History of Greek Wines

Old Distilling Device

A Look Back at Minoan and Mycenaean Civilizations

Viticulture and wine production constitute a large part of Greek history, culture and civilization, since the recorded history of Greek wine extends to the 7th Century BC. Countless findings of the Minoan and Mycenaean Civilizations age prove that production, consumption and export of wine were growing sectors at that time. Dionysus, God of Olympus, appears to spend a lot of time enjoying wine, eating and dancing. Hesiod and Theofrastos have written manuscripts on wine production and viticulture. Homer, in the Iliad, refers to cellars filled with wine shipped to Thrace from Achaia, by sea. Over the years, wine was integrated into many religious ceremonies as it became part of Sacrament.

During Byzantine Empire Age, implementation of viticulture ceased, in contrast with the production and consumption of wine. However, at that time, it was introduced from Western Europe, the use of wooden barrel for the production of barrel aged wines. At the same time, the technique of sun dried grapes disseminated, while Malvasia (Monemvasia, a Venetian fortress on the coast of Laconia-Peloponnese) wine, the most popular of that period, was exported to France, Germany and England until the 18th century. However, during the Fall of Constantinople, in 1453, there was a decline in wine exporting, while the practice of viticulture continued.

Old Grape Crusher Unfortunately, most cultivable lands were destroyed with the departure of the Ottoman Empire, after the Greek revolution in 1821, with a few exceptions, such as that of Crete and certain islands of the Aegean and Ionian Sea. Muscat wines of Samos, famous since ancient times, were introduced to West and East, by the end of the 19th century. Until 1920, when phylloxera destroyed most of the vineyards of the country, nothing remarkable had occurred in the field of viticulture. The same is noticed in the following years, since house wine dominated consumption. Only the international dissemination of Retsina can be noticed this period. Although Retsina was consumed by the Athenians by the end of the 19th century, it gained fame in parallel with the tourism development of 60s. The result was that, for many years since then, Greek wine was, universally, synonymous to Retsina.