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!