We all love wine, but what do we know about its history?
Let’s find out what happened to wine in ancient Greece and in the Mediterranean area.
Every time we taste wine should think about how much history is contained in a glass.
Wine is truly a drink that has united, divided, celebrated, countries, peoples and religions. In other words, its history coincides with that of mankind itself.
Who invented wine?
5000 years old winemaking tools have been discovered in Middle East.
The vine plant has existed since prehistoric times. In fact we are talking about a liana, therefore one of the oldest fruit varieties in the world.
But, as we know, the vine without man does not give wine.
So let’s take a little step back in time: Welcome to 6000 BC.
The world, the climate, the civilizations are very different from today. In Asia Minor, there was already a respectable wine production. From here, thanks to the first organized tribes and trade, the history of the vine moves towards the Mediterranean area.
In the Mediterranean basin, numerous civilizations will bring variations to the cultivation and production of wine.
The ancient Egyptians, for example, brought important innovations to cultivation systems. They favored the transition from grapes grown creeping on the ground to the use of the pergola.
Therefore, Egyptians taught the Greeks to prune the vine plants to obtain better yields, lokewse the Greeks perfected and exported the sapling pruning system.
The techniques, in short, will be refined from generation to generation. With the contribution of all the peoples who inhabited the areas suitable for the cultivation of the vine: including Greeks, Etruscans and ancient Romans.
The wine for the ancient Greeks.
Wine in ancient Greece initially found its apotheosis. Enters the social culture, unites the members of the aristocratic classes. It separates social classes even more, it becomes religion, cult and myth.
The winemaking techniques are perfected, the Greek islands become suppliers of the best wine in the Mediterranean. We even get to classifications of quality and origin.
Amphorae of particular colors and shapes are used to identify the origin of the best wine.
In short, a quality production, which gives life to a flourishing trade.
Favored by trade by sea and by the birth of the Greek colonies throughout the Mediterranean.
Wine in Greece is the drink to welcome heroes and guests. Praised by the population in the Komos. This is the great popular dance of excesses where songs of sex and joy unbridled unbridled men and women.
On the contrary, the respectable man used it with extreme moderation in the Symposium.
The greek Symposium
The symposium was a convivial practice during which the diners drank according to the prescriptions of a “symposiarch”.
In short, a sort of “manager” of the banquet. The only one to decide, at the beginning of the same, how much to dilute the wine with water.
Absolutely reserved for adult male citizens of equal rank, the Symposium contained the essence of being civil for the ancient Greeks.
The history of wine in Greece will also have a dedicated God: Dionysus. Or rather, the wine coincides with Dionysus. The God who drinks is, in fact, a physical, palpable God. It dies and rises again every year along with the seasons of nature. Dionysus is unifying, he does not live on the sidelines on Olympus, the sacred mountain home of the gods. This divinity descends among men every year and merges with the human being.
What other poeple used to drink in the rest of the Old world?
Beer was thriving in the rest of the world, for a millennium before. Popular both under the Egyptians, as well as among the tribes of northern Europe.
Will it be, then, Beer against wine? In a certain way, yes.
The two drinks, both preferred to water, also for health reasons, become distinctive of different worlds and cultures. They make the difference between the men of the time.
Thanks to their trade network, the Greeks undertake a large export business of wine throughout the Mediterranean basin. They found strategic ports and cities in Italy. Cities like Cuma, Messina, Crotone, Taranto, Catania, Syracuse, Naples, Reggio Calabria. They are all names of strategic Greek cities founded in Italy, just to mention only the largest ones.
The history of wine in ancient Italy.
Italy, the Enotria, literally, the land of wine, as the Greeks and Carthaginians called it. A volcanic, flourishing territory. A land that even before the expansionist dawn of Rome appears covered with hundreds of native vines.
A territory rich in wine, therefore, although the native populations were somewhat lacking in production skills and techniques.
It was the Greeks who taught the indigenous peoples the refined farming and production techniques. Unaware that this will lead to their own downfall.
In the next article I will tell you the history of wine in ancient Rome. See you soon.