Farmers Home Winemaking
When exactly the production started in Greece is not known. There are reports for the production of tsipouro to Mount Athos since 1590, as shown by several Turkish firmans of that era. The production until recently (1988), was done only from growers who took (and still get) permission-for distillation for two days (2 weekdays) in accordance to Law 71/1917. The distillation takes place in copper stills which have capacity of 130 liters. The law gave the possibility to the growers, to distil (without tax) the dregs of the grapes and use the spirit for their own consumption. It also allowed the sale of surplus tsipouro, restrictively within the county or in adjacent counties, always under the control of the financial services. It was forbidden and it is prohibited any standardization of produced by the two-day tsipouro. This used to happen until 1988, before examining what we do today, let’s have a little historical background that will help us to draw correct conclusions and see what to do.
It is no accidental that Tyrnavos was found in the heart of this history of tsipouro. The reasons are eminently historical and start from the period of Ottoman rule. Tyrnavos was characterized as “vakoufi” and belonged immediately to Sir Mecca and not to the local commander, and enjoyed special privileges which helped to assemble a large Christian element in the city and expressed on an economic and spiritual prosperity signaled by all European travellers of the time (Brown (1669), Leake (1806), Pouqueville (1814), etc.) but we’ll use here a testimony of a Turk, a different religion of Evliya Çelebi, who visited Tyrnavos in 1668 and characterized a rich city of infidels full of priests and monks with 18 churches and a small mosque. The important information is that on the way to Larissa measured 37 vineyards.
It was obvious close to a strong Christian element the vines to grow and by them wine and then the tsipouro to be produced. It was at the end of this period that the tsipouro and ouzo were named, from the known incident which is referred above by both Professor Al. Philadelpheus and Ah. Tzartzanos and that happened in the last years of Ottoman rule:
As we do now, so then, except of the wine, they made alcohol from tsipouro (which means the dregs) of the grapes, which were boiled with the appropriate quantity of water or any spoiled wine. The spirit that came from that boiling was called and is still called soumma or cham(i)ko. The chamiko cannot be drunk, because it smells terrible and it is very hot. For that, they distil it for a second time, after adding in anise, salt and a few grilled with onions, similar amount for each.
From all these the tsipouro or raki is produced, which is pleasantly drunk. If now, this tsipouro will be boiled again with some gum and sugar in, so we have the third distillation, then it comes a better quality of alcohol of this kind, it is what they say now ouzo, but the old time it seemed to be characterized as raki double boiled, as anyone can conclude from an old folk song of Tyrnavos:
«The lafia can eat malathro, the mullahs can eat clover and the young guy to drink old wine, raki double boiled» (Folk Song)