An impulse purchase while in the Fitzwilliam Museum the other week, this is a survey of recent findings in archaeology about early wine-making. McGowan concludes that grapes were first domesticated for wine-making in eastern Turkey or the south Caucasus (certainly my Georgian friends would agree, and would be a bit more specific). We wander around Mesopotamia, Persia, Egypt, the Levant and the eastern Mediterranean, using the latest analytical techniques to try and pin down places of production and trade routes. The extent of the wine trade into ancient Egypt in particular was pretty remarkable, and the Mesopotamian sacred barmaids rather intriguing.
I wasn't completely satisfied by the book, however. It seemed a bit of an artificial distinction to relegate beer and mead to mere details, when it would seem that beer was at least as widespread. And while the argument about the extent of ancient international trade in wine was well developed, I would have liked more comparison with trade in other luxury goods, or indeed other goods at all. I have to say also that the style is at times an uncomfortable mix of the anecdotal and the jargon-ridden. I couldn't really recommend this book to people who are not already somewhat interested in the archaeology and culture of the period.