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There is also much truth in this fantastic series on wine, magnums of it in fact. The series is hosted by Hugh Johnson, internationally famous wine expert, author, and, as it turns out, engaging raconteur. He travels the world to give us the story of wine.
In the first instalment, he visits the Caucasus mountains, where "the cradle of wine" quite surprisingly turns out to be Georgia. There home-made wine is still done in the traditional way, with juice, skins, stems all allowed to ferment together in earthenware jars buried in the ground. A sample is extracted with a gourd ladle. Johnson tries the foul-looking stuff. His pronouncement? It's "got guts". And so we're off to our flying start.
According to archaeological evidence, winemaking has been with us for at least 7000 years. The earliest depiction of wine-drinking in art is Mesopotamian and dates from 4500 years ago. There is linguistic evidence to demonstrate that Georgia is the original home of the delightful libation. All of our words for "wine" ultimately derive from the Georgian one.
Johnson reminds us of the story of Noah and his overindulgence, before he examines the origins of the prohibitions on wine-drinking in Islam.
In the second episode, Johnson finds the source for ancient Athenian drama in the rites of Dionysus, the wine god. Reason enough to travel to Greece and Italy.
And so the series continues. All of the episodes are as refreshing and redolent of fruit as are the first two. Hugh Johnson, over 13 episodes, circumnavigates the globe, informing us about climate, soil, the angle of slopes facing the sun, drainage, all of the factors affecting the flavour of wine. His wine tour includes California, Australia, even Japan. He often finds the time for a modest glass or two.
Towards the end of the saga, he discusses the Beaujolais Nouveau craze which was new at the time. It would be wonderful to see a sequel to this series, a 14th episode, covering the changes within the wine industry over the last 10 years. In 1988, icewine automatically implied eiswein from Germany, and it certainly does not today. Mr. Johnson would undoubtedly have many things to say and all in his relaxed and approachable fashion.
If you do find that you appreciate this fine series, you might also seek out the earlier "How To Enjoy Wine" video from 1984.
Rarely does a geography lesson go down as smoothly as Hugh Johnson's toast to the fruit of the vine. This is one of the most civilized programmes you'll see.
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