Wine in ancient Thracian culture
As the inheritors of this ancient land, part of Bessa Valley, we are honored to have the possibility to create our wine, where our ancestors put the basis of their culture, knowledge and great craftsmanship in wine production.
The ancient Thracians had a deep appreciation for wine. Wine played a central role in the every day life of the Thracians. Homer wrote in Odysea about the “wine of the Barbarians” . One of Odysseus‘ first encounters with the “wild” and the Barbarian world was when visiting the Thracian lands. He helped Maron, called “the hero of sweet wine”, defeat the neighboring enemy. As a token of gratitude, Maron gave Odysseus many amphoras of Thracian wine and several vessels for mixing wine, craters made of gold and silver. Odysseus praised the divine aroma and thickness of the liquid. The Greeks called the undiluted wine “wild wine” and no one drank it except the Barbarians – Thracians, Scythians and mythological creatures such as the Centaurs.
Detail from Attic black-figure cup, or kylix, ca. end of 6th century BCE, by the Chiusi Painter depicting satyrs and maenads in a grapevine, harvesting grapes into baskets, Greece
In Thracian mythology, wine was seen as a gift and was believed to have special powers. It was often used as an offering to the Gods and was believed to have the power to bring people closer to the divine. The symbolism attached to the process of winemaking was related to the aspect of mythology, that likely arose from the observed cycle of the process of fermentation, as a metaphor for resurrection.
In addition to its religious and ceremonial use, wine was also an important part of daily life for the ancient Thracians. It was a common beverage during meals and was often served to guests as a sign of hospitality. The Thracians were known for their love of wine and their winemaking skills, and the Thracian Valley, was the the place for wine production, not only because of the skills of the tribes living there, but as well as because of the extraordinary terroir.
Something spectacular, indeed, were the vessels and their usage in the ritualistic and everyday life of the ancient wine makers. We will look into two of them – the rython & the amphora.
The rhyton is a type of ancient vase that is characterized by its distinctive shape and decoration. It was specifically designed for wine-drinking rituals, and it was often used to serve wine during symposia, a social gathering where men would drink, eat, and engage in intellectual conversation.
During the symposia, the rython was filled with wine and passed around among the participants. The guests would drink the wine and make toasts to the Gods and cheer together. The act of drinking from the rython and participating in the symposium was a way to bond with others and to connect with the divine.
Wine was a major part of the ancient Mediterranean economy where the amphora played a crucial role in the storage and transportation of wine. The grapes were harvested and fermented in the fall and wine was stored into the amphoras through the winter until the spring, when it was transported and sold.
The amphoras were often produced in large quantities and used to store and transport the wine from the vineyards to the cities, or to other regions. The shape of the amphora was well crafted for this purpose: the narrow neck and two handles made it easy to pour the wine out and to carry the vase, while the large size and shape of the body allowed it to hold a significant amount of wine.
The majority of ancient amphoras were made of clay, but some were made of metal, glass, or other materials. The clay ones were often stamped with a seal before they were filled with wine. This was used to indicate the origin of the wine, the producer, and, often the quality of the wine, in order to identify and track the wine.
Today, the tradition of wine-making in the Thracian Valley remains a special craft and our experts at Bessa Valley Winery continue the legacy of the ancient wine makers and are able to introduce the extraordinary, award winning Bessa Valley wines’ to the world.