The ancients also enjoyed Santorini wine

For centuries, the Aegean island of Santorini has been producing renowned wines. Christos Doumas, distinguished professor of archaeology and head of the excavations at the Akrotiri archaeological site, talked to Kathimerini’s Oinochoos magazine about the island’s viticulture and wine production, and the role these activities played in antiquity. We began our interview in Poliochni on the northeastern Aegean island of Lemnos, a proto-urban center dating from the 3rd millenium BC, where a completely new kind of amphora made its appearance. It had a tap just above its narrow base, indicating that the contents were too sensitive to be exposed every time a quantity of it needed to be drawn. The invention of the tap was the ideal solution and allowed sediment to be deposited on the narrow base of the amphora. The liquid that comes to mind, of course, is wine, confirmed by the discovery of grape seeds at a coastal settlement at Aghios Cosmas, Attica and at Skarkos on the island of Ios. A more immediate indication that viticulture was practiced in the Cyclades in the Early Bronze Age is the imprint of a vine leaf on the base of a category of drinking glasses. The leaf could indicate that these were wine glasses. A Cycladic marble figurine, displayed in the Goulandris Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens, holds one of these glasses raised in his hand. Seated on a stool, the figure appears to be toasting his companions’ health. «Obviously the scene is ceremonial and its representation would make no sense unless the drink being consumed had some special significance,» explained Doumas.