(Biomolecular Archaeology Project University of Pennsylvania Museum, Philadelphia)
© Heike C. Spickermann
THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND CHEMICAL HUNT FOR THE ORIGINS OF
VINICULTURE: PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE
Following a tantalizing trail of archaeological and chemical clues around the world and through the millennia, Patrick McGovern, Scientific Director of the Penn Museum’s Biomolecular Archaeology Project, tells the compelling story of humanity's ingenious, intoxicating quest for the perfect drink. Whether it be mind-altering, medicinal, a religious symbol, a social lubricant, or artistic inspiration, fermented beverages have not only been a profound force in history, but they may be fundamental to the human condition itself. The history of civilization is, in many ways, the history of wine. Drawing upon recent archaeological discoveries, molecular and DNA sleuthing, and the texts and art of long-forgotten peoples, Patrick McGovern takes us on a fascinating odyssey back to the beginnings of this consequential beverage when early hominids probably enjoyed a wild grape wine. We follow the course of human ingenuity in domesticating the Eurasian vine and learning how to make and preserve wine some 7,000 years ago. Early winemakers must have marveled at the seemingly miraculous process of fermentation.
From success to success, viniculture stretched out its tentacles and entwined itself with one culture after another. From Phoenicia and Egypt, the “wine culture” went from east to west to Crete, Etruria, and on to France. There, the Cistercian monks of Burgundy A.D. are said to have literally “tasted the soils” of the Côte d’Or, beginning in the 12 th c., and established some of the finest terroirs for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir over the next eight centuries. These wines became a model for the rest of the world.
In short, wine laid the foundation for civilization itself. As medicine, social lubricant, mind-altering substance, and highly valued commodity, wine became the focus of religious cults, pharmacopoeias, cuisines, economies, and society. As an evocative symbol of blood, it was used in temple ceremonies
and occupies the heart of the Eucharist. Kings celebrated their victories with wine and made certain that they had plenty for the afterlife. We have this heritage to thank for both the marvelous wines of the Old World, as well as the many “wine cultures” of the New World established over the past half century.
PATRICK MCGOVERN is the Scientific Director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Project for Cuisine, Fermented Beverages, and Health at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia, where he is also an Adjunct Professor of Anthropology.
His academic background combined the physical sciences, archaeology, and history-an A.B. in Chemistry from Cornell University, graduate work in neurochemistry at the University of Rochester, and a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Archaeology and Literature from the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Department of the University of Pennsylvania. Over the past two decades, he has pioneered the exciting interdisciplinary field of Biomolecular Archaeology which is yielding whole new chapters concerning our human ancestry, medical practice, and ancient cuisines and beverages.
He is the author of Ancient Wine: The Search for the Origins of Viniculture (Princeton U., 2003/2004), and Uncorking the Past: The Quest for Wine, Beer, and Other Alcoholic Beverages (U. California, 2009/2010).
A new book, Ancient Brews Rediscovered and Re-created (with Homebrew Interpretations, Meal Pairings, and Mood-enhancers Atmospherics) is scheduled to appear in June, 2017 (WW Norton, New York).
It tells the scientific, experimental, and personal backstories of how the Dogfish Head Brewery series of ancientales and now spirits came about (we have done nine re-created brews thus far). Ranging from galactic alcohol to the beginnings of life on earth to how our early ancestors reveled in extreme fermented beverage of every kind, the book lays the groundwork for how to go about bringing the past alive in as
authentic a way as possible.
It sheds new light on the earliest biotechnology of our innovative species.
He has collaborated with Dogfish Head and its owner and brewer, Sam Calagione—a “rock star” in his own right in the brewing world--to re-create and develop the Ancient Ales and Spirits series over the past 16 years.
Dogfish Head is the fastest growing microbrewery in the U.S., and the first and premier Ancient Ale, Midas Touch, is its most awarded brew and the best-selling honey-based fermented beverage in the country.
Popularly, Dr. Pat is known as the “Indiana Jones of Ancient Ales, Wines, and Extreme Beverages.”