When we think of Greece, we often imagine a scorching climate, where powerful and warm wines are produced above all. This does not, however, do justice to the diversity of this extraordinary and promising country with vines dating back 6,500 years.
Greece is full of archaeological discoveries that give us the first indications of a wine culture deeply rooted in Europe. Ulysses, in the famous episode of Cyclops’ blindness, intoxicated the latter with wine to stun him and finally put him to sleep. In Crete, Mycenae, Santorini and Macedonia – among others – ancient wine grapes and wine amphorae have been found. Many places served as homes for Dionysian worship. Facing the god Dionysus, the vine and the wine have found a strong and timeless symbolism. Wine was an important part of religious ceremonies and celebrations. During the banquets, the old sommeliers (the “oinokhóos”) had the great responsibility of making the wine, that is to say the dilution of the wine with water (generally 1 dose of wine for 3 doses of water. ), allowing the maintenance of cheerfulness in moderation throughout the night and highlighting its aromatic characteristics.
In addition, there were wines of protected designation of origin as early as ancient Greece, as well as laws that protected them from coupage. Adding flavors such as spices, honey, herbs, and resin to wine was a critical process in winemaking to stabilize and preserve it. This is also one of the reasons that led to the discovery of retsina, this unique ancient wine produced to this day exclusively in Greece.
In 600 BC. the Phocean colonists founded the colony of Marseilles. They took the vineyard with them and thus spread the cultivation of the vine throughout the south of France, contributing to the dispersal of “vitis vinifera”.
Subsequently, to summarize the history of Greek wine from Roman times until the 1970s, we could say that “The Greeks developed a whole philosophy of life in which wine played a dominant role. is because of the turbulent history of Greece that it took them two millennia to develop two aristocracies: one to produce it and the other to consume it. ” Konstantinos Lazarakis, The wines of Greece, 2018
If the Greek vineyard reached 200,000 hectares before the phylloxera invasion at the end of the 19th century, today it occupies only a total of 70,000 hectares of fragmented vineyards where mainly white wine is produced. The reconstruction of the Greek vineyard began in the 1920s with the action of cooperatives, which however emphasized quantity rather than quality. The boom in tourism in 1960 and later led to the emergence of bulk wines of questionable quality for mass consumption. At this time, Greek wine became synonymous with poor quality retsina (Greek wine = retsina).
It was not until the end of the 1970s that five large family businesses changed the image of wine production in Greece among a more demanding public.
Geographically, Greece is located at the southern tip of the Balkan Peninsula. It is a country occupied by mountains with predominantly calcareous, sandy and clayey soils. It has few rivers and the climate towards the east Mediterranean coast while the inland receives continental influences. Ten million people live on an area of 131,944 square kilometers.
The sea plays a primordial role in the life of the Greeks but also in viticulture. Greece has the longest coastline in the Mediterranean, twice the size of Italy, with an area of 15,000 kilometers. There are 6000 islands and islets, of which only 117 are inhabited.
Some of the oldest varieties in the world are grown in Greece! However, it was not until 1970 that the Greeks began to redefine the potential of indigenous varieties thanks to the efforts of Professor Logothetis of the University of Thessaloniki and oenologist Evangelos Gerovassiliou by cultivating malagouzia at the Porto Carras estate in Chalkidiki.
Today, 90% of varieties grown in Greece are indigenous and only 10% of international varieties, while 300 indigenous varieties have been recorded. In fact, a third of them are grown on just two islands: over 40 local varieties on the Ionian island of Kefalonia and around 30 on the island of Santorini.
Today there are over 700 domains (“Ktimata”)
in the country and a systematic effort is being made to emphasize the discovery of the potential of indigenous grape varieties as expressed