The Bible Wine Tour
The same evolutionary view of religion is evident when Heskett indulges in pop phenomenology to equate Christ and Dionysus. When Jesus claims to be the true vine of which his followers are the branches, he says, "Christ here evokes the portrayal of Dionysus as a living vine, his shoots flowing out, becoming Maenads (female worshipers … who were incited to religious frenzy) …." Sigh.
In the book's final section, Butler appears to take the lead from Heskett. (Butler: what a great name for a wine expert! The Anglo-Norman word originally meant the person in charge of the bottles.) The authors deliver a rare wine tour of contemporary Greece and the Middle East. Since the earliest winemaking facility was located in what is now Turkey, Butler and Heskett begin there and follow the stops on Paul's third missionary journey. Many of these places were noted for their wine in the ancient world, but later Muslim prohibitions on alcohol largely restricted wine production to the non-Muslim population. Then the Armenian genocide (1915–18) and the Greco-Turkish War (1919–22) resulted in the near disappearance of the groups that knew how to make wine.
But Turkish winemaking has experienced a revival in the latter part of the 20th century thanks to secularist policies initiated by Kemal Ataturk, and Butler and Heskett assure us that vintners are now producing wines that are, variously, "well-structured [but] not too oaky," "rich, fruity, and distinctive," and with "fine texture and promise, with deep fruit and balanced oak." There is plenty of that kind of writing because this is, after all, a wine book co-authored by a wine expert.
The listing of wines and wineries in Turkey, French-influenced Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, and Greece will help any thirsty traveler in the region connect with the best wine producers.
Worried that Israeli wines all taste like Manischewitz? Not anymore. On my own travels to Israel, I noticed real progress between the early 1990s and 2007. Boutique wines are now available that match some of the best small wineries in California, Washington, and Oregon for sheer interest.