Tasting the Past: The Science of Flavor and the Search for the Origins of Wine

“A myth-busting, history-reclaiming, science-centric, skeptical—and yet loving and respectful—tour of the history, the present, and even the future of wine production.” 
Cat Warren, author of What the Dog Knows

“This is quite a book and I hope it is read widely throughout the wine world and that it has a huge impact. The fact that current practices have put a halt to evolution for wine grapes, that was news to me. Tasting the Past shocked the hell out of me.”   
—Kermit Lynch, wine merchant and author of Adventures on the Wine Route


Discover the hidden life of wine.

After a chance encounter with an obscure Middle Eastern red, journalist Kevin Begos embarks on a ten-year journey to seek the origins of wine. What he unearths is a whole world of forgotten grapes, each with distinctive tastes and aromas, as well as the archaeologists, geneticists, chemists—even a paleobotanist—who are deciphering wine down to molecules of flavor. We meet a young scientist who sets out to decode the DNA of every single wine grape in the world; a researcher who seeks to discover the wines that Caesar and Cleopatra drank; and an academic who has spent decades analyzing wine remains to pinpoint ancient vineyards. Science illuminates wine in ways no critic can, and it has demolished some of the most sacred dogmas of the industry: for example, well-known French grapes aren’t especially noble.

We travel with Begos along the original wine routes—starting in the Caucasus Mountains, where wine grapes were first domesticated eight thousand years ago; then down to Israel and across the Mediterranean to Greece, Italy, and France; and finally to America where vintners are just now beginning to make distinctive wines from a new generation of local grapes. Imagine the wine grape version of heirloom vegetables or craft beer, or better yet, taste it: Begos offers readers drinking suggestions that go far beyond the endless bottles of Chardonnay and Merlot found in most stores and restaurants.

In this viticultural detective story wine geeks and history lovers alike will discover new tastes and flavors to savor.

3 thoughts on “Tasting the Past: The Science of Flavor and the Search for the Origins of Wine

  1. “Whoever seeks the origins of wine must be crazy” The author actually quotes the line of Persian poetry I’ve used as my review title in his book. Nonetheless, he seeks the origins of wine.Inspired by a wine made in Bethlehem from ancient varietals that he tasted while pursuing a story (he’s a journalist), he returns years later seeking the origin of wine in the holy land. As he talks to experts he learns that the holy land is not likely to be the birthplace of wine. He finally visits the monastery winery where that wine from the…

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  2. I couldn’t put it down and neither will you! Think you know all there is to know wine? Think again.Kevin Begos is a world-traveling journalist who set out to discover the science and origins of wine. You’ll meet the scientist whose goal is to map the DNA of every grape variety known (and a few unknown). You’ll sit on Begos’ broad shoulders as he unravels one wine myth after another.It’s part historical dig (get your archeology hat on), part science (who knew DNA was sexy), part mythology (you mean Greece didn’t…

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  3. This is a very interesting premise for a book on wine. The author set out on a ten-year journey to discover the origins of wine with some varieties of grapes going back thousands of years. This book is part history, part science, part travelogue, part buyers list. I particularly like that the author includes “tastings” at the end of some chapters providing information on where these more obscure wines can be found in the U.S. It will be fun to try wines other than the dozen or so that…

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