Viticulture occupied an important place in the economy of the Peloponnese, especially of Messiniasince prehistoric times. The first references to wine and vineyards are found in Homer’s works as well as in the Mycenaean Linear B tablets of the Palace of Nestor.
The tasks before planting, which include the preparation of the field to become leveled and even and clean from unwanted weeds, and propagation - through the selection and piling up of small branches which are chosen out of the strongest and most productive vines, tied up into small bundles (heries) and covered with soil - take place within traditional viticulture.
From late March to mid-April these are taken out of the soil and replanted. Farmers, then, determine the spot for each branch with stakes and dig planting holes, about 0.5 m deep, with the space between the branches from 0.80 to 1 m. The procedure of propagation is also done with the method of ‘katavolades’, the practice of burying under the soil a strong branch from the next vine, as well as with the technique of grafting or ‘centering’ when the vineyard does not bear fruit.
Wine grapes require care and love throughout the year and, in addition, a large number of arduous tasks. One of the first autumn activities is ‘kselakkoma’ (digging up the planting holes), starting shortly after the harvest (late September to mid-October) with the use of a pickaxe. By digging deeply around the vines, farmers cut the small roots so that the rest of the root system can strengthen and, at the same time, the pits can collect rainwater and manure. Another activity is ‘katharos’, i.e., the cleaning of the vines from dry or very weak branches.
In the lowlands, pruning starts in January, while in more mountainous areas pruning takes place in early February. The viticulturist needs to know which buds produce shoots and which branches are appropriate for ‘katavolades’, so that they are not cut. Digging starts immediately after pruning and before the buds develop after mid- February. Spraying with sulfur and copper sulfate starts in March to prevent diseases. ‘Skalos’ or hoeing, and weeding take place in spring. Then,‘haraki’, i.e., the grooving of the trunk in order to produce liquids that preserve the grape, and make grape berries grow larger follows. Before harvest some preparatory work is carried out, which includes repairing the presses, patching the sacs and checking the barrels, and funnels.
Depending on the area, the vine harvest lasts from August to October. The month of September is called ‘Grape Harvester’. Harvestbegins early in the morning at the vineyard. Grapes are cut with the use of a blade or a jackknife, placed into hampers and then packed again in panniers loaded on donkeys in order to go to the pressers. The method of pressing of the grapes (squeezing, milking, ‘moustompati’) differs depending on the area and type of wine. The presses are either wooden and portable or built in a specific area and the pressing of the grapes to produce the must is done by bare foot (stomping) or with the use of special equipment. The must is then placed in barrels, which remain open for 40 days until fermentation is complete. Afterwards, they are sealed with resin or plaster. The first testing of the new wine takes place on the 6th of January (the day of Epiphany, a Christian feast celebration).