The title of the book that the reader is holding, as well as the titles of the individual themes as they are listed in the Table of Contents leave no doubts as to what exactly I am discussing in its pages. Therefore, before I explain the reasons that made me write this “swan song” of mine, I would like to answer those who ask me from which vine-growing region of Greece I originate; which are my childhood and youth experiences that, having completed my degree as a chemist, inspired me to serve the vinicultural economy of our country for all my life, a rather rare specialisation for a woman in the 1950s.
My roots can be found in perhaps the only region of
not blessed by Dionysus. Mani, situated in the south-east edge of the Greece Peloponnese, from where I hail, being rocky, windswept
and dry, was not suitable for growing vines. Neither was I born in its land.
The declaration of the Second World War, and more specifically the attack launched against
Greece in 1940, found me a young child of twelve years at . As a child in the
occupied capital, I did not have the luxury of going on excursions in the
countryside, and as a result, rural life was completely unknown to me. As far
as Dionysus’ gifts were concerned, I only knew raisins, a valuable calorie-rich
fruit in years of deprivation. Athens
It is obvious that no life experience inspired me to choose Oenology as a professional specialisation. In 1952, when I graduated from the School of Physics and Mathematics of the University of Athens and joined the large number of unemployed chemistry graduates, I happened to gain a position at the Wine Institute, one of the research foundations of the then Ministry for Agriculture. During my first years there, I focused on the study of the chemical composition of Greek musts and wines within the framework of a programme run by O.I.V., the international inter-governmental Organisation of Vine and Wine, a committee of which had been responsible for setting the legal limits for certain undesirable constituents of wine in order to protect consumers, as well as establishing international methods for their detection in order to facilitate international trade exchanges. During the same period I wrote and defended my doctoral thesis and I obtained a state scholarship for post-graduate studies on oenological subjects in
A little while later, from the position of the director of the Institute, I found myself representing Greece in the O.I.V., as well as the European Council, in the process of negotiations aiming to broker an international agreement for wines and alcoholic drinksthat was never validated because the EU Six were preparing the first Regulation for the common organisation of a wine market. Naturally, it was a vital necessity that I became familiar with Greek viticultural zones, the history and peculiarities of the wines from each region, so as to be in a position to champion the interests of Greek wine production in the international decision-making forums. In order to come into close contact with the rural population and take advantage of the experiences of the elder inhabitants, I read, before visiting each region, anything that had been written about the vines and the wines of that particular area: folklore and travel literature, traditional songs, ampelografies, archaeological publications etc. In this manner I amassed a rich record concerning pre-industrial Greek viticulture and winemaking, which constituted the ‘yeast’ for compiling in later years a series of recommendations to the relevant national Committee for the recognition and protection of the “appellations of origin” of Greek wines.
Over the years I had the good fortune of visiting within my mission almost all of the viticultural countries of the world, to learn about other ancient cultures and enrich my knowledge of pre-industrial installations, which, in some areas, were protected as part of their cultural heritage.
So when, following a period of intense scientific activity, the time came to retire after 35 years of service, I had the idea of completing all the collected wealth of information and memories with a retrospection to the distant Past: to seek the roots of less well-known ancient Greek wines, to research the technical knowledge of the ancient winemakers based on the surviving records of mainly ancient Greek scholarship and to attempt to interpret through modern scientific knowledge the secrets of their art, which allowed Greek wines to travel along the sea routes as a precious merchandise.
After long years of study, I collected worthwhile material, but I also discovered crucial mistakes made by renown, mainly foreign, scholars, on ancient treatises and translations published during the 20th and 21st century, mistakes that were perpetuated by repetition, resulting in erroneous interpretations and often serious misconceptions.
In the course of several different interdisciplinary symposia as much in
as well as abroad I had the
opportunity to present articles concerning the topics I had studied and to
highlight the relevant mistakes in each case. However, the suggestions that
were made in the proceedings of Greek symposia remained unknown to foreign
scholars, despite the foreign language summaries supplied. For this reason, I
selected twenty topics from these papers to be presented in a Greek, French and
English edition, which I reworked and supplemented with more recent information
and observations. In some of these treatises I even added an epilogue, aiming
to strengthen the main thesis with contemporary examples, which support my
Each chapter is independent of the others so that the reader can pick and choose according to their own interests. I did not overburden the texts with a multitude of explanatory notes, which can be very tiring for the non-experts. On the contrary, the four indexes speak volumes and have been compiled in such a way so as to facilitate, I hope, the easy retrieval of information regarding any of the terms used in the text. As for the visual material, the images have been selected with the main aim of supporting the text.
In the name of our 15-year long friendly collaboration in the course of several interdisciplinary symposia, Y.A. Pikoulas, Professor of Ancient Greek History at the University of Thessaly (Department of History, Archaeology and Social Anthropology), did me the honour of reading the original texts, editing the ancient Greek extracts and checking the notes and the bibliography. I consider it my agreeable duty to express, from this position as well, my deepest gratitude. Of course, any omissions or mistakes are exclusively my responsibility.
To Dr. Maria Relaki, archaeologist and Associate Lecturer in the Open University, UK, who undertook the translation of my texts, I wish to express my warm thanks for our close collaboration in the interpretation of ancient technical terms in a way that was accessible to contemporary readers.
Words are not enough to express my gratitude to the dearest Babis Legas of Foinikas Publications who agreed, in defiance to the “difficult times” of today, to publish the book, of which he personally oversaw the artistic design.
Finally, the warmest thanks are due to all those who contributed each in their own way, to the preparation and publication of the present volume. But I would also like to extend my warmest thanks and appreciation to dear Lilian Tzanetou for her tireless efforts, reliability and the methodical way in which she organised the preparation of the publication.
And with these remarks, I offer to the judgement of the readers this book on the knowledge of the ancients, based on ancient scholarship as I “read” it through the point of view of a chemist and connoisseur of contemporary wine technology.