I’ve been reading Harry Eyres’
book, Horace and me. Horace is
the Roman poet, not his dog.
It is an odd, personal and engaging
read. Harry is the son of a much
admired wine merchant who
studied classical literature, before
becoming a writer.
My grasp of Latin remains
reprehensibly shaky, unlike
Harry’s, despite a classical
education, but I have long had a
soft spot for Horace. Most of his
poems are commendably short,
and frequently on subjects I feel
I understand. He valued friendship.
He enjoyed wine.
My grandfather gave me his small
well-thumbed pocket-size edition.
As The Wine Society’s Italian
buyer, I have visited the town in
Basilicata where Horace was born
on my way to find good bottles of
aglianico grown on the slopes of
Mt Vulture, close to the town.
Venosa, now a charming airy town
little frequented by tourists, was
once the largest colony in the
Roman world, and an important
stop between Rome and the port
‘Carpe Diem’, in the last line of his
short poem (Odes 1.11) means
literally ‘harvest the day’. It has
become a tag phrase implying ‘make
hay while the sun shines and to hell
with the future’. But I think Horace
meant ‘savour the moment’. When
you converse, listen. When you
take a photograph, look properly
first. When you drink a glass of
wine, take a moment to relish it,
give it your full attention, as
Horace once did with his humble
home-grown Sabine wine or his
One of the ‘good bottles of aglianico’
that Sebastian uneartherd while visiting
Horace’s homeland is Oronzo Alò’s
Aglianico del Vulture 2006 (ref IT14181, £14.50)