Most wine books provide some historical context for the regions they discuss. Over the course of my studies, I went from dismissing this information as superfluous, to finding it interesting but not essential and finally to complete fascination. The history of wine is the history of man. Wine has played a greater role in the advance of civilization than most any other commodity. As my knowledge of this subject has increased, I increasingly view the wine in my glass as an inheritance from those who depended on it for their lives.
The text that receives the most acclaim for its exploration of the subject is The Story of Wine by Hugh Johnson, who has been working for nearly five decades and is the most read wine writer in history. The book is expansive, but is humble enough to preface that no one work can be completely comprehensive. It details the early years of discovery, the empires who depended on wine for wealth and the journey of the vine as the world expanded. After reading it once straight through, I find myself referring to it regularly.
The incorporation of history into my classes has been well received. The background information lends a humanity to the wines that is equally important to giving background information on the individual producer.