When I tell people my occupation it almost always needs a follow-up response: “I study wine” or “I make wine.” Americans, generally speaking, are unfamiliar with this word. My guess is this is largely because it isn’t a job that is in high demand around here. When I was living abroad, I almost never had this problem. I’m guessing if I was a brew master (or lived in California) it wouldn’t be an issue. Alas, here is my attempt to remedy it.
In case you weren’t aware, I will point out that this is one of those English words that is spelled differently in America than in England (as well as all the Commonwealth countries). They spell it with an ‘O’ to make it an Oenologist who studies Oenology. The British seem to like these extra vowels. They will shop in a catalogue and use an encyclopaedia to look up midiaeval history. I’d like to believe that it is because the British secretly are in love with the French.* Why else would they insist on using the French spelling for words like colour and banque? Generally I prefer American English, but in the instance of the word Oenology, I will have to say I side with the Brits.
Oeno has quite an impressive family tree. For one, she is the grand-daughter of Dionysus (known by the Romans as Bacchus). He was the god of the grapevine, wine, and the grape harvest among other things. Another interesting side note is that he was also half-mortal: his father was Zeus and his mother was a human who was apparently literally ripped to shreds by Zeus’ wife, Hera, when she learned of the affair (lesson: don’t mess with the gods). It was Dionysus who granted Oeno the power to turn water into wine. Along with her sisters, Spermo and Elias, who had the abilities to make wheat and olive oil, respectively, they made sure the people around them never had to starve. They also were an important part of the Trojan war, as they stocked the ships of the Greek soldiers with food for their journey to Troy (Apparently the 3 major food groups in ancient Greece were wine, bread, and olive oil – I’ll drink to that!).