GREECE PART II: THE NEXT STEP IN THE WINE CHAIN. THE MYCENAEAN EPOCH


As my research winds its way through the Ancient world of Greece I am finding this wonderful movement from Crete and the Minoans gradually towards Athens over centuries to secure the ancient Greeks we all know from our childhood. That’s how far back this goes. The Greek wine culture has been around for so long it is almost hard to grasp.

In my previous post I spoke of the beginnings of wine culture in Greece; which is pretty much the beginnings of wine culture in general. I worked my way through the Neolithic Era into the Bronze Age speaking of the Minoan Kingdom on the island of Crete. This is where it all began.

The Minoans were so successful in trade of all goods including wine and were such a balanced society (or so I have read) that they were the envy of surrounding cultures that in turn attempted to follow their lead. Some of it worked and some of it didn’t.

It came to a close when volcano eruption devastated the Aegean Sea. The, “Thera Eruption,” as it is known (it also has other names) Destroyed everything around it not only by the sheer mass of the eruption but also the tsunamis and earthquakes it created in the aftermath. I have read of other cultures being affected by this disaster long distance from ground zero. This devastation left the Minoans weak and vulnerable and eventually they were conquered by the mainland Mycenaean culture which is where our next chapter in Greek wine begins.

Troy, Homer, Zeus, Dionysus, festivals, Theater; this is the era we all understand. This is when Homer was telling his tale of Troy. The Mycenaean epoch gave Greece its grip on the world. Where as the Minoans were mercantile and peaceful the Mycenaean’s built their ideals through conquest. They took full advantage of the Minoan vulnerability conquering them and setting up a main city on the coast called Knossos. They were intrigued by the Minoan culture from their Goddess worship to their trading skills (grapes, grains, oil). They then brought these influences to the mainland and spread them across the ancient world.

And they also brought with them wine.

The wine culture of Greece makes its shift. It becomes an industry and sews itself into the religion of the people through a God given to them by a cult in the rural areas.

Just reading about this time in Greece one may get excited; a lot was happening and at a rapid pace. This was the time of Homer and the intrigue of interactions between man and deity. Mount Olympus sat in the distance invoking fascination and fear as the home of Zeus and his children.

The Mycenaean culture began to grow and from 1600 BC to 1150 BC they spread their culture around the ancient world through conquest and migration.

Linking all of this information is a bit difficult not because there is a lack of knowledge but an instead overwhelming amount of it. If I am not careful I may loose my focus and confuse the hell all of us. So let me try to put this in perspective.

In the urban centers of the civilization there was a swell of wine culture. Archeologists have found ancient scripts with references to appellations, vineyards, and merchant sales info as well as references to the God Dionysus. Also Mycenaean cellar notes have been found as far as Sicily and Tuscany.

Outside of the urban environments wine making was moving along steadily with attention to vineyard management as well as techniques in the wine making process itself. There is evidence of people crushing grapes with their feet to the sound of a flute as well as indications of a treading system used to transport amphoras through the facilities and cellars. Although most winemaking was on a small scale there were a few large-scale estates boasting their pedigree.

As far as trade is concerned this is one of the most interesting aspects of ancient Greek wine culture. Mycenaean amphoras have been un-earthed in Egypt, France, Tuscany and Turkey. Although science has not been able to link vines grown in ancient Greece to the verities of today the vines that are flourishing in Italy we know from Roman writings that there was an observance of the quality of Greek wines and there are varieties today in Italy that are believed to be from the Mycenaean civilization such as Greco Di Tufo and Aglianico and probably Fiano.

This is a brief overview of how the exciting idea of wine embedded itself into a culture and spread throughout the world. In my next post I will go back to the urban centers and talk about how wine influenced celebration and how Dionysus came to Athens. Cheers.

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