Geography of Wine (Section 1)

Discipline: Semester at Sea Seminars
Instructor: Boyer
Credits: 3
Day: B
Start: 0925
End: 1040
Field Work: Day 1 - Tuesday, 6 October | Greece Download Syllabus

Analysis of physical and cultural forces which shape the production, consumption and great variety
of wine in the world. This complex commodity will be examined through its economic, social,
political and ideological impacts in different parts of the world throughout history, and up to the
present. Particular emphasis will be focused on PLACE as an agent in defining the product, along
with the tangible skills of interpreting wine labels, wine etiquette, and incorporating wine with
food as a part of a healthy lifestyle.

Field Work

Country: Greece
Day: 1 - Tuesday, 6 October

Wine has been an important part of Greek culture for over 4000 years as the numerous archaeological discoveries throughout Greece indicate. The ancient Greeks knew well the nutritional value of wine as it became an inseparable part of their daily regimen, as a component of their medical tradition, and wine even took on hugely important symbolic value with their deities and philosophies.  And those ancestors of the "Western tradition" also realized the important influence of the local ecosystem on the characteristics of wine; what we now refer to as "terroir." They traded their wines throughout the ancient world inside sealed amphorae and even created their own Appellations of Origin…the Greeks were the first do do that, creating the beginnings of the geographic tradition that still defines wine production up to this day. So the ancient Greeks were known for wine; for passing their love and knowledge of wine on to the Romans, who in turn moved wine to the rest of Europe over time; and have continuously produced wines for millennia…but strangely enough, Greece is virtually absent from the modern world wine stage. But change is afoot: In recent years, the Greek wine industry has undergone tremendous improvements with serious investments in modern wine making technology. The new generation of native winemakers is being trained in the best wine schools around the world and their efforts are paying off as Greek wines continue to receive the highest awards in international competitions as well as the recognition they deserve throughout the world. With more than 300 indigenous grape varieties grown there, some of which have been cultivated since ancient times and are still unknown to the rest of the wine-drinking world, Greece is now poised to explode onto the world palette. Many of the world’s best wine critics agree that the distinct flavors that come from these native grape varieties are a strong marketing advantage for the Greek wine industry. Many well-known international grape varieties are also used in Greek wine making. This extensive variety of grapes together with the moderate Greek climate, plentiful sunshine, low average rainfall and soils of moderate fertility combine to provide an excellent environment for the production of high quality wines. Just as it was at the dawn of Western civilization. Let's see what it is all about before the rest of the world finds out. For our field lab, we will be visiting a winery one hour southwest of Athens, inside the rapidly developing AOC region of Nemea in the Peloponnese. Nemea has a 3500 year history of wine production, is currently the largest and most important red wine producing area of the country. It is also famous in ancient times as the place where Hercules completed the first of his 12 labors by slaying the wild “Lion of Nemea,” and since 573 BC was the host of Pan-Hellenic athletic games to honor Zeus  After an assessment of the local terroir, we will tour two different wineries, talk with producers about their product, and do tastings focused on  one of the most famous of the Greek red grapes, Agiorghitiko, as well as several other varieties rarely seen outside of Greece. Given that this region has vineyards that range in elevation from 250m to 850m above sea level, we will get to sample the large variation terroir and the wines produced in them. More specifically, our first stop will be at Palivou Vineyards, a large modern wine-producing facility, where will tour the vineyards and winery, taste some of their white and red wines, and then having lunch inside the winery accompanied with wine pairing and a Q+A with the winemakers. After lunch, we will proceed to Domaine Skouras which is known for their white wines from the AOC of Mantinia. Thus we will experience a range of wine styles. Academic objectives:

  1. Identify unique expression of ‘terroir’ for the region in terms of wine and cuisine; compare/contrast to other regions
  2. Participate in proper wine etiquette, wine sensory evaluation, and wine conversation.
  3. Practical experience in label interpretation, wine/food pairing, and recognizing major elements and stylistic differences in wines presented.
  4. Differentiate between production methods, wine styles, traditions and experimentation between the two wineries.