Ancient Greek Wine

The climate in Greece was ideal for growing grapes. Wine made from the grapes was the Ancient Greeks’ favourite drink and it was an important part of the culture.

Facts about Ancient Greek Wine

  • Ancient Greeks drank wine with every meal
  • Wine was diluted with water before drinking
  • Men drank wine together at parties called symposiums
  • A shallow drinking cup called a kylix was used to drink wine
  • Wine was mixed with water in a vessel called a krater
  • Wine was made from grapes pressed underfoot
  • Wine was stored in large terracotta jars
  • Ancient Greek doctors used wine as a medicine

Daily Wine

People in Ancient Greece drank wine with every meal.

At breakfast, they ate bread dipped in wine. A thick gruel called kykeon was sometimes made using wine, water, barley and herbs.

Water available for drinking was often unclean and could cause diseases. Mixing water with wine made it safer to drink.

Diluted Wine

Other than at breakfast time, wine was diluted with water to make it less strong. People enjoyed the taste but didn’t want to get drunk. Drunkenness was frowned upon in Greek society.

Stored wine was often quite thick and had to be diluted to make it easier to drink.

Drinking Parties

Wealthy men would often have drinking parties known as symposiums in the evenings. Men friends would be invited over for dinner and then they’d drink wine, talk, discuss politics, listen to music, and play games.

Women were never invited to join in at a symposium.

Drinking Cups

Men drank wine from wide, shallow cups called kylix at symposiums. Ancient Greeks believed that lying down when eating and drinking helped digestion.

Kylix were designed in a way that made it possible to drink from them when lying on your side.

 A picture was often engraved in the bottom of a kylix, and this would be revealed as the wine was drunk.

Mixing Vessels

Wine was mixed with water in a large vessel called a krater. This was shaped like a vase and had handles on each side.

The krater was positioned in the middle of the room at a symposium and servants mixed the wine and water in it. It was very heavy, so the drink was scooped out using a smaller cup or kylix.

One of the men took responsibility for making sure that just the right amount of water was mixed with the wine. This was usually three parts water to one part wine.

Making Wine<

Wine was made by walking on grapes to crush them. The grapes were sometimes placed in large stone containers or they may have simply been crushed on a tiled floor.

Music was sometimes played as servants stomped on the grapes in bare feet to extract the juices.

Ancient Greek people believed that the god Dionysus was the creator of wine. A festival was held in his name each spring when the vines began to sprout leaves.

Wine Storage

Wine was stored in huge terracotta pots. It was sold and transported to other countries in clay pots known as amphorae. These would be sealed with a clay or resin stopper.

A resin from pine trees was sometimes added to the wine as a preservative. It could then be stored for three or four years.

Spices and honey were sometimes added to wine to improve the flavour if it had gone passed its best in storage.

Wine as Medicine

Ancient Greek doctors used wine as a form of medicine. They believed it could be used as an antiseptic on wounds and could cure a fever.

Wine was considered a health tonic, but the dangers of drinking too much were also known.

Greek physician Hippocrates studied the effects of wine on the body by studying poo samples.


Questions and Answers

What did Ancient Greeks dip in wine for breakfast?


True or false: Men and women enjoyed drinking parties known as symposiums.

False. Symposiums were for men only.

What name was given to the type of cup men drank from at symposiums?


What might be added to wine as a preservative?

Pine resin.

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