John Varriano takes us on a tour of wine's history, revealing the polarizing effect wine has had on society and culture through the ages. From its origins in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia to the growing industry in Australia, New Zealand and the USA today, Varriano examines how wine is made, and how it has been used in rituals, revelries and remedies throughout history. And from inebriate or tipsy hedonist to teetotaller and abstinent, he investigates the history of wine's transformative effects on body and soul in art, literature and science around the world, from the mosaics of ancient Rome to the poetry of Emily Dickinson and Pablo Neruda and the paintings of Caravaggio, Bosch and Manet. A fascinating exploration of the history of wine, Wine: A Cultural History will delight all those who like a glass of Pinot Noir with their dinner, as well as those who are interested in the rich history of human creativity and consumption.

‘Varrianos beautifully illustrated and detailed study shows how wine has inspired us in art, literature and religion. It is the perfect drinking companion.’ — The Guardian

‘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, its beautifully illustrated and exhaustively researched, and romps along at a great pace.’ — Decanter

‘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.’ — Gastronomica

‘John Varriano offers a chatty, charming and intelligent tale of wine from Neolithic times to the present, with frequent reference to the visual arts and literature. It is a delightful journey . . . You have an immensely pleasant ramble through visions of Bacchus and tipsy monks and theories of medicine . . . The book as a whole is fluent, fun, and filled with delightful scraps of history, literature, religion, and art.’ — Kenneth Bendiner, Professor of Art History, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

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John Varriano is Professor Emeritus of Art History at Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts. He is the author of Italian Baroque and Rococo Architecture (1986), Rome: A Literary Companion (1991), Caravaggio: The Art of Realism (2006), and Tastes and Temptations: Food and Art in Renaissance Italy (2009).