Mediterranean diet

The Greek diet, with Crete as its most famous paradigm, is the quintessential Mediterranean diet, based mainly on vegetables and olive oil, although so many of its other elements of have also come under scientific scrutiny and have been found to be beneficial to health. Among them: snails, the immense variety of wild greens, Greek honey, specific Greek cheeses made not from cow’s milk but from sheep’s and goat’s milk, wine, tsikoudia (tsipouro), or eau de vie, which is thought to spur metabolism.

The Mediterranean diet, in fact the Greek diet (Cretan diet) ultimately is really about the region’s lifestyle, where meals are not only inherently healthful but also social occasions for family and friends to gather. There is little stress and much joy in eating the way a traditional Greek does. All these things combined make for what is now coined the Mediterranean Diet.

The Greek Diet, and specifically the Cretan Diet, has become synonymous with the Mediterranean Diet, renowned as one of the world’s most healthful. Crete was one of the original places observed in the now famous Seven-Countries Study begun by Dr. Ancel Keys in the late 1950s to document the rate of heart disease among several different populations.

In 1947, the Rockefeller Foundation arrived in Crete to offer humanitarian assistance to the war-ravaged islanders. It documented the islanders’ meager diet, then a subsistence regimen of wild greens, fruits, legumes, bread and barley rusks, little protein and plenty of olive oil. While the Rockefeller Foundation was appalled at what seemed like the diet of utter despair, they were equally surprised to notice that the islanders were uncannily healthy. Under Greek diet (Cretan Diet) there was no malnutrition on Crete after those war-torn years.

At around the same time in Naples, a young cardiologist named Ancel Keys was puzzled at how there wasn’t one cardiac patient in the entire hospital he had served in during the War. Keys, realizing that disease and diet must somehow be related, initiated a study of cardiovascular disease and lifestyle seven very different countries: Italy, Holland, Yugoslavia, Finland, the U.S., Japan and Greece. What he discovered was that while the Cretans consumed an inordinate amount of fat (on a par with the meat-eating Fins), they still had no heart disease. Unlike the Fins, who got most of their fat (saturated) from meat and animal products, the Cretan peasants got most of theirs (unsaturated) from olive oil. The Cretan diet –in fact a great part of Greek diet – in the 1950s consisted of carbohydrates (mainly bread and barley rusks), wild greens (upwards of 80 different varieties), other vegetables, fruits, and olive oil. There was virtually no cheese in the diet as cheese was a commodity to be made and sold; and, there was almost no meat. By the late 1950s, Keys had assessed that the Cretan diet was in fact one of the healthiest in the world.

Unique Viticultural Practices

Winegrowing was first organized in Greece thousands of years ago and has been continuously practiced around the country eversince. As time went by unique viticultural practices were developed according to the peculiarities of Greek vineyards. The following factors played a significant part in their establishment:

  • Cultivation of countless native varieties, a practice not commonly encountered in other countries
  • The existence of isolated but numerous small winegrowing zones on the islands and on the mainland
  • Inaccessible and forbidding terrain which hampers the application of winegrowing practices possible on large expanses of flat terroirs

A number of these unique viticultural practices entail cultivation tasks carried out by hand which vintners still engage in concerning grapes  for vinification. The most common of these tasks are:

  • The picking of the grapes
  • Pruning, especially into a basket (kouloura) on Santorini and goblet shapes
  • Planting on tiered stone terraces

Apart from such ordinary tasks it is not uncommon in 21st-century Greece to encounter other unique winegrowing practices which seem to have traveled down the tunnel of time: a vine dresser pruning back his vines into basketshapes; another one digging into his vineyard’s arid soil with a grub hoe; a mountain vineyard being tilled by means of a horse-drawn plough; or a donkey carrying large, woven baskets overflowing with freshly-picked grapes… And all the while, superb yields of grapes come out of unique and “ancient” terroirs which for better or worse mechanical winegrowing will never access.

Greek Wine and Culture

In the history of humankind, many have been the cultures whose foundations were anchored on winegrowing and winemaking. Even today, a great many people instinctively think that wine equals culture. During prehistoric times, in lands where the climate favored winegrowing, the “birth” of a civilization and its culture would not be far behind and vice versa: Once that culture had sprung forth, its prosperity and welfare would be closely associated with vine and wine. That is no coincidence: Winegrowing presupposes settling in one place and abandoning nomadic pursuits. It can flourish on poor soil, leaving fertile ground to crops and other cultivations. Winemaking necessitates specialized know-how and practices, while its commercial aspect necessitates the existence of transport and expertise on commercial transactions, economy, and shipping, to name but a few. One such culture, the most illustrious one and the one with the longest course in history, has been the Greek culture of wine.


The ancient Greeks discovered wine as nature’s gift and turned it into a work of art. Greek wine and culture grew side by side, becoming timeless treasures which left their indelible stamp on history. And although Christianity, espoused by the Greeks of Byzantium, initially pitted itself against the ancient Greek culture, it eventually came to acknowledge and do more than any other means to promulgate two ancient Greek values: the ancient language and the rich winegrowing heritage of Greece. Over time, the Byzantine culture and Christian Orthodox art became the embodiment of Greece, abounding in symbolism and references alluding to vine and wine. Mosaics, religious icons, monastic scrolls, folklore art and demotic songs, all are keepsakes of that symbolism. The renowned Byzantine wines of the Aegean Sea and of the other areas of Greece became worthy ambassadors of a culture which, for centuries, shone like a beacon upon the West, piercing the darkness enveloping medieval Europe.


Yet, Greek wine and culture were not influential on Greece alone. Those who would come to the country as conquerors, together with the Greek culture, they also adopted or exploited -forcefully or peacefully, Greece’s famous wines, amassing fame and profit for their purposes and furthering their own cultures. The Roman culture, apart from adopting the deity of Dionysus in his new persona as Bacchus, also adopted numerous of the country’s winegrowing and winemaking techniques, together with the much touted wines coming out of the Greek vineyards. As early as medieval times, the Venetians and other European seafaring powers used Greek wines as their main source of revenue on their voyages, while the Ottoman Empire gathered wealth by taxing the renowned Greek wine production, or simply by co-existing with the Christian Greeks who had never lost their “wine” instinct or genes.


Vine and wine are interwoven with the everyday life of several countries’ inhabitants around the world. In Greece, wine in everyday life is an ancient affair, as ancient as time immemorial. Cultivation of the vine as well as wine production and its consumption throughout the ages have been linked to Greece’s everyday life with ties whose origins are lost down the passage of time. The products and the wine stemming from the vine are cultural, social, and nutritional staples of Greeks and Greek life.


In Greece, from prehistoric times to the present, wine in everyday life, as a complement to nutrition, as a part of religion, or as pure pleasure, has always been inextricably intertwined with Greek collective memory and, in all likelihood, has been etched into the Greek DNA.


Greek wine and culture are two concepts inextricably linked to each other. In today’s Greece, Greek wine and culture continue to be as “one”. On the very same soils as their forefathers, the Greek winegrowers and winemakers continue to cultivate their vineyards, bestowing on the world through their new wine culture, the fruit born of the Greek sun and of the Greek land. The new vineyards of Greece are thus the creative products of a people whose vine and wine history is the same as that of its culture!

Wines of Greece returns to Australia in June 2018

By popular demand, Greece ‘s leading wines of Greece are back in Australia from 07 – 25 June with a score of the country ‘s celebrated wines and latest vintages, from famed terroirs and up – and – coming regions. To mark their fourth roadshow in Australia, Greek Master of Wine, Yannis Karakasis MW, will debut the Hellenic ‘s first masterclass in Brisbane, alongside returning visits to Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. This year ‘s line up of trade and consumer events will explore the topics: Greece’s most exciting terroirs – a case of authenticity and individuality, non Greek wines – indigenous varieties and fascinating terroirs, the Greek rose revolution and natural wines of Greece. The demand for Greek wines has incurred a 20 per cent oncrease in sales in Australia over the last four years, according to Hellenic Statistical Authority, with many Greek wines has incurred a 20 per-cent increase in sales in Australia over the last four years, according to the Hellenic Statistical Authority, with many Greek wines now available by the glass in great restaurants around the country. “Only a decate ago, few had heard about assyrtico, Santorini or malagousia”, says Karakasis. “Today these terroirs and varieties are the centre of attention for many wine drinkers in Australia, which is a credit to the work of inspiring Greek winemakers and vignerons”. Wines of Greece will show Australia an extensive range of the country’s diverse wine styles and grape varietals, inclunding Greece ‘s native xinomavro, agiorgitiko and limniona. This year ‘ s tour will also highlight the new generation of Greek viticulture which draws on traditional winemaking techniques, such as minimal intervetion production, biodynamic farmng, and amphora ageing. Greece enjoys one of the most diverse winemaking landscapes in the world, with a range of soil types from limestone in Nemea and Cephallonia, schist in Naoussa and Rapsani, to granite and volcanic soils in the Aegean islands. Greek wines champion a true sence of place – reflecting a diversity of micro – climates and wealth of indogenous varieties – which is helping to cemente Greece ‘s global reputation for producing some of the world ‘s most unique and expressive wines. Consumers will also have the opportunity to taste the wines at four events, the Greek wine extravaganza, Oinofilia at Sydney ‘s Commune on Saturday, 23 June and Melbourne ‘s Collingwood Town Hall on Sunday, 24 June (held by the team behind Pinot Palooza and Game of Rhones), as well as at Georges on Waymouth in Adelaide on Tuesday 19 and Wednesday 20 June. Trade will be invited to sample the selection from visiting vintners at Oinofilia during an exclusive preview, spaces limited. Wines of Greece President Vangelis Argyris says the Wines of Greece team is looking forward to returning to Australia for a fourth time.