The Origins and Ancient History of Wine

By Patrick E. McGovern; Stuart J. Fleming et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 16

Palaeoethnobotanical Finds ofVitis from Greece

Jane M. Renfrew


1.

Introduction

The cultivated grape, Vitis vinifera L., is closely related to an aggregate of the wild and feral vine forms which are distributed in the Mediterranean area and northwards into areas of relatively mild climate in central Europe and Western Asia (see Map 16.1). These wild and feral forms belong to the subspecies (ssp.) sylvestris (C.C. Gmelin) Berger within Vitis vinifera, and are considered to be the stock from which the cultivated grape vine was derived.

The sylvestris vines are primarily perennial woody climbers with coiled tendrils, and are thought to be native to the woodlands south and west of the Caspian Sea and extending along the southern shores of the Black Sea and westwards to northern Greece and the southern Balkans. They are also found in Italy, France, Spain, North Africa, and in the Rhine and Danube Valleys of Central Europe.

There are some problems in establishing the exact distribution of the truly wild sylvestris forms, since spontaneous crossing between wild plants and cultivars occurs repeatedly where vineyards are established close to natural stands of the sylvestris forms, and the F1 hybrids are fully fertile like the wild form (see chapters 3 by Olmo and 2 by Zohary, this volume). So the modern distribution of sylvestris may reflect truly wild forms growing in primary habitats, escapes from cultivation, and hybrids between ssp. sylvestris and ssp. vinifera propagated by self-sown seed (Zohary and Hopf 1988:136). Unfortunately, it is not possible to distinguish between their seeds.

In Greece, sylvestris has been growing at least since the Pleistocene. Today, it is found widely distributed, especially in the north in Thrace, eastern and western Macedonia, Epirus, Thessaly, Euboea, and in the Peloponnese (Map 16.2). It occurs in open mixed woodland, on alluvial and poor dry soils, but prefers those soils that are relatively damp. It clambers to great heights (30 m or more) over mature trees of the following species: Cercis siliquastrum, Laurus nobilis, Arbutus unedo and Arbutus andrachne, Olea oleaster, Platanus orientalis, Quercus coccifera, Pistacia

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