Stavroula Kourakou-Dragona
NEMEA. AN HISTORICAL WINELAND
Translated by Alexandra Doumas
Foinikas Publications, 2012

INTRODUCTION

The place name Nemea, which in 1971 was acknowledged as ‘Appellation of Origin of High Quality’ for red wines produced exclusively from the native grape variety Agiorgitiko under legally stipulated conditions, celebrated forty years in the wine firmament in 2011. To mark this anniversary, the Club Hotel Casino Loutraki company, which each year sponsors a high-quality publication dedicated to the region in which it operates and whose cultural wealth it aspires to enhance, took the initiative of sponsoring a book on Nemea, as a birthday present aimed at promoting the cultural heritage and the historicity of the Nemea wineland. In this way it contributes to and supports the efforts of the people involved with vine-growing and wine-making in the region.
          The book entitled Nemea Beloved Land of Zeus and Dionysos, produced by ‘Foinikas Publications’ in 2011, and of which I had the honour of being scientific editor, is divided essentially into three periods: the ancient world, the Middle Ages and the Modern Era. Fourteen distinguished scholars in various disciplines – Greeks and foreigners – contributed texts exploring the history of the region in different periods and its vinicultural tradition. Result of this effort was a volume of fundamental significance for studying the region and the wine it produces, a reference work in the international bibliography for future researchers.
          Because Nemea Beloved Land of Zeus and Dionysos was not available commercially, I decided to write a book dedicated to Nemea, as my own ‘godmother’s gift’, given that in 1971, as Director of the Wine Institute – Research Foundation of the then Ministry of Agriculture –, I was the one who recommended to the Central Committee for the Protection of Wine Production the recognition and protection of the toponym Nemea as ‘Apellation of Origin’, on the basis of my personal historical inquiries and the Institute’s oenological researches.
          Babis Legas of Foinikas Publications accepted my proposal for a separate book and together we submitted it to Antonis Stergiotis, Manager of the Club Hotel Casino Loutraki, who agreed with the idea and graciously granted us permission to publish whatever photographs we considered necessary. I take this opportunity of expressing my warmest thanks to him.
          Thus the present volume was born. It comprises twenty-nine short independent narrative texts of historical, mythological and folklore interest, as well as on vine-growing and wine-making, each one scientifically documented, as the cited references and notes affirm. The title of the book conveys its aims. The texts demonstrate that the region is an historical wineland which has been producing renowned wine without interruption from Antiquity and Byzantine times until the present day, regardless of whether the territory was occupied by Franks, Turks or Venetians in the Middle Ages.
          The term wineland (Gr. οινοπέδιο) derives from the Homeric word oinopedon (ονόπεδον), a plain that is covered not simply by vines – a viticultural region that produces wine for common consumption, raisins and even table grapes – but by vines that give high-quality wine, like that which the Phaeacian nobles drank. Because there in the Odyssey we learn that when Odysseus stood to admire the estate of King Alcinous, whom the gods had endowed with such great wealth, he saw also the ονόπεδον. This word corresponds to the French term terroir, which has passed into international usage. Not, however, in Greece, where the winelands have such deep roots in time, like that of Nemea.
          The book is dedicated to the grape-giving land of Nemea and the Dionysiac spirit of its fruit.

February 2012
St. K.-D.