Don't fear Greeks bearing gifts

I think the Kylix, Greek pottery drinking cup, is one of the most exquisite and satisfying designs ever invented. It was brought close to perfection in Athens in the 5th and 6th century BC. Being two-handled it was a cup that was designed to be shared and its generous but shallow bowl would hold wine and water mixed. At more boisterous, Bullingdon club-type meals, there was a popular after dinner game called Kottabos, where you flicked wine from your Kylix at a precariously balanced disk.

Before the invention of the cork stopper and the straight sided glass bottle that allowed wine to be stored and aged properly, most drinkers did not understand the finer points of wine. But they did understand about trade. Wine from the island of Chios, which was highly rated, was widely exported. We know this because Chios wine jars have been found in Upper Egypt, Marseilles, Tuscany, Bulgaria and Russia.

Wine drinkers should be grateful to the Phocaean Greeks of Asia Minor who colonised Marseilles about 600BC, opened up trade in the Rhône valley and spread the cultivation of the vine. A great legacy.

Many centuries later, seafaring Basques were influential in South American winemaking and Scottish traders were perfecting Port. The influence of traders going about their everyday business has after all left behind longer-lasting, more beneficial change than any warmongering general.

I hope this will persuade you to aise a glass of good Greek wine to celebrate the current Greek wine revival. The Explore Thymiopoulos Naoussa article from the January edition of Soeietynews, would be a very good place to start your own Greek Odyssey or see pages 54 and 107 of the new List.

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