Ancient Greek Cuisine - Drink - Wine


See also: Ancient Greece and wine

The Greeks are thought to have made red as well as rosé and white wines. As at the present time, many qualities of production were to be found, from common table wine to vintage qualities. The best wines, in general opinion, came from Thásos, Lesbos and Chios. Cretan wine came to prominence later. A secondary wine made from water and pomace (the residue from squeezed grapes), mixed with lees, was made by country people for their own use. The Greeks sometimes sweetened their wine with honey and made medicinal wines by adding thyme, pennyroyal and other herbs. By the first century, if not before, they were familiar with wine flavoured with pine resin (modern retsina). Aelian also mentions a wine mixed with perfume. Cooked wine was known, as well as a sweet wine from Thásos, similar to port wine.

Wine was generally cut with water. The drinking of akraton or "unmixed wine", though known to be practised by northern barbarians, was thought likely to lead to madness and death. Wine was mixed in a krater, from which the slaves would fill the drinker's kylix with an oinochoe (jugs). Wine was also used as a generic medication, being taken to have medicinal virtue. Aelian mentions that the wine from Heraia in Arcadia rendered men foolish but women fertile; conversely, Achaean wine was thought to induce abortion. Outside of these therapeutic uses, Greek society did not approve of women drinking wine; according to Aelian, a Massalian law prohibited this and restricted women to drinking water. Sparta was the only city where women routinely drank wine.

Wine reserved for local use was kept in skins. That destined for sale was poured into πίθοι pithoi, (large terra cotta jugs). From here they were decanted into amphoras sealed with pitch for retail sale. Vintage wines carried stamps from the producers and/or city magistrates who guaranteed their origin. This is one of the first instances of indicating the geographical or qualitative provenance of a product, and is the basis of the modern appellations d'origine contrôlées certification.

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