There are 300 varieties of grape cultivated by more than 150,000 farmers in Greece. Greece produces some outstanding wines, thanks to its climate – rain doesn’t disrupt the harvesting and the endless sunshine allows for maximum ripening. With a little imagination, the future of the country’s wines could be “rosé” (rosy).
However, when we mention Greek wine, the first thing many tourists think of is drinking cheap house-wine or retsina at a seaside tavern. When you talk about Greek wine “out of Greece”, people many times will only mention “retsina”.
(NOTE: Retsina is a recipe from ancient times: the wine gets its unique flavor from the pine resin used to seal the vessels in which the wine was stored. Since glass bottles had not been invented yet, there needed to be a way to keep the oxygen from spoiling the wine, and thus pine oils were used as a sealant. These oils were successful in keeping the air out but affected the wine’s taste. However, the retsina wine became so popular that even when air-tight barrels eliminated the need for the pine resin, retsina was still produced. You can still buy Retsina in the supermarket but it is not so easy to find it anymore in taverns.)
Today Greece produces high quality wines with modern techniques. Of course the Greek wine industry faces strong competition from wines from South-America, South America and Australia. Additionally, local grapes have no name recognition and many wine producers are small, family-run businesses.
Greece has about 130,000 hectares of vines and produces around 400 million liters a year, about 2,5 percent of production in the European Union. This places the country among the top 15 global producers, fifth in Europe in terms of area and sixth for wine production and makes the wine sector one of the most profitable drink industries for the Greek economy.
Over the past twenty years, the number of Greek wine producers has increased a lot, but the biggest production still remains that of table wine… Nevertheless, we see a big change. In most Greek restaurants in the bigger cities, we now get a Greek wine-list with many excellent choices.
Let’s hope producers look towards further development of organic wines, improvement of marketing and promoting the Greek wines in the local and international markets.
Some of the known names in Greece :
Agiorgitiko: The notable and mostly sought after, grape of Nemea.(Peloponesse) It gives wines with beautiful dark red colour and rich velvety taste.
Kotsifali: Cretan red grape. It gives wines with high alcohol content, soft and spicy.
Mandelaria: rich in color, and also known as Amorgiano. It is mainly cultivated on the islands of Rhodes and Crete.
Mavrodapni : grown mainly in the Peloponnese and Ionian islands, it is often blended with the Corinthian grape variety to produce sweet dessert wines. Most Mavrodafni grapes are used for the production of the highly graded, aged, red sweet wine carrying the same name. (comparable to the Portuguese “Porto wine”)
Xinomavro: the predominant grape variety in the Macedonian region. It has strong ageing potential and can provide rich, full red wines.
Athiri: Athiri is one of the most ancient of Greek grape varieties,cultivated mainly in the Cyclades, the Dodecanese and also in Attica. Athiri grapes have a thin skin and give sweet and fruity juice.
Assyrtiko: This white grape variety was first cultivated on the island of Santorini. It has citrus aromas mixed with an earthy, mineral aftertaste due to the volcanic soil of Santorini. Since about 20 years Assyrtiko has been planted throughout Greece including Macedonia and Attica where it expresses a milder and more fruity character.
Moschofilero : cultivated in the Peloponnese, it derives from an old, local variety and is mainly used for dry white wines. Moschofilero grapes have a gray colored skin and therefore produce a wine that is a blanc de gris
Roditis : As the name implies, Roditis is a rosé colored grape that is very popular in Attica, Macedonia, Thessaly and Peloponnese. It produces the best results when cultivated on mountainous slopes.
Savatiano: The most widely distributed grape in the Greek vineyard. It is cultivated mainly in Attica and the rest of Central Greece. it displays excellent heat resistance and has a fruity aroma Together with Roditis, it is one of the main grapes for the production of retsina.
We hope you will get the opportunity to taste one of those fine Greek wines in Greece or in your country! “Yia-mas!”
Note: Wine goes well with cheese, so do not hesitate to also try one of the excellent Greek cheeses. You can read more about Greek cheese in our blog article.