The symposium (literally “communal drinking”) is one of the social traditions that has survived since the dawn of civilisation, when Demeter and Dionysus gifted the humans with grain and wine.
Wine is liquid life-force: under the right circumstances, it joins the souls of those that enjoy it together.
Wine is edgy: the same fiery power that delivers heights of pleasure can also wreck you. Perhaps the best rule of thumb is never to enjoy it alone.
Wine is a Don Giovanni: it seduces all your senses. The way it glugs as it is poured fills you with expectation; its smell triggers an olfactory party in your nostrils; its glow makes your pupils dilate and when you grab your glass you feel something of the royal. As it surfs your mouth reaching inside, your inward vulnerability is magically transformed into outward sociability.
Good magic, however, needs good sorcerers. Our Dumbledore last night was my old friend Filippo: he is in the wine business. The perfect liquid host, he is a good chef too.
So generous, in fact, as to invite my entire family at the drop of the hat to his house for dinner. Ok, most friends would do that… Only we happened to be hanging out with some other old friends – another family who live nearby – who were also instantly invited.
We were met by the comforting sight of a beautifully laid table and the mesmerising smells of the herb-laden meat in the oven. Given the magnitude of the task, Filippo had recruited a sous-chef, visiting wine-maker and distributor Andrea, who was busy layering the pasta with the veg and the mozzarella prior to the final smouldering under the grill.
Kids and adults had a blast. It was loud, it was fun, it was interesting even though most people round the table barely new each other until a few moments before.
Such is the contageous power of Friendship, of being open, of being welcoming. Yes, the wine did help: carefully chosen and abundant, a choice of it accompanied the different stages of the meal.
My favourite was Quattroenne, a manly red that shouts of Sicilian local grapes: Nerello Mascalese, Nocera, Nerello Cappuccio, Nero d’Avola (the four “Ns”).
This wine also tells of my friend, Filippo, who produces it in partnership with a winemaker in the small town of Faro.
It whispers to me of Nonno Umberto: my grandad, born in nearby Messina, was a toddler when the rich, black, volcanic soil swallowed his city in the all-destroying 1906 earthquake.
And this is the end of this story of wine and friendship. Below is the array of Bacchic delicacies we were treated to: what a Symposium!