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Why all wine lovers should thank the Greeks

· Wine Culture

Did you know that the Greeks brought the art of winemaking to France and Italy more than 2500 years ago?

Indeed, Greek settlers founded colonies in Southern France and Southern Italy where they found fertile lands that were perfect for grape growing.

Bandol, a winemaking area located in Provence, where the Greeks settled 2500 years ago

As today is Greek’s National Day, let us tell you the fascinating story of the people who made the Mediterranean region the craddle of wine culture !

The Phocaeans, wine heroes

In Ancient Greece, the symposia were drinking celebrations combining wine, women, men and music

Phocaea was a Greek colony founded in the 10th century BC in present-day coastal Turkey. Its people were skilled farmers as well as fierce traders.

Amphorae were pottery containers used by the Greeks to transport and ship wine​

As the Greek from Phocaea were looking for new grounds to settle around the Mediterranean area and develop their trade, they landed in the South of France around 600 BC.

Marseille was founded by the Phocaeans and is today the third-largest city in France

As they found there an ideal place to live – sunny, fertile and beautiful – they created the city of Massalia, known today as Marseille. This is where they planted the first vineyards in France.

And the love story began…

Wine, this exotic beverage made with grapes, quickly became popular among the Gauls, the local population and the ancestors of the French people, who were used to drink hydromel (honey wine) and beer.

Hydromel is made with fermented honey and water

However, wine was first the drink of the elite. Its price was high and one needed relationship to obtain it. Only the richest could afford it and drank it during huge banquets.

The Gauls shared the wine in a drinking horn which was passed around the table

Later on, with the Roman invasion of Southern Gaul starting in the 2nd century BC, the wine culture in Gaul dramatically increased, along with the development of viticulture in other parts of the country (Burgundy, Bordeaux, Loire valley and even Paris).

A krater was an ancient Greek vessel used for diluting wine with water

Little by little, wine became the drink of the people. The Gauls, because they drank it pure, were seen as barbaric by the Greeks and the Romans, who used to dilute it with water !

Wine, the holy drink

Dionysos (or Bacchus for the Romans) was the god of wine in ancient Greek religion

In Ancient Greece, Dionysos was the god of wine and ecstasy. As the legend goes, he came back from hell to bring protection to men, flooding the fountains of Greece with his blood, turned into wine.

The myth was certainly an inspiration to build this wine fountain in Italy’s Abruzzo region

Does it remind you of another famous religious story ? Yes, the one from Jesus, who offered his body and blood under the form of bread and wine.

In the Bible, Jesus shared the bread and the wine with the twelve apostles during his last meal

Since 2000 years, wine and Christianism are bounded together. In the Middle-Age, French monks planted vineyards around churches in order to supply the wine needed for the mass.

Mount Athos is a mountain and peninsula in northeastern Greece and home to 1400 monks

In Greece, orthodox monks settled in Mount Athos, known today as the « Holy Mountain », and have been producing grape wine there since the 11th century.

For believers, wine is a gift from God, for others, it is a gift from nature.

Today, we want to say « Ευχαριστούμε » to our Greek friends for sharing it with us !

Founded in 2018 by Matthieu Ventelon, Hedonia is the first institution in China combining professional Wine and Etiquette expertise in the same training offer.

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