“The word oino – choos (pronounced e no hoos): derives from the word oinos which means wine and choos from the verb cheo (χέω) which means pour. So literally oinochoos is the person who pours wine and this is the word which delivers the absolute meaning of this noble profession.”
From the Greek symposia to the palaces of France and the art of sommelerie.
The first cupbearer in Greece was Hebe, daughter of Zeus and Hera. She was appointed to the position by Zeus for serving nektar to the 12 Gods in Mount Olympus. The myth says that after a clumsy fall she had to be replaced . Her successor was the beautiful Ganymedes of Troy who was abducted by Zeus and he was appointed as the new cupbearer and nectar pourer. From nektar pourer to wine pourer and the birth of the word “oinochoos” which describes literally the wine steward.
Sommelier – Oinochoos as a profession started in ancient Greece from the symposia. He was the man who was responsible to mix water to wine and keep up the pace of serving to the attendants in the symposia, making sure that nobody would get drunk. The dilution (1 part of wine 3 parts of water as the most common ‘dosage’) was a nod to moderation in order to lengthen the evening’s pleasure and the depth of their discussions. Oinochoos was working under the direction given by the appointed head of the sumposia who was called ‘symposiarhes’, and he was actually giving the pace of drinking for the participants. Wine pourers and wine storage keepers were also used in other parts of the Ancient world like Phoenicia and Egypt.
The word oino – choos (pronounced e no hoos): derives from the word oinos which means wine and choos from the verb cheo (χέω) which means pour. So literally oinochoos is the person who pours wine and this is the word which delivers the absolute meaning of this noble profession.
The word sommelier has come to us byway of an interesting etymological journey. Sommerier was responsible to look after the animals and their cargo of travellers who were resting in inns. Sommerier mutated into saumelier, and the meaning slightly shifted, a saumelier (a middle French word) was responsible for transporting supplies. The spelling and meaning slightly shifted again, a sommelier was someone in charge of a specific type of cargo. The profession developed further and the sommelier started serving guests their wines in the local ‘tavernas’ of Paris. From the tavernas the profession evolved more and during the reign of Louis XIV, the sommelier was the official in charge of the transport of baggage when the court moved. In the household of a great lord, he was the official who chose the wines, table settings and desserts. The sommelier used his tastevin, a silver saucer on a thick silver chain worn around the neck to check his lord’s wine for poison. He also checked the food. If the sommelier died, his Master would avoid the meal.
Now, this term refers exclusively to beverages and sometimes cigars . (S)he is the specialist wine waiter or wine steward. Is the person who works in a restaurant, wine bar, wine bistrot or other premises which serve wine, advise on the individual characteristics of every wine on the establishment’s wine list, on food and wine matching. Has in depth knowledge of the world wine and spirit market, s(h)e is an educator, handles the cellar stock and is kept up to date for latest trends for the vast beverage industry.
Oinochoos to Sommelier an evolution of a word for a profession that counts more than 4000 years of history.
From Iro Koliadoudakis
The oxford companion to wine, Jacis Robinson and Julia Harding, 4th edition
The secrets of a sommelier Parr $ Mackay 2010