Ancient Greek Wines

Ancient Greek Wines – A Brief History of Wine in Greece

Few countries of the old world can claim to have a wine culture quite as ancient and influential as that of Greece. Although the origins of Greek wine culture have been lost in the mists of time, there is substantial archaeological evidence to suggest that vines were being cultivated and grapes pressed and processed as long ago as 2,000 BCE, with the earliest discovered wine related artifact being a stone foot press from Crete, dated as being from 1,600 BCE. Quite where the technology and knowledge needed for large scale wine production in Greece came from is a subject of much debate. However, many historians agree that the most likely source was from Phoenician traders, who brought their wine culture across the Aegean sea to Crete. What is not questioned is the fact that by the middle of the second millennium BCE, the Minoan civilization in Southern Greece had developed a sophisticated wine culture, complete with a wide range of instruments and techniques of their own. These Minoan practices and methods had a vast influence on their country's landscape and culture, which can still be detected to this day, with Greece remaining a country with a strong wine identity and plenty of unique and distinctive produce.

The Influence of an Empire

As civilizations around the Greek archipelagos rose and fell, vine cultivation and wine production remained something of a constant source of economical security, with much evidence to suggest that the wine trade continued to support Greek workers through times of difficulty. By the period between 750 – 550 BCE, the Greek city states had been established, and the country was gaining colonies all around the Mediterranean and Black sea, many of which became perfect locations for the growing of grape vines. Italy was by far the most successful of these colonies in regards to wine production, with the Greek colonists so impressed by the climate and terrain, they named the land 'Enotria', or 'land of wines'. Southern France, the Black Sea islands and the Iberian coast were all also strongly influenced by the new Greek Empire, and it could be said that all of these countries (which remain strong wine producing regions to this day) were hugely influenced by the Greeks and the wines they produced there.

Experimentation and Innovation

But what was ancient Greek wine like? Unsurprisingly, it was pretty much unrecognizable to the wines we enjoy today, even showing vast differences to modern Greek wines which descended from them in a fairly unbroken chain. According to ancient written histories and poetic evidence, the Greeks liked to flavor and aromatize their wines with herbs and spices gathered from Asia Minor and elsewhere in their empire. They sweetened the liquid with honey, or made it bitter with seawater. Some wine was drunk young and fresh, other wines were aged in specially made jars. Whilst this unusual flavoring process may be an unthinkable practice today, it demonstrates the ingenuity of the Ancient Greeks, and their desire to experiment with enhancing with what they clearly saw as a very special commodity. Wine was clearly something to be enjoyed, just as it is today, and we owe much to these important innovators in the world of viticulture.

Additional Information on Greek Wines

Greek Wines

The Myth of Dionysus, Greek God of Wine

What is Retsina?