September 23, 2012

Symposium - to drink together

Have you ever participated in a symposium? It is usually some kind of conference, with presentations and discussions to share new knowledge and experiences. Often used in the academic world, but also in relation to business and organisational events.

Do you think about wine when you hear the word symposium? Not so? Although perhaps not that strange, as we nowadays seem to have forgotten the original meaning of a symposium.

We will have to travel back to the ancient Greek world, to the time of Plato around 400 BC, to find the explanation. Symposium, it means to "drink together". And what the old Greeks drank, that was wine. A lot of wine.

The host, or should we call him the Master of ceremonies, decided the rules of drinking. The Greeks mixed their wine with water, and how much water, that was the decision of Mr. Master of ceremonies. The dinner was already completed before the symposium, so I guess there was not much of food. On the other hand, there was plenty of wine. So much wine that, even if it was weak and blended, the guests after a night's symposium were helplessly drunk.
So the stories tell us.

One of the duties of Mr Master of ceremonies was to keep the conversation going. Plato thought that the particpants alternately should talk and listen and thus entertain themselves. However, the participation of entertaining girls, dancing and playing flute, seems to have been just as usual. The symposium, in ancient Greece, was a gathering for the men.

One of the most delightful pleasures for us wine lovers is to gather and taste the wine together.  To discuss and listen to the talk about the wine and around the wine. To share memories and plans and anything else. So why do we not call our gatherings for symposium? Is it for the use in the academic world or have we just forgotten the original meaning?

Isn't it time to reclaim the word symposium to the world of wine? To summon a symposium when we want to have some lovely grapes in our glasses. When we want to taste and discuss and learn about wine together. The best of pleasures.

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