The fact is that ancient Greeks raised viticulture and wine production to an exceptional art using the wine as a drink as well as for medical purposes. The ancient Greeks considering wine as an integral part of their life created myths, legends and even divinities for the wine!
he most famous of these divinities was the God Dionysus. Dionysus, son of Zeus and Semeli was the god of fertility, wine and theatre. Dionysus was always accompanied by the Satyrs (creatures half-man, half-goats) and the Silini (half-man and half-horses respectively), that were frequently depicted in divine company.
This myth has it's own explanation considering that in ancient Greek society, the wine was a product able to reconcile even the gods of Olympus.
The ancient Greeks honored Dionysus by means of feasts with the occasion of some significant event such as the grape harvest and the symposia. The most important festival in honor of Dionysus was the "Anthesteria", celebrated in February. Anthesteria was a festival of a ritual insight and included processions and wine drinking contests in a religious way!
It is very likely that Crete would have influenced contemporary Thira, - the modern island of Santorini - where vines and grapes are depicted on painted pottery.The decipherment of the "Linear B" script confirms that wine was also important in Mycenaean culture (c.1600 -1150 BC). The palace records in Mycenae and Tiryns contain many references to it, including words for wine, vineyard, and, apparently, wine merchant, not to mention allusions to the god Dionysus. Finds of Mycenaean pottery abroad imply that Greeks exported wine to Middle East, Egypt, Sicily, and Southern Italy.
During classical period (5th century BC) due to increase of commercial activity in Aegean Sea, the Black Sea and the Danube as a result of the Athenian domination, Northern Greece's producers, including all the northern Aegean islands, monopolized the wine commerce throughout the known world. Very soon even the colonies began to export their own wine.
It is characteristic that amphorae from Marseilles are found throughout the southern coast of France proving the above fact and showing the future influence of the Greek to French wines.
As we know by ancient Greek literature the best wines during Classical period were produced in the northern and eastern Aegean islands (Thassos, Lesvos, Chios, Samos) in Macedonia, especially in Chalkidiki, and in overall Thrace area.
Other important viticulture areas were the islands of Naxos, Skopelos, and Kos.
The ancient Greek wine was available in the three basic colors; the white, the red, and the black. In taste was available in four categories; the sweet, the honeyed, the ripe, and the soft. Wine was drunk diluted with water and was accompanied by some elegant delicacies such as honey-pies, meat with origan or meat with thyme always depending the time and the purpose of the occasion.
In the medieval times Greek State was the largest empire (the Byzantine Empire) and the viticulture was the work of private individuals, for example the monasteries, the biggest landowners of this period.
The Greek wine was exported throughout the world and the monasteries worked under an oligopoly status. During Byzantine times the best wines came from Chios, Thassos, and Crete. Of equal quality were those from Thrace and Cappadocia. The decline of the Byzantine Empire brought a significant decline in the wine production and commerce.
After the conquest of Greece by the Turks the conditions for the wine production were difficult but the "know how" about viticulture remained to Greeks and Greek wines were always excellent. But these years of the Turkish occupation cut out the Greek wines of its past fame. Thus, other countries, like France had started to promote their wine products.
The foundation of the Modern Greek state found Greek winemakers in an enormous effort to cote the lost years and the results were incredible. The investment, the modern technology used, and the highly educated new generation of wine experts created miracles. Today the wine production in Greece is under constant improvement with new varieties blended with old ones.