Ancient Greece: Viticultural practices

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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No vine grown today can be confidently traced back to any Ancient Greek variety, although we know the names of 50 or more, some of which were cultivated in Italy in Roman times, and names such as greco, grechetto, and aglianico (i.e. Helleniko) reflect popular traditions of continuity (although dna profiling suggests that these are more romance than reality). Roman writers noted that the yields of Greek varieties were low, although their quality was good. In the 4th century bc, the botanically expert theophrastus was aware of the need to match varieties to soil type and mesoclimate, and recommended propagation by cuttings or suckering. A variety of vine-training regimes was used: often vines were supported by forked props or trained up trees, but a few varieties naturally formed bushes, and sometimes plants were simply left to trail on the ground; training on trees meant climbing up, or using trestles, to pick the grapes. pruning was known to have an important effect on yields and quality, and land leases sometimes specify that the lessors be allowed to oversee it towards the end of a lease, as well as regulating the use of manure as fertilizer.