A Natural History of Wine by Ian Tattersall, Rob DeSalle

By Ian Tattersall, Rob DeSalle

A very good bottle of wine may be the spark that conjures up a brainstorming consultation. Such was once the case for Ian Tattersall and Rob DeSalle, scientists who usually collaborate on ebook and museum exhibition initiatives. while the dialog became to wine one night, it nearly unavoidably led the two—one a palaeoanthropologist, the opposite a molecular biologist—to start exploring the various intersections among technological know-how and wine. This e-book provides their attention-grabbing, freewheeling solutions to the query “What can technology let us know approximately wine?” And vice versa.

Conversational and obtainable to each person, this colorfully illustrated e-book embraces virtually each conceivable quarter of the sciences, from microbiology and ecology (for an figuring out of what creates this complicated beverage) to body structure and neurobiology (for perception into the results of wine at the brain and body). The authors draw on physics, chemistry, biochemistry, evolution, and climatology, and so they extend the dialogue to incorporate insights from anthropology, primatology, entomology, Neolithic archaeology, or even classical historical past. The ensuing quantity is indispensible for somebody who needs to understand wine to its fullest.

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V I N O U S R O OT S 22 2 Why We Drink Wine W hy do humans drink alcohol? Not implausibly, it has something to do with their primordial fruit-­eating heritage: the scent of spontaneously fermented ethanol guided humankind’s ancient arboreal ancestors to the ripest and most sugar-­laden fruit in the tree. So we were pleased to obtain a bottle of inexpensive wine from New Zealand whose label made due obeisance to the primate that had inspired this “drunken monkey” hypothesis. True, the Sauvignon blanc grape and howler monkeys have no specific affinity, but the wine itself was amazingly drinkable, with all the extroverted grassiness and grapefruit finish one might expect from the grape and the place.

Consider, for example, the sugar ring for glucose: the carbons in the ring and in the side groups can be numbered like the numerals on a clock face. In the form of glucose illustrated here there are six carbons, and we can number them starting at three o’clock. Note that the hydroxyl groups (OH and HO) either stick up or down. The order of these OH groups is important in defining the overall structure and shape of sugars; most important, it determines how the molecule behaves. In this glucose molecule, the order of the OH groups from carbon positions 1 to 4 is down, down, up, down.

Bacchus had even previously used Christ’s trick of turning wine into water, and scholars have found various other Bacchic symbols embedded in early Christian mythology. In symbolic as well as gustatory ways, wine formed a bridge between the ancient and the nascent modern world. The five centuries after the sacking of Rome by the Visigoths in 410 and by the Vandals in 455 are often known as the Dark Ages. But although the city of Rome almost disappeared, and chaos ruled in some parts of its lost empire, many formerly colonial economies continued to flourish, or at least to muddle along.

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