Wine has the paradoxical quality of being both ordinary and special: a simple food item to be consumed with a meal, it is also widely used as both a symbol in religious ritual and a means of changing human mood or consciousness. As a result, wine often has multiple meanings within consumer culture, connected to life and death, health and pollution, purity and spirituality, and conceptions of order and disorder. Wine choices typically reveal social distinctions of age, sex, status, culture, and even occupation.

Historians have suggested that patterns of consumption and the subsequent spread of wine production were linked to the symbolic requirements of many religious cultures. The spread of Christianity that accompanied European voyages between 1500 and 1750, in particular, facilitated the circulation of ...

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