28 APRIL 2016

Greek Wine

There are few peoples whose history is more intricately connected with wine than the Greeks. From the numerous offerings of wine to Dionysus to the Holy Communion of the Orthodox Church, wine has always occupied a central role not only in religion but also in every aspect Greek life for thousands of years.

Grapes were cultivated for the first time in Greece during the Prehistoric Era and wine was later used by the Minoans and Myceneans as a prized commodity. With the establishment of the polis, the need to further expand and explore becomes a necessity of life; as a result, new varieties of grapes and vines are brought back to Greece and cultivated. The Greek soil proved to be particularly receptive to vine cultivation. As the new beverage spread so did the worship of the patron god of wine, Dionysus. Festivals were established to honor this new god providing the platform for the development of the arts of poetry and drama.

New techniques of wine making and wine tasting were introduced. Over time, drinking wine became ritualistic. The wine trade spread along the Mediterranean and occupied a central role in local economy and everyday life. A characteristic example of the highlighted importance of wine is the symposium, where philosophers like Socrates and Plato discussed major issues of philosophy and life under the mild influence of diluted wine. Even from that early time the varieties of Greek wine were clearly distinguishable from one another with significant differences in taste.

The wines of Halkidiki, a region in the north of Greece, were the more favored varieties of King Philip II of Macedonia and his son Alexander the Great. Aristotle, the teacher of the latter, proved to be an significant source not only of philosophical guidance for the young King but also an inexhaustable source of wine and vineyard knowledge. Alexander recognized the value of wine not only as a valuable stimulant but also as an antiseptic. In the art of the Hellenistic period, vine leaves and grapes repeatedly appear in mosaics and murals further underlining the importance of wine to the successors of Alexander. Shortly after them, the Romans particularly favored the wines of Crete that were exported as far as Pompeii, Lyon and Switzerland.

With the rise of Christianity the role of wine was consolidated. One would expect the new religion, which preached abstinence and sobriety, to abolish wine-drinking altogether. Obviously, this never came to be. Vine cultivation was deemed necessary for the rituals of the new religion and the sweet wine varieties required for the Holy Communion were among the many types of wine that were widely cultivated in the Byzantine Empire.

The Venetians also appreciated the value of wine as a commodity; the wine variety of Malvasia cultivated in Monemvasia, Peloponnese was perhaps the most famous in the Medieval era. Under Ottoman occupation, however, primarily for religious reasons, wine cultivation diminished in popularity yet still survived in Monasteries that produced a numerous varieties for use in religious rituals.

In recent years the cultivation of vines has reacquired its past importance. The combination of ancient varieties with other, more well known European varieties, along with the fertile soil and the mild climate, have resulted in the creation of some of the best wine varieties in the whole world, and we will be more than proud to introduce some of these to you during your trip.

Thousands of traditional wineries are being restored and put back to use. Wine is produced using the expertise and accumulated knowledge of generations, following age-old techniques of wine making. Many of these wineries are open to the public and often organize wine tasting events in an attempt to familiarize people with the new varieties that constitute the bright future of Greek wine. If you are aching to uncover the secrets of Greek wine travel with us – contact us for more information!


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