Greek wine, culture and gastronomy have joined hands for centuries with Wine, having been an important part of Greek culture for over 4000 years as it becomes profound from the numerous archaeological discoveries all over Greece.
A major part in the Greek mythology around God Dionysus ,a god devoted to appreciation of the multi-faceted joy of life. Apart from the nutritional value of wine , which the ancient Greeks knew very well, they decided to render it an inseparable part of their daily regimen.They loved to organize intellectual gatherings called “symposia” where they would eat and talk about philosophical subjects while drinking wine.
So Greek wine history is inevitably associated with the culture, the economy, the religion, the social and everyday life, but also the places where viticulture, wine production and wine consumption developed, from prehistoric times until today that we are talking about Greece’s modern wines and their “regeneration”- “revolution”.
Greek wine history is continuing with the best possible and most modern way, on the same lands that have hosted one of the most historic vineyards of the world for thousands of years now.
Greek Grape Varieties
There are hundreds of Greek grape varieties. This means that Greek wine production is not limited to a few grape varieties, like in other vineyards of the world. However, the Greek vineyard is one of those that not only have many varieties to present, but also very interesting ones. It is also a good host for many international grape varieties as well, starring the classic international ones like Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. Either in single varietal wines, blended amongst them, with other foreign ones or with Greek ones, they give interesting and mainly unique results.
Today, when everyone is looking for the different, Greek native grape varieties are the Greek vineyards real treasure for modern wine lovers of the world, offering unique aromas and tastes, which cannot be found in any other vineyard in the world. Off course among the Greek grape varieties there are excellent ones as well as very rare cases, either as far as quality is concerned, either in terms of quantity. Four of these, two white varieties, Assyrtiko (mainly in Santorini island) and Moschofilero (in Mantinia plateau) and two red ones, Agiorgitiko (of Nemea) and Xinomavro, (in Naoussa and Amynteo) are in the first line and Athiri, Vilana, Kydonitsa, Malagousia, Muscat of Alexandria, Debina, Roditis, Robola, Savatiano (white) and Kotsifali, Limnio, Mavrodafni, Mavrotragano, and Mavroudi (red) follow.
One of the two most important red varieties of the Greek vineyard which we come across mainly in the Peloponnese and mostly in Nemea, but because of its dynamics, gradually in other parts of Greece too. It is a multifunctional variety since, except from the fresh (tank) or barrel red PDO Nemea wines (often with a potential of long aging) gives sweet PDO wines of an according categorization but also very good rose wines, all of them with a rich, vivid and deep color. Their nose and mouth are seductive and captivating. The dry, fresh red Agiorgitiko wines (from a tank) have aromas of fresh red fruits and are characterized by the way they are easily drank and quench one’s thirst, because of their moderate tannins. The ones that have been in a barrel can become highly concentrated and complex, in terms of nose and mouth aromas, tastes and feel. Some find similarities between the wines from a barrel aged Agiorgitiko and a Sangiovese one.
Aidani is a variety of the islands of the Aegean and its wines are characterized by complex, mainly herb aromas and a delicate mouth of moderate acidity as well as alcohol, and medium body. It is rarely vinified on its own, but usually is part of the PDO Santorini wines.
If only one variety of Greece was to be characterized “world-class” it would be Assyrtiko. Originating from the unique island of Santorini on which it thrives, has dominated most of mainland Greece, because of the excellent results it has there. In Santorini, however, with the special climate (coastal vineyards, strong winds, very limited rainfall) and mainly volcanic soil, creates exquisite wines. They retain steel acidity in combination with a quite high alcohol content, a potential of very long aging and complex, distinctive but complex aromas of fruits, citrus fruit and herbs, with a spicy and mainly, incredibly mineral character. It is found on its own or in a blend, in dry and sweet wines (Vinsanto), PDO Santorini and in PDO Monemvasia-Malvasia wine. Wines from Assyrtiko are extremely friendly with food and mature perfectly in a barrel.
A historical and ancient variety of the Aegean Sea, is also cultivated in the mainland of Greece (mainly in the North). It produces very interesting dry wines and is appropriate for the production of very good sparkling wines. Wines made of Athiri have fruity aromas of moderate intensity and an elegant palate, with a refreshing acidity, medium body and moderate alcohol. We come across it on its own or in a blend, in PDO Santorini, PDO Rhodes and PDO Côtes de Meliton.
A variety of mainly Western Peloponnese, with good dynamics, which produces not very heavy wines, rich in alcohol, moderate tannins, medium body and aromas of red fruits, herbs and maybe leather.
Black Mesenikola (r)
Cultivated exclusively in the homonymous region of Central Greece, to a limited extend, but it is responsible for PDO Mesenikola wines, which are characterized by the fact that they are pleasantly drunk.
An almost forgotten variety of the Cretan vineyard which produces round wines which retain their strong aromas (laurel, other herbs and ripe fruit) despite the hot climate in which the variety is cultivated. Wines made of Daphni have medium acidity and alcohol.
We come across it mainly in Epirus (Northern Greece) and it produces dry white wines with a refreshing acidity and a relatively low content of alcohol as well as a small volume, with a characteristic aroma of green apple and semi-sparkling as well as sparkling wines worth mentioning (PDO Zitsa).
A variety which is the trademark of the Cretan vineyard and its wines are the epitome of the Mediterranean wine character: soft tannins, medium to high alcohol and a moderate body, retaining, however, enough acidity, with aromas of moderate intensity which reminds one of leather, flowers and dry fruits. We find it in PDO Peza and PDO Archanes wines.
It is part of PDO Monemvasia-Malvasia sweet wines, “saved” from extinction in the 21st century and produces very good dry wines with an impressive nose with the aroma of quince being its characteristic one, from which it obviously took its name. It is come across and valued for years now for its dynamics, in the area of southeastern Peloponnese.
A North European elegant result in a hot Mediterranean country environment is what the Lagorthi variety ensures for its wines if it is properly cultivated and vinified. We come across it mainly in the North of the Peloponnese and it produces fine and aromatic wines with a crispy acidity and quietly low content of alcohol, appropriate even for some years of aging.
The finesse of this Cretan variety is excellent in the red wines it produces, while its dynamics peaks in dessert wines. Red wines and spices dominate the aromatic dynamics of the dry red wines of this variety, while their color is never too deep, maybe proportionate to their soft tannins, reflecting Liatiko’s resistance to and liking of a warm climate. It produces the PDO Dafnes wine.
Originated from Lemnos, where it is called Kalambaki. We come across it from the ancient times. Outside of Lemnos it is cultivated mainly in Northern Greece and gives wines of medium body and moderate acidity, soft tannins, quietly high alcohol and nose of red fruit aromas, with hints of pepper. However what characterizes the wines of this variety and makes them unique is their finesse.
The preservation and progressive development that this variety of the Greek vineyard has had during the last few years is desirable, since it has enormous dynamics. The intense dark color of its wines, its dense nose, with aromas of dark fruits and spices and their firm but not aggressive tannins, make them rare and give them a real uniqueness and differentiation. We usually come across it in Central Greece.
Although it used to be one of the most rare and unexploited varieties, Malagouzia has become the white variety of Greece’s fashion, at least during the last decade. The main reason is its exceptional aromatic character, both in dry and sweet wines, with hints of peach and intense characters of green pepper, basil and flowers. With a medium body, wines from Malagouzia are not flabby and have moderate alcohol. It is come across in different areas of Greece, after it’s revival in Chalkidiki, while it originates from Central Greece (in the east)
Having spread throughout Greece, this coloring variety which matures completely in very rare cases, has many names, depending on the region: Amorgiano, Vaftra, Koundoura Black, Mandilari etc. For the above reasons, as there are very few single varietal Mandilarias, the variety takes part in blends very often.
A historical, for many reasons, Greek variety, known for the homonymous sweet fortified wines, type Port, in the Peloponnese and the Ionian islands. During the last years it has shown excellent dynamics vinified also for red dry wines, with very good characters and a strong aging potential but it still remains relatively unexplored in this area. We come across it on its own or in a blend, in PDO Mavrodafne of Patras and PDO Mavrodafne of Cephalonia wines.
Very rare but with incredible dynamics variety, it produces dark colored, robust and full-bodied wines of long aging. We come across it on the islands of the Aegean, mainly on Santorini, as well as in Northern Greece but also in the Peloponnese. It is a variety with excellent dynamics of further development.
It produces dark-colored and robust wines but is not widely used apart outside blends, where its use is widespread, throughout Greece.
It is mainly cultivated on the island of Paros and it is the only white variety of Greece that takes part in the production of PDO red wine (PDO Paros), except of course from the homonymous white wine. It also took part in the recently established PDO Monemvassia-Malvasia sweet wine, in the area where it originates from, Laconia, reviving one of the most famous, if not the most famous wine in the world history of wine.
One of the two most important white varieties of the Greek vineyard. It is come across mainly in the Peloponnese (PDO Mantinia) and produces fine, still, sparkling and a few sweet wines, with crispy acidity, strong citrus and rose aroma potential and a spicy finish. So many find in it similar characters with the variety Gewurztraminer, especially in its Alsatian version.
Maybe it is the variety of the wine Vivlinos of ancient Greece. We come across it in a very small area of Central Greece and is considered to have excellent potential for development, for the production of rich red wines with remarkable acidity and medium to full body.
Muscat of Alexandrias (w)
It produces exquisite sweet but also dry aromatic wines with the known “Muscat” character and has perfectly acclimatized itself to the island of Lemnos. (PDO Muscat of Lemnos and PDO Lemnos)
Muscat de Hambourg (r)
A variety that can be both consumed and vinified, it stands out for its good taste and the different wines it produces (red, rose and sweet wines) with relatively low content of alcohol and soft tannins. It is come across mainly in Central Greece.
Muscat white (w)
For many the origin of white Muscat is Greek. Even if that is not true, in Greece, that variety which has so much need of sun, truly finds its home. This way, it produces some of the best sweet white wines in the world, in an incredible quality/price ratio, “Muscat of Patras” “Muscat of Rio Patras” “Samos” and “Muscat of Cephalonia”, all of them PDO but also exquisite dry aromatic wines.
Blended into the PDO Goumenissa wine, it is found in Northern Greece and also produces rose and red wines of carbonic maceration worth mentioning, with the expected aromas.
A Cretan, rare variety which is considered to have excellent exploitation potential and produces lemony wines with a medium body of relatively moderate volume although its profile is still considered unspecified.
It produces the PDO wines of Cephalonia with the same name and is come across on the islands of the Ionian and in Central Greece. Wines from Robola are aromatic with minerality and high in acidity, with aging potential as well, which gives them a character that resembles that of aged Riesling wines.
Probably the most cultivated white variety of Greece, it is found in almost all the mainland and has reddish berries. With proper cultivation and vinification it can produce aromatic, fruity wines with crispy acidity, medium to alcohol and flexibility in combining with food.
A Cretan variety that produces light-colored wines, high in alcohol, the most characteristic of which is the wine “Marouvas”, is similar to Sherry Oloroso.
A historical and largely cultivated variety of Greece, mainly Central Greece, connected to the production of Retsina. Through modern vinification it produces relatively full bodied wines ideal for food pairing, with usually discrete aromas of fruit and herbs.
A variety-revelation, of the Cretan vineyard, with excellent growth potential, whose dominant aroma is that of apricot and peach. Its wines have quite enough alcohol and a refreshing acidity which wisely balances the alcohol, offering a quite full palate. Although developing, its utilization is expected to be rapid.
The white variety which historically characterizes, the vineyard of Crete. It is extensively planted in certain areas of the island, where properly cultivated and unified, it can produce wines with a refreshing acidity, moderate alcohol, medium body and a characteristic jasmine aroma with citrus fruit in the background.
One of the two most important varieties used to produce red wines in Greece, it found mainly in Northern but also in Central Greece and can produce long-aging wines and in good harvests, even world class ones. Red Xinomavro wines (because the variety is versatile and is appropriate also for the production of white, rose and sparkling wines) are not very dark in color, are high in acidity, tannins and alcohol and have a medium body and a distinct aromatic character (strawberry, currants, tomato, olive paste, spices etc.) Many think Xinomavro is similar to the variety Nebbiolo. However, it is affected by the harvest and it is not the easiest variety as far as viticulture is concerned. It can be found on its own or in a blend in PDO Naoussa, PDO Amynteo, PDO Goumenissa and PDO Rapsani red wines, as well as in dry still and sparkling wines of Amynteo (PDO Amynteo).