An almost Greek symposium at the Malibu Getty

July 30, 2012 at 10:22 pm 2 comments

Malibu Getty Tasting of 4 wines created in clay amphorae in the ancient way. The wines came from Northern Italy, Sicily, Santorini (Greece) and Napa.

It wasn’t quite Mt. Olympus, but with very little imagination at the Malibu Getty on Jul 21, you could see yourself as a Greek aristocrat roaming the grounds of a lush villa, preparing for a wild drinking night at a classical Greek symposium (symposion).

At least, I had no problem projecting myself back 2500 years into Athena in Korinth, Greece with Hektor at Xenon’s pleasure villa by the sea.

Del Dotto 2009 Napa Valley Zinfandel ‘clay vessel fermented.’ LOVE this bottle.

We started out the evening at 5pm when the Getty Malibu Roman Villa Museum closed, and we gathered in the auditorium for a wonderful talk by historian Oswyn Murray of Oxford University. In the fine way that the Brits do so very well, Murray informed and entertained with his dry wit and rich display of images.

I felt great relief that the symposium I describe in Chapter 3 of Athena (The Egypt Trilogy) is right on target. There was a little dismay when Murray declared that food was served first and almost never during the Greek symposium (drinking party) itself. A conversation with him afterwards assured me that customs certainly varied, and that food could very well have been part of a symposium in Korinth in 200 BC Greece.

Whew! No need to rewrite Chapter 3 of Athena and remove all mention of “whole roast lamb appearing in an aromatic cloud of rosemary and garlic.”

Here’s a list of the wines served:
2001 Gravner Anfora Bianco Breg, Friuli-Venezia-Guilia, Italy
2009 Azienda Agricola COS Pithos, Sicily, Italy
2009 Del Dotto Clay Vessel Zinfandel, Napa Valley, California (see photo)
2010 Domaine Sigalas Asirtiko Athiri, Santorini, Greece

Unfortunately, our wine was not served in drinking cups such as this kylix on display at the Getty. Oh well…maybe in another life?


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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Ann Calhoun  |  July 31, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    You said the wine was “made” in an amphora? Who did that and how’d they do that? Thought you needed large vats to make the stuff, or did they crush the grape in big plastic buckets and pour it intosome amphora then let it sit and brew thenserved it? Without ageing, seems like the wine would be pretty raw. So what did the wine taste like?

    What a fun evening. Yes,it’s easy to feel you’ve slipped out of time when you’re in the Getty.

    • 2. Sandra Gore  |  July 31, 2012 at 4:24 pm

      The wine was supposedly fermented in huge clay amphorae buried in the ground and made from grapes grown in the local region. Guess there’s only 4 places in the world that are trying to recreate the technique.
      The aging process is interesting. According to Murray, the Greeks drank their wine right away, like Beaujolais. That is, unless you were in Egypt, for example, and were drinking imported wine which had been shipped in smaller clay amphorae. The Romans developed the idea of ageing, vintage and ‘estate.’ You can bet I’ll mention that in Elektra.
      Three of the wines were delicious – one was rather tart. The California Zinfandel was awesome as was the Santorini white.
      See this link (scroll down to Azienda Agricola Cos) for a photo of the terracotta giare (amphorae) used in thei wine fermentation.


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