Wine Roots

Seperator, Tourism - Itineraries - Greek wine

Viniculture & Wine Production
from Classical Period to the contemporary Greek history

Drawings from ancient Greece, Tourism - Itineraries - Greek wine


Wine as religious and medicinal medium

Based on archaeological excavation findings, near the ancient city of Philippi in Macedonia, we have the first indications on viticulture, dating some 6.500 years ago.

Greece is not the first country to claim the beginnings of vine cultivation and wine production. Archaeologists have found evidence of vine cultivation in Georgia and Armenia and wine production in Mesopotamia, what we know today as Iran & Iraq.

  • In the large metropolitan cities of Athens, Sparta, Theobes and Macedonia, wine is offered to gods in all religious ceremonies, is consumed in social gatherings and used as a ‘medicine’ (with the addition of ……. herbs) in the era of the great doctor and healer Hippocrates.

    According to ancient scripts, we have religious ceremonies dedicated to the wine & vine god “Dionysus”, such as “Mikra Dionysia”, “En Asti Dionysia”. The grandest of all celebrations are described as “Megala Dionysia”, including some elaborate parades, theatrical productions and poetry readings from the great poets of the times.

    One must not forget the “Symposia” , splendid dinners organised by the Athenian male elite. The guest list comprised with many well known men of the arts, culture, politics and commerce, that would gather in grand aristocratic homes. The more successful parties would last days and nights, full of elaborate dinners. Wine would be served in large quantities but always mixed with water (also known as ‘kekramenos oinos’), from notable wine producing areas of Greece. Wine consumption enhanced poetry reciting, extensive philosophical discussions, comedy or drama sketches. Women were only present to serve and entertain, the so called ‘eteres’.

Greek Wine and Roman Times, Tourism - Itineraries - Margo Wine Routes


The decline of the hellenistic spirit to the European journey of Greek viticulture

Romans succeeded in conquering all nations across the Mediterranean basin. This brought the fall of the Hellenistic culture, the customs and subsequently the production of Greek wine in Greece. Luckily, in the Greek colonies of Magna Grecia (modern Sicily) and South Italy, the Greek cultural heritage survived and blossomed together with the Greek grape varieties that were planted there.
The viticulture practices and wine production methods from the homeland resumed in all colonies. Over the years, vines and wine production moved north to Northern Italy and the Etruscans, reaching the South of France.
It is safe to conclude that Greece entrusted Europe with the “roots” of vine cultivation, wine production and consumption.

Greek wine in Byzan, Tourism - Itineraries - Greek wine


Blossoming viticulture and the heavy taxation that resulted in complete viticultural desertion

During the Byzantine times, wine plays a key role to Christianity. It is a staple of the people’s daily diet and in all their religious ceremonies. It is consumed and enjoyed without the addition of water. Byzantine Emperors and Patriarchs join in the celebrations of the grape harvesting. Most notable wines come from regions such as “Agion Oros”, Aegean islands (Chios, Lemnos, Santorini) Cyprus and Monemvasia in the south of Peloponnese. In Monemvasia, or Malvasia we have the most popular wine of the times, the Malvazian wine, exported in Venice, Russia and Spain.
When the Ottomans gain power in 1453 AC, wine production continues. Contrary to their religious beliefs on alcohol, the Ottomans recognise the commercial value of wine production. They start imposing taxes on all stages of vine cultivation and production. In fact, the taxes became so high that vine growers stopped gradually cultivating the vines, resulting in the abandonment of the vineyards. Wine production seized.

Wine routes and wine barrels, Tourism - Itineraries - Greek wine


80 years of destruction…
100 years of recovery…
15 years of distinctions

During the Greek revolution, Turkish conquerors were retracting from the Greek countryside, burning vineyards on their way, to punish Greeks. The areas that were not under the Turkish regime (namely the Eptanisa in the Ionian Sea) were able to maintain the commercial ties with the western world. To add insult to injury, in 1898, Phyloxera hit the Greek vineyards, starting from Macedonia (north Greece) and spreading in all wine producing areas. [ a few vineyards that had sandy soil composition managed to survive Phyloxera].
In 1900, plantation of the new phyloxera-resistant vines started, and we have the first wine companies that produced and bottled the Greek wines. ( Achaea Clauss in Patras)

  • Greece is now back on the world wine map!
    During the 2nd World War, we note an increase in the size of the Greek vineyards that cultivate grapes for wine production. The resulting surplus created a real problem in selling them. The solution comes in the form of local Cooperatives (notably in Samos, in Tyrnavos, in Anhialos) and large winemaking companies that provide sound technical knowledge and up to date equipment. (Tsantalis, Kourtakis, Kambas, Boutaris to name a few).
    In the early 70s, a woman comes in the wine scene to put things in order: Dr. Kourakou-Dragona, a chemist/oenologist, initiates the legislation process to define Appellations in the Greek wine producing areas, in line with the existing European wine laws.
    In the 70’s we see in Greece the first batch of university educated winemakers. They experiment on small land parcels, paying attention more on the procedures and the quality. They plant both indigenous and continental grape varieties, they order state of the art equipment and the results are spectacular: High quality bottled wines that succeed in upgrading the poor image of Greek wines, in both the domestic and international markets.
    In the last 15 years, Greek wines have won many accolades, Gold & Silver medals in International Wine competitions across the globe, numerous articles in international wine press, and the interest of many foreign wine growers that visit Greece every year, to taste the famous indigenous grape varieties.
    Greek wines are featured in world renowned restaurant wine lists and wine shelves, gaining a growing number of dedicated wine drinkers.

From the beginnings of the ancient viticulture and the god of Wine, Dionysos…
to the modern rebirth of the Greek vineyard!

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