Ikaria and the Pramnian Wine of antiquity

The wine of Ikaria, the “Pramnian”, as it was called in ancient times, has an age-long history. It was born in the myth and was associated with the adventures and the cult of the god Dionysus on the island. The archeological findings and several place names till this day witness that Dionysian rituals were widespread and particularly popular in the island.

Today the Ikarian wine, outcome of a surviving ancient recipe of storing the wine in clay jars buried in the earth, has acquired formal recognition of its identity and Ikaria is included in the list of the very few places in the world which produce dry wines with naturally high levels of alcohol.

According to Homer, the heroes of the Iliad taste the magic powers of this wine to boost their fury before a battle. They drank “Kykeon” which was a tonic made of Pramnian wine mixed with barley-grits and grated goat-cheese.

Authors in ancient and later literature describe the main features of the wine of Ikaria with almost the same terms: “A wine which is neither sweet or fat, but austere and hard”. In particular:

-“The Pramnian, as they say, is fat and strengthening and it’s not suitable for quenching thirst, but rather for alleviating satiety.” (Eustathius)
-“…according to Frynichos, neither greasy or sweet, but Pramnian.” (Diogenes Laertius)
-“and this wine is a kind of wine which is neither sweet nor fat, but dry and hard and of exceeding strength…” (Athenaios)
-“…it’s a praiseworthy, although hard, wine…” (Hesychius)
-“… the wine of the Ikarians is strong and they always mix it with water.” (Georgirenes)
-“…in Ikaria they make a wine which they call ‘unmixed’ and it is hard and very strong.” (Stamatiades)

In June 2006 the Greek State attributed to the wine of Ikaria the indication of geographical provenance “Local Wine”. This was the result of a five-year long collective effort undertaken actively by the local authorities of the 1 st and 2 nd degree, as well as by Afianes Wines. The first official document which recognizes theparticularity of the Ikarian vineyard, is the decision of the Minister of Agriculture allowing the cultivation of the “Fokiano’ variety of grapes in Ikaria, issued on January 3, 1970.

The rank of Ikaria amidst the wine-producing areas in the world is expected to rise even more thanks to a number of academic studies which are currently under development. To be more specific, wine scientists today agree that a very important role in the organoleptic properties of wine is claimed by the fungus which are found in different areas. In simpler words, different fungi in the same grapes will produce different wines.

Given this fact, research is being done by academic teams to locate the specific group of micro-organisms which co-operate and attribute to the wine the uniquely unusual property of being able to mature in a concentration of alcohol of above 16 degrees in normal conditions of environment.

And if in the beginning of the 1900s and in the 1920s wine represented 1/3 of the agricultural products of the island (G. Lomvardas, “Ikaria, geographike tes Nesou perigrafe”, and L. Spanos, “Ikariaka Chronika”), wouldn’t it righteously sustain a large portion of the Ikarian economy today?

The Vine Which Is In Icaria

A collection of references about the wine of Ikaria from ancient times until today. A Greek/English edition by AFIANES WINES, Ikaria © 2004. First edition printed in 1.000 copies on paper Modigliani Neve.

  • Publisher: Nikolaos Afianes, Company Ikariakon Meleton, University of the Aegean (Project “Naias”)
  • Research, archives and photography: Christos Malachias
  • Collection and classification of material: Nikos Afianes
  • Text editor: Argyro Fakarou
  • English translation: Angelos Kalokairinos
  • Layout and image processing: Kostis Pinas
  • Printer: Artipos