Sunday, February 7, 2021

Wines of ancient Greece

The oldest known wine fermented from grapes dates back 7000 years to small Neolithic village called Hajji Firuz Tepe in the Zagros Mountains of Iran.

Vines were being cultivated by 2500 BC on Crete and in mainland Greece too. In the Mycenaean and Minoan cultures of the 2nd millennium BC, on the Greek mainland and on Crete respectively, wine remain an elite drink. It is not listed in ration tablets for slave workers or lower-ranking religious officials.

Wine served important religious, social and medical purposes in Greek society. The "feast of the wine" was a festival in Mycenaean Greece celebrating the "month of the new wine. Several festivals were held throughout the year in honor of the God of wine. February's Anthesteria marked the opening of the wine jars from the previous autumn harvest, featuring wine-drinking contests and a procession through Athens carrying wine jars.

In ancient Greece, all men were able to experience the reduced inhibitions, greater relaxation, and enhanced social interactions (including sexual relations) that accompanied wine drinking.

The Greeks established the first great male drinking clubs, called symposia, in which wealthy men came together to converse and consume wine. At symposia, male citizens would gather for dinner, drinking, conversation, music, and entertainment. They would engage in jokes and games, recite poetry, and watch professional musicians and dancers.

Greek women were allowed to participate only as accessories, as musicians, servers, or prostitutes.

Greeks believed that women had a predilection for drunkenness and excess and therefore frowned on female drinking. Upper-class Greek men considered women who did drink barbaric because, unlike men, women did not dilute their wine or use additives such as seawater.

Wine was almost always diluted, usually with water or snow when the wine was to be served cold. The Greeks believed that only barbarians drank unmixed or undiluted wine and that the Spartan king Cleomenes I was once driven insane after drinking wine this way.

In classical Greece wines were drunk young and most were probably vinegary. To counter the acid taste, a variety of methods were employed. Greeks learned that air speeds up the spoiling process. Amphorae had narrow necks to reduce the contact of wine with air, and they were kept tightly stoppered.

Because air could penetrate earthenware surfaces, the Greeks line their amphorae with resin. This preserved wine for use in commerce.

The medicinal use of wine was frequently studied by the Greeks, including Hippocrates, who did extensive research on the topic. He used wine as a cure for fevers, to ease convalescence and as an antiseptic.

The Athenian doctor Mnesitheos (4th century BC), skilled in treatments with wine, made an observation: “Black wine is the most nutritious, white is the most diuretic and the lightest, claret wine is dry and makes for better digestion”.

Aretaeus of Cappadocia (1st century AD) recommends light wines for heart disease and advises against the richer wines.
Wines of ancient Greece

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