This week Ideal Wine Company wants to delve back into the ancient past of our industry, so what better place to start this historical inquiry than Ancient Greece?
When you think about Classical Greece you might think about myths, philosophy and the fact that it was the basis of our Western civilisation. What we want to talk about today however, is the role and influence of wine in Greek society – and what better place is there to start than Dionysus, the God of Wine.
The son of Zeus, Dionysus was one of the most famous of the Greek Gods, and was thought to have been responsible for inventing wine and for spreading the art of tending grapes. He is also known as the only God to have had a mortal parent.
In reality though, there is only one man however could be considered the grandfather of Greek wine – Theophrastus. A student of Aristotle, he may well have been one of the first people to discuss the health benefits of wine in writing. Theophrastus wrote extensively about vine training, matching soil types with different varieties and even reducing yields to make better quality grapes.
Once upon a wine…
Now that we’ve had a glimpse the rich history of Greek wine we can look further into how it tasted all those years ago. It is reckoned that wine was first produced in Greece sometime around 4000BC. The earliest sources referred to wine as being either ‘sweet’ or ‘dry’ or ‘sour’. It is almost unanimously agreed by historians that not only did wine play a central role in Greek culture but that they also enjoyed a great variety of wine.
The France of the Ancient World
The fact that there is such a diversity of wine within Greece is not surprising in a country with such a diversity in its grapes. Whilst the French are (rightly) proud of their nation’s reputation for wine, it would be no exaggeration to say that in the Ancient world, Greece was to wine what France is today. During the early Roman period, the Greeks added herbs and spices to their wine, which rapidly became well known throughout the ancient world as they introduced grape viticulture to Sicily.
It’s no secret that Greek wines often tend to be difficult to pronounce – even we had to make sure we double checked the spelling of Assyrtiko and Agiorgitiko. This is what perhaps makes them less well known than other more recognisable names.
We at Ideal Wine Company believe that wine enthusiasts shouldn’t be put off by this – the diversity of grapes used to make Greek Wine makes it simply too interesting to ignore.