As old as humanity itself

The origin of the vine is older than human himself. According to paleontologists, vine’s history goes back million years ago. Findings of fossil vines which are estimated to be 60 million years old are considered to be the older scientific proof of the vine’s age. Even before the Iced Age the cultivation of vines was growing in the polar areas, especially in Island, in North Europe but also in North-West Asia. The glaciers considerably reduced its flooring and enforced, in a way, the geographical isolation of many varieties, part of which blossomed into new kinds of vines. As years went by, many varieties of wild vines, spread to warmer zones, especially towards the wider area of northern Caucasus. At this particular area, which is between the Black Sea, Caspian Sea and Mesopotamia, the kind of Ambelos the oenoforos (wine-producing) was born (Lat. Vitis vinifera). The varieties of this kind of vine are cultivated until nowadays.
The first wine residue in a container- according to the latest findings- was found at the prefecture of Henan in China and was aged up to 9.000 years old, while the residue found before that at Hajji Firuz Tepe in Iran was aged up to 7.000 years old and the one before that, found again in the same area, was aged 5.100 years old.
Viticulture is concluded to have its rates at the agriculture revolution and the permanent inauguration of population with the aim of cultivation, which is dating back to 5.000 BC. Some of the first and most known vine growers are considered to be the ancient Persians, the Semitic nations and the Assyrians. Later on the knowledge on the viticulture and the vinification was diffused to the Egyptians, the Phoenician nations, the people of Mikra Asia (the coastline of today’s known Turkey) and the Hellenic territories.
In Greece the foundations of viticulture are dated around the 15th century BC .Viticulture was very quickly spread, achieving in that way an important role for Greek economy. The role that viticulture played in economy of ancient Greece is obvious to the findings of many coins which depict the image of grapes.
The wine culture, which is the consumption of wine and different kinds of social events, has been originated in ancient Greece.
Wine was of great importance in the life of ancient Greece. Its role was so important that Dionysus, who at first was the god of wild greenery, was almost exclusively connected with the blessed wrist of grapes.
In ancient Greece, the celebrations which took place in order to honor Dionysus, such as Linaia and Dionisia, were numerous. Greek wine is being produced over 4.000 years. The oldest wine-press for the production of wine, the Linos, was discovered in Vathipetro in Crete.
Ancient Greeks drank the wine by mixing it with water, usually in ratio of 1:3(one part wine and three parts water). The word “wine” indicates the mixture of wine and water, whereas the term “unadulterated” suggests the pure wine. They had special vessels both for the mixture (craters) as for the freezing of the wine. The drinking of the “unadulterated wine” was considered to be an act of savagery and it was usually preferred to be given to people who were sick or travelers as a restorative. Widespread was also the consumption of wine mixed with honey or even with different kinds of spices. Adding wormwood in the wine was also a well-known method in drinking wine (which is attributed to Hippocrates and is known as “Hippocratious Oenos/wine). Another method which was preferred for drinking wine was by adding resin.
The way wine was produced in the past, was not much different from today’s contemporary practices. It is worth mentioning that until nowadays scripts have been saved written by Theophrastus, which contain valuable information about the ways of cultivation used, as for example that Greeks (compared to Romans) usually cultivated the vine outstretched on the earth, without any propping. This method is still being used in some areas, such as Santorin. Greeks were also aware of the wine’s aging, which they attained by baring earthenware jars, sealed up with plaster and resin. This is probably the way that we have discovered the effects of adding resin. The wine was bottled depending on how long afterwards was to be consumed. The bottling was done in windbags or in sealed amphorae made of clay, smeared with tar (or resin) for perfect waterproofing. On the windbags or the amphorae there were written either with paint or stamp all the components of the sealed wine: where it came from, the year of production, who was the wine-maker and the person who made the bottling.
The trade of Greek wines was spread out around the Mediterranean up to the Iberian Peninsula and the Black Se, and was one of the most important and efficient economic activities of the country. Countries that today are considered to have a great tradition in wine production (Italy, French, Spain) owe much of that reputation to the very first untiring traders. In many towns there were special laws to ensure the quality of the wine produced, but also to work against the competition and imports. The most representative example is that of Thasos’ legislation, according to which ships that came along the island having import wine shall be confiscated.
Greece has the longest history in wine production among the world, as long as the richest heritage. According to many different historical resources we have recorded reports of the names of places which mainly produced wine and of the wines which were produced, that reach almost up to thirty. The “Ismarikos” or “Maronious” , the black, sweet wine which drunk the Cyclops Polyphemus and helped Odysseus to escape, the wine produced in Thira (Santorin) and Crete, in Cyprus and Rhodes, in Pisidia and in Corfu, in Thasos, Lesvos an Chios are some of the wines mentioned in those historical documents.
Romans became for the first time familiar with the wine from the Greek settlers and the aboriginals of the country, known as Etruscans, and also were engaged by them in viniculture. After the collapse of Rome and the immigration of that period, wine-growing met a period of recession. In some areas wine-growing was abandoned for centuries. The clergy and the monks, who needed wine basically for functional reasons, were the ones that helped in a great extend to the maintenance of the wine tradition, such as in French, Spain and the local area of Rhinos in Germany. Even in nowadays some of the greatest and well known French vineyards belong to the monasteries. Back at the age of Carlomagnus and the Middle Ages, the mastery of viniculture blossomed again.
In Byzantium, despite all the historical commotion and the abandon or the prohibition of the worship of Dionysus was an important injury to viniculture, things were not as bad as expected. In Byzantium too, monks played a major, role among other things, on the fact that more and more arable earth was under the possession of the monasteries and the church. The monks in that way were able to erect big, modern for the time wine factories, they had the chance to improve the production techniques and the quality of the wine. Among other things that changed was the mixture of the wine with water which was abandoned for definite. Wine was produced along the whole state of Byzantium, but the most famous wines were still the ones produced in the areas which had taken the names of the places of ancient Greece carrying the same names. A new “star” in Greek wine-production was the wine named “Molvazias” which stayed popular until the 19th century. The name was probably taken after the place Monemvasia, but was basically produced in Crete. During the Turkish domination, no matter the difficulties and more specific the taxation of that period, did not affect much the Greek viniculture. Again a bit favored was considered to be the monastery domain, but also the insular areas, where during the Turkish domination in many occasions the taxation was shorter and looser too.
In the West at the same period, wine production meets a great development which concluded to today’s prosperity. In the 16th century wine production has spread all along Spain and French too, where wine production met a great development (in 1730) and even led to the enactment of laws to constrict the cultivation! This period brought a huge development to fresh techniques, such as the use of glass bottles and the cork (which was established in the 17th century) and the manufacture of the Campaign, which is attributed to the Benedictines monk Perinion. Due to the exploration of sea roads by Spanish and Portuguese explorers, opened new roads; trade helped, as in previous years, in the development of winery (new types were developed as those which were reinforced with brandy or another distillation Porto, Sherry or Madera), while viniculture attempted in South Africa, Australia and the New World along with the installation of the first settlers.
Lastly, referring to the latest Greek history, we should mention that Greek viniculture was almost completely destroyed during the revolution of 1821(against Turkeys), but immediately after the war very quickly the arable areas were restored and actually raised in length. A big part of those areas, especially in Peloponnesus, were planted now not with vine for producing wine, but with raisin vineyard. Currant was the main export product and the mainstay of the economy of the new established state, with increasing results until the end of the 19th century. It shall be mentioned that this kind of raisins was meant to be used for the production of stafiditis dry wine for export means, especially in French where as we mentioned before lost a great amount of vinicultures from the vine louse.

During those and the next decades viniculture was on the whole increased and the respective land in the Greek territory increased too, especially by the attachment of Thessaly, Macedonia and Crete. Until the middle of the 20th century a big decrease came along due to vine louse all over Macedonia and also because of the stormy historical circumstances. A very important thing for the development of wine-production in Greece during the time, from the revolution and afterwards, was the fact that the scientific basis for Greek enology were established, for the production of controlled and high quality wine, which escaped from the standards followed until then for the traditional home made wine.