Wine & Spirits

Sixth-Century Celts Had a Soft Spot for Red Wine from the Greek Colony of Marseille

June 23, 2019

Early Celtic tribes in Central Europe drank Greek wine in ceramic vessels bought at the ancient Greek colony of Marseille, according to analyses by a French and German research team publishing its findings in “PLoS One” magazine on June 19.

The team analyzed organic residue from 99 vessels found at an important Early Celtic site in Burgundy, Vix-Mont Lassois. Sixteen of these vessels imported Attica black and red figured pottery, which transported amphorae and other items. They have been dated back to Hallstat culture D2-D3, or 530-480 BC.

The analysis of the Greek vessels revealed residue of grapes used in the production of red wine and of olive oil. Researchers said that as the local area was not known to produce wine – just beer, which was a very popular drink – the most likely source of the wine and the jars it came in were from Marseille or even other Greek colonies in Italy.

The Celts would have travelled down the river Rhone to Marseille, which was founded by Greek colonists around 600 BC, but may also have travelled through the Alps to get to the Mediterranean wine. Their contacts and trade with the Mediterranean were no surprise, but the actual use of Greek-style ceramics at Vix-Mont Lassois had not been analyzed for residues before, the researchers said.

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As a sommelier, Evan Turner knows Greek wine and he wants everyone else to know about it too, and he's using his key position at Krasi (Greek word for wine) Meze and Wine in Boston to make sure.

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