Greek viticultural history began, so to speak, with a fling of the supreme god Zeus with the beautiful Seméle (daughter of Harmonia, goddess of concord), which led to the birth of Dionysus, the god of wine, joy, grapes, fertility and ecstasy. Ancient Greece, or rather the island of Crete in particular, due to archaeological findings, is considered one of the "cradles of European wine culture". Already in the Mycenaean culture in the 16th century B.C. (Mycenae = northeastern Peloponnese) there was viticulture, as indicated by the amphorae found. Wine was an important part of the drinking culture of everyday life. The Greeks were among the very first to use wine as a valuable trading commodity. Already the poet Homer (8th century B.C.) reports in the Iliad about wine as the domestic drink of the described heroes. Furthermore, the historians Hesiod (~750-680 B.C.), the philosopher Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), the naturalist Theophrastos (370-287 B.C.) and the physician Galen (129-216) dealt with wine and viticulture.
On their colonization campaigns in the Mediterranean, the Greeks brought their vines and viticulture culture to Sicily, to southern Italy known as Oinotria, to southern France and to the Black Sea. Many methods were adopted by the Celts and Romans. The Roman poet Vergil described the variety of grape varieties: "It would be easier to count the grains of sand in Greece than the different grape varieties" In the late Middle Ages, under the rule of Venice, the famous port city of Monemvasia on the Peloponnese peninsula was a widely used transshipment point for sweet wines from the Aegean Sea, which were shipped from here to many European countries. From the 15th to the middle of the 19th century the Ottomans ruled the country, during this time wine lost its importance due to the Muslim prohibition of alcohol, only on most islands it was continued on a relatively small scale. Therefore some knowledge was preserved.
It was not until a long time after independence in 1830 and the suppression of Turkish influence that Greece began to take a professional interest in viticulture as an economic factor again and reactivated numerous vineyards at great expense. Among the pioneers were also some Germans, such as Gustav Clauss, who in 1861 founded the still existing huge Achaia Clauss winery. By the end of the 19th century, the area under vines had doubled, but when phylloxera finally reached Greece in 1898, much was destroyed. The rebuilding was relatively slow, because in the meantime the demand for Greek wine had also decreased very much. Greek viticulture only experienced a renaissance with the end of the military dictatorship in 1974 and Greece's accession to the European Union in 1981.
Despite its strongly maritime character, Greece has a very high proportion of mountains. The soils of limestone, granite and volcanic rock and the predominant Mediterranean climate with short, damp and mild winters and dry and hot summers have a favourable effect on viticulture. The often dry autumns produce mostly fully ripe grapes with relatively little acidity. Most of the wine-growing areas are located near the coast with moderating sea breezes. To give the wines more structure, vineyards are deliberately planted at high altitudes. The vines can build up more extract and reach higher acidity levels due to the extended vegetation cycle. Another effective method of slowing down the ripening process is the deliberate planting of vineyards on northern slopes.
Viticulture is practised, often on a small scale on a few hectares, throughout Greece on the mainland and also on all the larger islands. The appellations(POP, formerly OPAP and OPE) are marked in red:
In 2012, the area under vines was 110,000 hectares, with a downward trend (in 2000 it was 131,000 hectares). Of these, 3.115 million hectolitres of wine were produced (see also under Wine production volumes). There are about 300 different autochthonous grape varieties, which account for 85% of the area. Only in a few cases are foreign varieties allowed in the quality wines. Large quantities of table grapes and raisins are also produced; the most important variety is Korinthiaki. Even today, viticulture is still characterised by original flavours. About 60% are high alcohol white wines. 90% of the wines are dry. The grape variety table 2010 (statistics Kym Anderson):