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For the Love of Wine: My Odyssey Through the World's Most Ancient Wine Culture

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In 2011 when Alice Feiring first arrived in Georgia, she felt as if she’d emerged from the magic wardrobe into a world filled with mythical characters making exotic and delicious wine with the low-tech methods of centuries past. She was smitten, and she wasn’t alone. This country on the Black Sea has an unusual effect on people; the most passionate rip off their clothes an In 2011 when Alice Feiring first arrived in Georgia, she felt as if she’d emerged from the magic wardrobe into a world filled with mythical characters making exotic and delicious wine with the low-tech methods of centuries past. She was smitten, and she wasn’t alone. This country on the Black Sea has an unusual effect on people; the most passionate rip off their clothes and drink wines out of horns while the cold-hearted well up with tears and make emotional toasts. Visiting winemakers fall under Georgia’s spell and bring home qvevris (clay fermentation vessels) while rethinking their own techniques. But, as in any good fairy tale, Feiring sensed that danger rode shotgun with the magic. With acclaim and growing international interest come threats in the guise of new wine consultants aimed at making wines more commercial. So Feiring fought back in the only way she knew how: by celebrating Georgia and the men and women who make the wines she loves most, those made naturally with organic viticulture, minimal intervention, and no additives. From Tbilisi to Batumi, Feiring meets winemakers, bishops, farmers, artists, and silk spinners. She feasts, toasts, and collects recipes. She encounters the thriving qvevri craftspeople of the countryside, wild grape hunters, and even Stalin’s last winemaker while plumbing the depths of this tiny country’s love for its wines. For the Love of Wine is Feiring’s emotional tale of a remarkable country and people who have survived religious wars and Soviet occupation yet managed always to keep hold of their precious wine traditions. Embedded in the narrative is the hope that Georgia has the temerity to confront its latest threat—modernization.


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In 2011 when Alice Feiring first arrived in Georgia, she felt as if she’d emerged from the magic wardrobe into a world filled with mythical characters making exotic and delicious wine with the low-tech methods of centuries past. She was smitten, and she wasn’t alone. This country on the Black Sea has an unusual effect on people; the most passionate rip off their clothes an In 2011 when Alice Feiring first arrived in Georgia, she felt as if she’d emerged from the magic wardrobe into a world filled with mythical characters making exotic and delicious wine with the low-tech methods of centuries past. She was smitten, and she wasn’t alone. This country on the Black Sea has an unusual effect on people; the most passionate rip off their clothes and drink wines out of horns while the cold-hearted well up with tears and make emotional toasts. Visiting winemakers fall under Georgia’s spell and bring home qvevris (clay fermentation vessels) while rethinking their own techniques. But, as in any good fairy tale, Feiring sensed that danger rode shotgun with the magic. With acclaim and growing international interest come threats in the guise of new wine consultants aimed at making wines more commercial. So Feiring fought back in the only way she knew how: by celebrating Georgia and the men and women who make the wines she loves most, those made naturally with organic viticulture, minimal intervention, and no additives. From Tbilisi to Batumi, Feiring meets winemakers, bishops, farmers, artists, and silk spinners. She feasts, toasts, and collects recipes. She encounters the thriving qvevri craftspeople of the countryside, wild grape hunters, and even Stalin’s last winemaker while plumbing the depths of this tiny country’s love for its wines. For the Love of Wine is Feiring’s emotional tale of a remarkable country and people who have survived religious wars and Soviet occupation yet managed always to keep hold of their precious wine traditions. Embedded in the narrative is the hope that Georgia has the temerity to confront its latest threat—modernization.

30 review for For the Love of Wine: My Odyssey Through the World's Most Ancient Wine Culture

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Bautista

    When I was 15, I went on a week-long school trip to Washington, D.C. and was assigned to share a room with a student my age from Georgia. I had never heard of the country, and as shorthand, I remember telling my friends that my roommate was from Russia. Since then, Georgia has come up in my life several times, each time with a distinct visceral appeal. My interests of the body are always interests of the mind, so each time I've happened on a reference to Georgia, I've foraged for information in w When I was 15, I went on a week-long school trip to Washington, D.C. and was assigned to share a room with a student my age from Georgia. I had never heard of the country, and as shorthand, I remember telling my friends that my roommate was from Russia. Since then, Georgia has come up in my life several times, each time with a distinct visceral appeal. My interests of the body are always interests of the mind, so each time I've happened on a reference to Georgia, I've foraged for information in which I can steep myself. The dearth of narrative has surprised me again and again. Even the narrative about Georgia that I have discovered, such as food writer Michele Humes' astute blog posts from several years ago, have gone the way of the internet graveyard, so far impenetrable by even the Wayback Machine. I don't know that I would have found Feiring's book on my own, and maybe it's better that I didn't, because there's nothing that stimulates even my appetite for reading like a recommendation from a smart, charming man. So, out of a first date, I found this book. Honestly, it's neither top-tier travel nor wine writing. It's only an odyssey for the brief but stylistically stunted Dionysian descriptions of supras and road trips. However, the last few parts of the book affirmed all of my suspicions about Georgia--that it is a place I must learn and feel, that it is indeed impenetrable until one tastes and toasts it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    This was a difficult read for me due to the author's intense need to insert herself into so many situations in which a personal perspective was not necessary. Other readers have complained about her personality, but that was not the issue for me. I thought she interrupted several magical moments with indulgent personal asides, though her personality does grate, eventually. If you are at all interested in Georgia and its history, natural winemaking, or just want to take a vacation of the mind, yo This was a difficult read for me due to the author's intense need to insert herself into so many situations in which a personal perspective was not necessary. Other readers have complained about her personality, but that was not the issue for me. I thought she interrupted several magical moments with indulgent personal asides, though her personality does grate, eventually. If you are at all interested in Georgia and its history, natural winemaking, or just want to take a vacation of the mind, you will enjoy enough of this book. Two stars for the more personal information, five stars for the colorful portraits of earnest wine makers and kvevri artisans, drives through the surely stunning Georgian countryside, mouthwatering descriptions of magnificent feasts (and recipes!), and for making me even more infatuated with Georgian wine. If my friends are reading this, I'm sure they are laughing and saying, "Is that possible?" Despite its flaws, this book might make believers of all of us.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Courtney

    This was such a beautiful account of the author’s discovery of winemaking in Georgia. I read the last page minutes before touching down in Tbilisi and could not be more excited to investigate the wine and food of Georgia myself.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    I learned so much from the book, and it still informs me today about the history of wine and the sociology of wine. This is my favorite book about wine to date

  5. 4 out of 5

    Randal White

    Wine - The Right Way My goodness, I have been reading a lot of wine related books lately, but this one really stands out. Feiring is a extremely passionate connoisseur of wine and it's history. Her book is about the country of Georgia, and it's thousands of years of wine culture. She vividly describes her experiences in the country, tracking it's vinicultural history, it's methods of making wine, and it's struggles through the years in preserving it's culture.Feiring is an outspoken advocate of Wine - The Right Way My goodness, I have been reading a lot of wine related books lately, but this one really stands out. Feiring is a extremely passionate connoisseur of wine and it's history. Her book is about the country of Georgia, and it's thousands of years of wine culture. She vividly describes her experiences in the country, tracking it's vinicultural history, it's methods of making wine, and it's struggles through the years in preserving it's culture.Feiring is an outspoken advocate of the natural, organic method of making wine. She makes a strong case against the current trends of the mass production, chemically enhanced, pesticide laden, monotonous wine. While the world is experiencing the taking over of wineries and vineyards by large corporations (and the Chinese), Georgia is embracing it's roots in it's age-old techniques.Feiring explains in detail how Georgian wine is made in qvevri's (clay vessels sunk into the ground), the methods of making the wine, and the hundreds of varieties of grape vines in Georgia (many of which have been saved and maintained only by local farmers). She describes how the culture was almost wiped out by the Soviets during their period of occupation.Her descriptive language is of such high quality that you could almost smell and taste the wines and food. She made you feel as though you were with her, sitting down to expansive meals with Georgian farmers, traveling through the countryside in search of rare grape vines or ancient qvevri's. Her portrayals of people enabled me to clearly see them in my own mind. While it seems like small scale, sustainable methods she advocates are facing insurmountable odds against the large corporations, it is refreshing to know that there are people like her who are trying. If you are interested in wine, history that wasn't taught in our schools, or just outstanding writing, this is a great book for you!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Leanne

    Sometimes you have to take a stand in life. I have real respect for the author, who went the extra mile to promote and stand by natural wine growers in Georgia. Along with Armenia, Georgia is where wine has had the longest history. It is probable that almost all the famous wines we drink today--pinot noir, merlot, etc-- derive from grapes grown in the Caucasus. For around 8,000 years, the Georgians have cultivated grapes and made wine. Their method was--and is-- the ancient amphora method. Grape Sometimes you have to take a stand in life. I have real respect for the author, who went the extra mile to promote and stand by natural wine growers in Georgia. Along with Armenia, Georgia is where wine has had the longest history. It is probable that almost all the famous wines we drink today--pinot noir, merlot, etc-- derive from grapes grown in the Caucasus. For around 8,000 years, the Georgians have cultivated grapes and made wine. Their method was--and is-- the ancient amphora method. Grapes are fermented in gigantic earthenware amphora, called qvervis. Buried in the ground, it is natural and the connected to the pots themselves... Feiring goes a long way in illuminating this practice and it is fascinating! The best chapter for me, was on religion and the vine. Feiring is Jewish and it is fascinating the way she described Jewish customs revolving around wine, and she is inspired on Georgian Christian rituals concerning wine. She travels widely and her descriptions of food and wine--those Georgian feasts--were very moving! I really want to visit Georgia and see it for myself someday. (And Armenia!) Astor wines has a nice selection on amphora wines, if you are interested. I really loved this Georgian white. https://www.astorwines.com/SearchResu... I also recommend the Amber Revolution and Tasting the Past-- about another unique non-standard grape (this time from the Holy Land!).

  7. 4 out of 5

    Margaret Sankey

    Feiring, a food connoisseur, went to Georgia in search of their ancient wine culture, perhaps the oldest in the world (borne out by prehistoric clay pots, in whose modern descendents people still age wine buried in their backyards). She found that Soviet standardization, while it drove varietals and terroir-based wine making underground for personal consumption, never succeeded in obliterating the vines or the people's taste for wine patiently steeped in grape skins, imparting a full spectrum of Feiring, a food connoisseur, went to Georgia in search of their ancient wine culture, perhaps the oldest in the world (borne out by prehistoric clay pots, in whose modern descendents people still age wine buried in their backyards). She found that Soviet standardization, while it drove varietals and terroir-based wine making underground for personal consumption, never succeeded in obliterating the vines or the people's taste for wine patiently steeped in grape skins, imparting a full spectrum of flavor and eccentric interest. Now, however, as European money offers opportunities to buy modern equipment and produce homogenized product, the industry stands at a crossroads unresolved by the end of the book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Aaron

    There was something very off-putting about the author and her writing style, perhaps more a matter of personal taste than criticism. Seemingly little charisma or humor to be found. She doesn't seem like someone who'd go over well with Mid-Westerners and she would likely be proud of that fact. I do now have a curiosity about Georgian wins and natural wine production that she espouses here, so despite the single star rating... mission accomplished? There was something very off-putting about the author and her writing style, perhaps more a matter of personal taste than criticism. Seemingly little charisma or humor to be found. She doesn't seem like someone who'd go over well with Mid-Westerners and she would likely be proud of that fact. I do now have a curiosity about Georgian wins and natural wine production that she espouses here, so despite the single star rating... mission accomplished?

  9. 5 out of 5

    Stuart Robinson

    I've been taken with each of Alice Feiring's works, she has this incredible ability to get her finger in the pulse of whatever subject is being explored. Yes it comes from a position of passion, for Ms Feiring writes exclusively on (so called) Natural Wines. Each of her works makes me want to seek the examples at hand. I've been taken with each of Alice Feiring's works, she has this incredible ability to get her finger in the pulse of whatever subject is being explored. Yes it comes from a position of passion, for Ms Feiring writes exclusively on (so called) Natural Wines. Each of her works makes me want to seek the examples at hand.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Matt Lennert

    The book isn’t really about wine. Rather, it’s about Feiring’s love affair with the country of Georgia. And in this she is passionate. But, wine is secondary to her love for the people she meets and the adventures she has, ostensibly in search for wine, but she never really gets around to describing it. We read far more about the people and the food that seems to be waiting for her everywhere she ends up. Clearly the Georgian people are phenomenal hosts. She has plenty of rather off-putting opin The book isn’t really about wine. Rather, it’s about Feiring’s love affair with the country of Georgia. And in this she is passionate. But, wine is secondary to her love for the people she meets and the adventures she has, ostensibly in search for wine, but she never really gets around to describing it. We read far more about the people and the food that seems to be waiting for her everywhere she ends up. Clearly the Georgian people are phenomenal hosts. She has plenty of rather off-putting opinions about natural wine versus, what, unnatural wine? Anything that doesn’t come from a qvevri in the ground is poison in her feeble opinion and that position begins to sound rather political instead of being based on winemaking. I’ve read her other book, Naked Wine, and it’s the same. She is just a contentious person and for some readers, she will alienate. I did like her passion for the people and food of Georgia, and she ends each chapter with recipes, which further muddles the book. Is it about wine? Or is it a travelogue and cookbook? I suppose her editors thought they could getaway with all three and by doing so end up with a wine book that isn’t really about wine in any detail.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Keith

    I read this book while staying in Tbilisi, Georgia, and happened to be in the same house as John, one of the characters in the book. It is always fun reading a book being in the same setting described within. Coming from San Francisco (near Napa Valley), I was quite interested in wine from a region I’ve never experienced. I’ve been both sampling Georgian wine and getting some background from this book to guide me. I did learn interesting things about the history, including how the former Soviet Un I read this book while staying in Tbilisi, Georgia, and happened to be in the same house as John, one of the characters in the book. It is always fun reading a book being in the same setting described within. Coming from San Francisco (near Napa Valley), I was quite interested in wine from a region I’ve never experienced. I’ve been both sampling Georgian wine and getting some background from this book to guide me. I did learn interesting things about the history, including how the former Soviet Union affected the trajectory of Georgian wines. However, overall, I thought the book had a lot of fluff and could have been better served as an article in a wine magazine. If you’d like to learn more about Georgian wines, this is a good starting point. But if you are like me, you’ll probably want to supplement it with other material/books.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sophia Luduvice

    Uma viagem à Georgia. País berço do vinho, possuindo registro de plantio de uva para a produção de vinho dese 8000 anos atrás. O mais incrível deste relato é que esta tradição vinícola permaneceu bastante fiel aos seus primórdios, continuando fazendo o uso de técnicas como fermentação em contato com as cascas, qvevris, vinificação natural e viticultura orgânica.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Bean

    Fascinating and engaging book on Georgian wines! I truly enjoyed the author's juxtaposition of the country's history of wines and the struggles in her personal life. Fascinating and engaging book on Georgian wines! I truly enjoyed the author's juxtaposition of the country's history of wines and the struggles in her personal life.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    Delightful introduction to Georgian wine, food and culture by an author who respects tradition.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lina

    Beautiful account of this country , it’s people, wine cultures and traditions.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Steve C.

    Potentially fascinating cultural overview spoilt by an author who has to obsessively affirm how much better and more evolved her tastes are than everyone else. Exhausting and obnoxious.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Once the author got the basic premise I. Place and we learned about Georgian winemaking generally, there wasn’t much there there. Going to make a note of a few of the recipes though

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mel

    If you have a real passion for all things wine, this book is the book for you. Alice Feiring does an amazing job taking the reader through the ancient art of wine-making. It is fascinating. She writes so well that I felt like I was reading artwork. I found the recipes within this book secondary to the writing and the wine (although the recipes are all European inspired dishes and they did sound wonderful). After a while I found the book started to get a little repetitive. Alice loves wine, and n If you have a real passion for all things wine, this book is the book for you. Alice Feiring does an amazing job taking the reader through the ancient art of wine-making. It is fascinating. She writes so well that I felt like I was reading artwork. I found the recipes within this book secondary to the writing and the wine (although the recipes are all European inspired dishes and they did sound wonderful). After a while I found the book started to get a little repetitive. Alice loves wine, and not in the way that someone who calls themself a "lover of wine" does, but in a real way; wine is who she is, it is her passion. Alice is worried for the world of wine-making. She embarks on a journey to Georgia in search of prehistoric wine culture, where people still make wine in huge clay pots in their backyard. She argues that modernization and money are turning the wine making industry into something it was never meant to be: generic, tasteless and mass-produced for consumption. Feiring's love of wine is contagious throughout this book. It made me wonder what am I drinking when I do drink wine? Is it even wine that I am drinking? She made wine sound like something completely different than what I usually drink. Alice made me want to drink better wine; wine made locally, and made organically, or perhaps even wine made in huge clay pots.. Anyone who loves wine or is interested in the journey of how wine became what is now should give this book a read. Alice Feiring takes you on a journey with her as she fights for what wine should be. Although the end of the book leaves at a crossroads, and convincing the modern world that wine-making should go back to the days of pre-historic clay pots is tough to sell, Alice will give you a new understand and appreciation wine - which is something everybody loves.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Alysa H.

    The subject matter is interesting, but I didn't care for the author's writing style. Even though I knew going in that there would be a fair amount personal passion, I'd still have liked a little more objectivity and a little less unbridled gushing. The best parts are when she goes into uncharted territory, like her hike in the woods with locals to view what are ostensibly the last known vines of wild, old-growth heirloom varietals, but there aren't many of these parts. Qvevri are also interestin The subject matter is interesting, but I didn't care for the author's writing style. Even though I knew going in that there would be a fair amount personal passion, I'd still have liked a little more objectivity and a little less unbridled gushing. The best parts are when she goes into uncharted territory, like her hike in the woods with locals to view what are ostensibly the last known vines of wild, old-growth heirloom varietals, but there aren't many of these parts. Qvevri are also interesting, sure, and so are the people who make wine in them, but these passages all sort of blend together. I happen to know a bit more about Georgian food and culture than most Americans, but I'm no expert, and I don't feel like I actually learned anything new from this book other than "Alice Feiring loves Georgia." In fact I feel like I ultimately learned more about Alice Feiring than I did about Georgia and its wines. ** I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley **

  20. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    Thanks to this book I am currently sitting at Pheasant’s Tears in Signagi, Georgia. While I didn’t end up liking the author’s personality, from what I got from the book, she was correct in that the wine is very good here. Prost!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Deidre

    This book is a little bit of everything, a cookbook, a wine book, a travel guide, and a memoir. It is both personal and yet always informative. While it may not appeal to all readers looking to know specifics on wine, it shares a deeper spirit of how wine can be truly experience, for its taste but also for its history and a sensibility that goes far beyond a cool label. Feiring is an excellent storyteller and through her words you also get a bit of a sense of the live of a wine writer of some ren This book is a little bit of everything, a cookbook, a wine book, a travel guide, and a memoir. It is both personal and yet always informative. While it may not appeal to all readers looking to know specifics on wine, it shares a deeper spirit of how wine can be truly experience, for its taste but also for its history and a sensibility that goes far beyond a cool label. Feiring is an excellent storyteller and through her words you also get a bit of a sense of the live of a wine writer of some renown which seems by turns both exhilarating and exhausting. I came away with a sense of the history of Georgian wine, and more importantly why it matters and is worth preserving. Through the work of the author and the people she has encountered, it looks like that is definitely happening.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn

    I loved this travelogue through the revitalization of Georgia's ancient wine culture. The people, the terroir, the wine! Ms. Feiring has more luscious words to describe the passion and ambience of current day wine artisans at work than I have taste buds. It made me add Georgia to my bucket list of travel destinations as well as seek out the Georgian wine experience stateside. The characters she introduces are so fascinating I can almost see the movie! I loved this travelogue through the revitalization of Georgia's ancient wine culture. The people, the terroir, the wine! Ms. Feiring has more luscious words to describe the passion and ambience of current day wine artisans at work than I have taste buds. It made me add Georgia to my bucket list of travel destinations as well as seek out the Georgian wine experience stateside. The characters she introduces are so fascinating I can almost see the movie!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    I have read all of Ms Feiring's books and each one tells a story of discovery. This one is no different. Alice takes a journey to Georgia and discovers a whole lot about the making of wine there. She meets and becomes friends with winemakers and discovers the various flavors and ingredients used in their cooking. She talks in the book about the winemaking and how quevri are used. I felt that I learned a lot from her trips and discoveries in the winemaking areas of Georgia where for the most part I have read all of Ms Feiring's books and each one tells a story of discovery. This one is no different. Alice takes a journey to Georgia and discovers a whole lot about the making of wine there. She meets and becomes friends with winemakers and discovers the various flavors and ingredients used in their cooking. She talks in the book about the winemaking and how quevri are used. I felt that I learned a lot from her trips and discoveries in the winemaking areas of Georgia where for the most part they are making wine the old way.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    This book was absolutely fascinating! I felt like I learned something new on every page -whether it be ancient cultural insights, obscure traditions, unique recipes, singular characters, and - of course - the art of natural, qvevri winemaking. Part memoir, part travel diary, part advocacy platform, part cookbook, and part educational springboard, the author has weaved it all together beautifully (though sometimes a little over sentimentally). A great read for anyone who loves wine and travel.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    If ever you go to Georgia or want to go to Georgia-this book is a must read! It prepared me so well for the welcoming culture, the supras and the amazing and bottomless wine!! It was such an informative but also fun read! I got to meet some of the wonderful people featured in her book and felt like I was meeting friends

  26. 4 out of 5

    Grant

  27. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte

  28. 5 out of 5

    Wschimmels

  29. 4 out of 5

    Susan

  30. 4 out of 5

    Zach White

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