Log In / Join Now

Ask Dr. Vinny



Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...

Dear Dr. Vinny,

You may wish to brace yourself in case you faint when reading this question. It is my understanding that ancient Greeks and Romans usually drank their wine mixed with water. I was wondering when, if ever, consuming it that way would be appropriate? Will the practice ever take hold again?

—Tom, New York

Dear Tom,

I'll brace myself, but you have to hold on to your hat for the answer. It's true that ancient Greeks and Romans mixed water and wine—but technically they were putting wine into their water more than they were putting water into their wine. Back then, wine was seen as a way to purify and improve the taste of the (often stagnant) water source.

How dilute was the water/wine combo? In Homer's Odyssey, a ratio of 20 parts water to one part wine is mentioned, but other accounts put it closer to three or four parts water to one part wine. There are also reports of adding lemon, spices, resin or even seawater to dilute wine. You may also have heard of muslum, a mixture of honey and wine that sounds yucky to me, but was apparently very popular back then.

Since we have better water sources these days (not to mention better wine), I don't see the water/wine cocktail coming back into fashion anytime soon. That said, European parents sometimes serve their children wine diluted with water. Some of my favorite people put ice cubes in their wine, and I do know a chef whose favorite beverage in the summer is ice-cold water mixed with red wine until it looks like Kool-Aid.

—Dr. Vinny

Wine Basics

We break down the basics—how to taste, serve, store and more. Plus:
» Maps of major wine regions
» Grape variety characteristics

How-to Videos

Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more

Wine Spectator School: All courses are FREE for WineSpectator.com Members

Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.

Browse our course catalog
Check out the professional wine sales and service courses
Learn Wine Forum: Got questions? Get answers


WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.