Merchants: Ancient Greece

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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As outlined in the ancient history of tasting, specialized wine merchants already existed as a class in Ancient greece. They developed the art of wine tasting which, with cunning, could be applied to the art of selling wine, as recorded in detail by the 3rd century ad writer Florentinus (preserved in the Geoponica 7. 7):

Purchasers of wine should be offered a taste when the north wind blows [when, as he has already explained, wines taste at their best]. Some people try to trick their customers by using an empty cup which they have dipped in very good wine with a great aroma. The quality of the wine leaves its trace for some time, so that the bouquet seems to belong to the wine now poured in the cup, and in this way they deceive the customer. More unscrupulous dealers put out cheese and nuts in the shop, so as to tempt the customers who come in to eat something; the aim is to prevent them from tasting accurately. I record this not as a suggestion for us to follow, but so that we shall not suffer from these practices. The farmer will often need to taste the wine, both new and old, to detect wine which is about to deteriorate.