Truth in wine (writing)? Looking more closely at “in vino veritas,” a motto often misunderstood

From the department of “der Meister des giftigen Spotts”…

“The closer the look one takes at a word,
the greater the distance from which it looks back.”
—Karl Kraus

in-vino-veritasAs I continue to prepare for the seminars on English-language wine writing and wine blogging that I will be leading next week and the following (as part of the UniSG Master’s in Wine Culture program), I’ve been thinking a lot about the notion of truth in wine (writing) and how we perceive absolute truths in our awareness of wine when it is depicted or described in words.

There’s an ancient association of truth and wine that looms over the notion of truth in enography: The Latin motto in vino veritas, which, when translated literally, is rendered in English as [there is] truth in wine.

Some attribute the earliest exemplar of the expression to a fragment of a lost poem by the ancient Greek poet Alcaeus (although, beyond a Wikipedia mention, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of substance in the assertion that Alcaeus was the first to utter the phrase).

Italian scholarship points to the sophist (or teacher for hire) Zenobius as the first chronicler of the phrase, which he included in a collection of aphorisms.

To my knowledge, all concur that the Latin expression is an adaptation of the Greek εν οἴνῳ ἀλήθεια (en oinoi aletheia). And here’s where it gets interesting.

Whereas veritas means truth or reality in Latin, aletheia has a slightly different meaning in Greek. It’s generally translated as…

Click here to continue reading my post for the University of Gastronomic Sciences blog. Thanks for reading!

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