Dear friend of Ikaria
Probably you have heard a lot about our Ikarian wine? Indeed it is very special, and it’s history goes back a long time. In my next newsletters, I will about its history, its folklore, its use and I will also share with you some wisdom about the special grape and ways of use.
Already in Ancient Greek times our wine was famous. The earliest source is Homer’s Iliad (8th century BC). He refers to the Ikarian wine as ‘Pramnios Oinos’.
Warriors in ancient times used to drink “Kikeonas”, a beverage made from Pramnios Oinos, goat cheese, barley flour and herbs. They believed that this drink would make them strong and unbeatable.
One of the explanations regarding its name is that the name Pramnios comes from the Ikarian mountain Pramnos where a specific grape variety used to be cultivated: Fokiano. Ikarians still have vineyards in that area.
The characteristics of the Ikarian wine:
- It has a red colour
It has a very high degree of alcohol (can reach up to 18 percent)
It’s dry and strong (not sweet)
It has its own peculiar taste
The surprising and weird thing about the Ikarian wine is the high degree of alcohol. Its average alcohol percentage is 14 but we can easily find wines of 18 percent. This is happening through natural fermentation. Even wine experts are stunned: how is it possible that such a fine wine has such a high percentage of alcohol?
Normally the various yeast species that bring about fermentation - converting the sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide, gradually increasing the proportion of alcohol - die by their sensitivity to alcohol. So when a percentage of 13 has been reached, most of the fungi die. Only a few “die hards” survive. But in Ikaria we have some rare fungi that have adapted to survive in beverages that have up to 18 percent of alcohol.
Most of the Ikarians today produce their own wine; from 50 to 600 liter of organic homemade wine every year. This is only for personal consuming. Compared to old ages, this amount is little to nothing. Have in mind that 70 years ago 1200 liter of wine (!) was the average yearly wine consumption of a family of 7. We can count that from the amount of underground buried “pythoi” or wine barrels that were found in traditional Ikarian households.
Wine used to be one of the most basic elements of traditional Ikarian nutrition. Wine was consumed daily even while working in the fields, Ikarians would drink wine with their snack.
Because of its strength, we mix the wine with water during the months of the year that don't have an “r” in their spelling: in May, June, July and August the sun hits too hard on strong wine in the belly
To be continued in my next newsletter
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