heteroclito cave & bar a vin

116 117 What is it with wine? How come the ancients, otherwise known to be sane and well-put-together people, actually thought up and worshipped a GOD (for chrissakes) that ruled over wine and its reorienting effects over the human spirit, and ultimately the life of entire societies? Even in our day and age, what is it that drives otherwise sane farmers, who could grow sugar beets or soybeans, or other such wholesome grains, to grow wine-grapes and produce wine—making people dream, sometimes making them outright silly, and even causing an occasional brawl at the château or other such shrines to Dionysus? And then what is it with all the different varieties of wine, so many that even the most experienced and encyclopaedic-minded sommelier, complete with super-sentient nose and taste buds, must specialize in one class of wine rather than all the wines of the entire orb where humans clink wineglasses? It so happened that, of all places on Earth, I saw the light of day in the land where the god Dionysus has been worshiped most. That could well be the reason why, very early on, while I was still a bookish teenager, I rode with Jack Kerouac on his clandestine wanderings, stowaways on freight and cattle trains in the United States, always with a bottle of wine handy to fuel the adventure. Soon after, my wanderings led me to France where I sought to experience first hand the fleurs du mal in the company of underground poets and other artists, at Père Lachaise, on rue des Martyrs, in multicultural Belleville, always with a glass of wine in hand. That glass of wine seemed to never empty, on and on and on: early dawn in Auckland, carefree afternoons in Avignon, noisy evenings in Naples, charming nights in Buenos Aires, the midnight mist of San Francisco—that glass of wine was like a guardian angel making sure that our dreams would never fade into a daily grind. Could it be that we discovered the fountain of youth? And what about its wellspring? What about the grapes? Those bunches of dizzyingly sweet fruit and leaves and fascinating tendrils that we see painted on ancient Greek pottery? (That is, after the Greeks started painting scenes on clay, because the story and history of the grape goes much farther back in time.) It seems that the Mediterranean was infatuated with the grape and with wine as far back as 12,000 years ago. Skins filled with wine were hauled hundreds of sea miles in dugouts without sails, by muscle power alone—I might add that a little wine certainly helped along. Why would those Neolithic people transport wine long-distance? The most likely explanation is that certain places, often islands, had developed fabulous varieties of wine grapes, giving extraordinary wine. And so wine became a traveller, getting more and more people interested, first to taste the gifts of the god Dionysus, and eventually also to grow those gift-bearing grapes. Greek Grapes Text by Dimitris Koumanis Photography by Vassilis Karidis