Greece: The Grapes & Wisdom of Antiquity

A few months ago, on a quiet afternoon, I was pondering and internally agonizing over the inconceivably dysfunctional and degenerate reality we found ourselves living in. Ignorance, arrogance, vulgarity and good, old-fashioned stupidity have unapologetically invaded our daily lives. Did I wonder, why? Obviously, there couldn’t be one simple answer, but one issue kept reentering my mind; could it be the complete disregard for the past, the neglect of basic knowledge passed onto us by the generations before and utter dismissal of humanity’s historical and cultural inheritance. And right then, I remembered a quote by Socrates from my history course in college: “There is only one good; knowledge, and one evil; ignorance”. And then, another one followed, this time by Aristotle: “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all”. These words were written thousands of years ago, yet their validity has remained timeless. That is why the awareness of the past and the cultivation of its wisdom should always be at the foundation of the shaping of the future.

Wine is a great example of antiquity’s heritage from which humanity has greatly benefited. Wine originated in West Asia around 6000 BCE, in modern-day nations of Armenia, Georgia and eastern Turkey. From there, it was soon introduced to the sea-fairing civilizations of Phoenicia and Greece, where it embedded itself deeply into the nations’ cultures. There is archeological evidence suggesting that wine was present in Greece as early as 4000 BCE and has remained an intrinsic part of the Greek culture ever since. There are references in Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey that viticulture was prevalent in Greece by the 8th century BCE. The Greeks even devoted a god to wine, the mighty Dionysus. From the 4th century onwards, Greece’s turbulent history as part of the Byzantine Empire had a detrimental influence on the region’s wine culture, especially its quality.

Starting in the 1960s, we have seen a renaissance of a sort for Greek viticulture. In 1971 an appellation system was implemented to regulate grape farming and the winemaking practices. New domestic and foreign investments have brought about new wineries with young, ambitious winemakers focused on the quality and preservation of tradition. Indigenous grape varieties have been revitalized and brought to their optimal potential. International grapes like Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah were brought in, finding a new home on the sun-drenched slopes of Greek vineyards.

From its mainland to the islands, vines are grown pretty much throughout the entire country. The main regions are: Macedonia, Peloponnese, Crete, Central Greece, Thessaly, Ionian Islands, Aegean Islands, Dodecanese and Epirus.