Tasting: Ancient Greek tasters

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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The existence of an organized trade in wine in Ancient greece must have created a class of specialized merchants. Both for them and for discerning members of the public, skill in tasting was necessary, and the Greeks had a word for the wine tasters and their art: oinogeustes/-geustikĕ. The first attestation of this activity is through the cognate verb meaning ‘to taste wine’, found as early as the 4th century bc.

References to the professionals are extremely rare; one is found in a document of the 3rd century ad from Roman Egypt (Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 3517), where it is said, ‘The wine taster has declared the Euboean wine to be unsuitable.’