By John ~ April 17th, 2009.
Recently, I read Wine: The 8,000-Year-Old Story of the Wine Trade by Thomas Pellechia. While this book gives a good history of wine, it is primarily a story of the evolution of the wine merchant from early civilization to the present. Pellechia, a wine merchant himself, tells how the wine trade has been important throughout the ages, influencing not only sea trade but also glassblowing, cork production, cooperage and a variety of other economic activities.
I found it interesting that the wine trade has financed wars and may even have caused a few. And, wine has appeased troops and even pacified marauders on occasion. The reputation of the wine merchant has ranged all over the board—esteemed in some circles at times and justifiably vilified at other times and in other places. In fact, Pellechia says that the success of one major wine critic (no doubt, Robert Parker) was built on the belief that some wine merchants cannot be trusted to recommend the best wines because they have a vested interest in making the sale.
Reading his story about the wine business of the early Romans, I couldn’t help think about today’s economy.
“With small growers unable to lower their prices, wealthy financiers and large companies stepped in to appropriate vineyards and then change the way things were to be done.”
In the period after the fall of Rome, the so-called Dark Ages, we learn in this book that Christian monks were the main keepers of cultural activities as well as winemaking.
In his history of wine in America, Pellechia talks about how he believes that Prohibition set back America’s wine industry about one hundred years. Since the repeal of Prohibition, one of the conditions for penetrating the American market is to play by the (in my opinion, ridiculous) rules of the three-tier system whereby a producer must sell to a distributor who must sell to a retailer who then sells to the consumer.
Despite the three-tier system and the patchwork quilt of shipping restrictions, Pellechia believes that “wine will one day be sold in America extensively on the Internet, just like everything else.”
All in all, this book is an excellent historical reference on wine and the wine trade throughout the ages, but it’s not for those looking for information on selecting and buying wine.
Have you already read Wine: The 8,000-Year-Old Story of the Wine Trade? If so, what did you think of it?
Filed under: Wine Books