Ithaca – My Favorite Poem & A Lovely Greek Wine

As the year draws to a close, I try to create a balance sheet of how I have fared, personally, professionally, wineally during the previous year. As always, the year was full of surprises. One lovely surprise was finding a copy of one of my favorite poems in a pile on my desk. This poem by Constantine P Cavafy is such a talisman for me. It reminds one to enjoy every minute of our journey. It also evokes my love of travel, curiosity to discover new places and meet new people and my sense of adventure. Like many people, this is one of the reasons that I love the wine business. It allows you to travel through a glass to visit a winery and feel centuries of tradition behind the meeting, to find communality with the most unlikely people. It also provides you with hours of sensory pleasure.

So to celebrate finding this poem, I will have a glass of Nykteri from Santorini this evening. I love Greek wines and this one particularly. It is made from 75% Assyrtiko, with Aidani and Athiri making up the rest. The wine is not a light one, with good concentration and focused flavors of baked apples, pear, and citrus. It sees 3 months in oak, which gives it some weight – the oak is nicely integrated. Lucky for me, I’m working at Maslow 6 later today and I can pick up a bottle.

Here’s this fabulous poem:

When you set out for Ithaca
ask that your way be long,
full of adventure, full of instruction.
The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
angry Poseidon – do not fear them:
such as these you will never find
as long as your thought is lofty, if refined
emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
savage Poseidon you will not meet
unless you carry them in your soul,
unless your soul raises them up before you.

Ask that your way be long.
May there be many Summer mornings when,
with what gratitude, what joy –
you shall enter first-seen harbors;
may you stop at Phoenician trading centres,
and to buy good merchandise,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensuous perfumes of every kind,
sensuous perfumes as lavishly as you can;
to visit many Egyptian cities,
to gather stores of knowledge from the learned.

Have Ithaca always in your mind.
Your arrival there is what you are destined for.
But don’t in the least hurry the journey.
Better it last for years,
so that when you reach the island you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaca to give you wealth.
Ithaca gave you a splendid journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She hasn’t anything else to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca hasn’t deceived you.
So wise you have become, of such experience,
that already you’ll have understood what these Ithacas mean.

Constantine P Cavafy

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