The Essentials of Greek Wine

Great wine and great history often go hand in hand; and when it comes to history, no one has quite the edge that Greece does. Greek wines go back as early as 4000 BC when Greece owned the status as the center of the world of wine. Where Greek civilization spread to, the love of wine followed. The relatively small country supplements a millennium of rich culture with a diverse range of regions all with their own indigenous grapes, and each with their own distinct qualities and flavor profiles.

While Greek winemaking has centuries of tradition to explore, it’s today’s shift from an agricultural focus to high-quality practices that have given birth to a Greek wine renaissance. With modern techniques and technologies complementing a proud winemaking tradition, a refined, quality-driven approach has been implemented to produce unique, indigenous varieties.

As Greek wine continues to spread globally, there’s a lot more to come according to Kamal Kouiri, Director of Operations, at Molyvos.

“In the last 6-8 years, Greek wine has reached the next level of excellence. You have this new generation of winemakers that came from a family of growers, and they studied in other parts of the world to learn new techniques and practices. They have then come back to their family, and applied this newfound style to their small, family vineyards. They’ve learned winemaking all over the world, not just Bordeaux and Dijon, so you’re seeing a unique range being applied on different terroir and varietals. This is making the diversity in the wines you can find from Greece HUGE! So it’s always exciting to find a new thing.”

This approach is leading to an exploration of local and unique varietals, which can best demonstrate the diversity of Greek wine. Similarly, increased usage of fermenting wines with native yeasts is providing a clearer picture of the local terroir, giving distinct wines a place and purpose. While many European vineyeards can perhaps get stuck in traditional, time-honored methodologies, winemakers in Greece are proving their dynamic approach, consistently looking for new methods.

This renewed focus on Greek winemaking, complemented with modern methods, has all led to a period of increased global acceptance. While demand used to be driven primarily by wine nerds and tourists, recently demand has risen to drive products across the world, with tourists taking their newfound taste for Greek wine home on their return. With travel to Greece eclipsing pre-pandemic levels, it’s no surprise to see this surge in demand spike month after month.

Enjoying Greek Wine

When it comes to enjoying Greek wine, there’s no one right way – thanks mainly to the diversity of the terroir and the weather conditions across the regions of Greece. However, the most common component is an amazing acidity that lifts the wines, providing a shine and making them very food-friendly.

Many people associate top wine production with cool climates in the world, and they continue to profile Greece as a summer, dry, tourist destination country. An understanding of the geographic range and the resulting diversity in wines is necessary.

This is why the terroir of the vintage is a crucial part of pairing any Greek wines. Northern Greece is wet and mountainous, with places like Macedonia and Thrace getting snow, leading to more textured whites and hearty reds. Meanwhile, the islands are arid and are heavily influenced by proximity to the sea winds, providing an almost saline flavor profile to the wines of the region. Southern Greece has areas with a true hot Mediterranean climate, often resulting in acid whites with softer tannins and riper fruit profiles.

In the Aegean, the Assyrtiko variety has shown a hearty cultivation constitution – making it hard to find a sub-par Assyrtiko. The wines are robust and pair very well with a Grilled Black Sea Bass or Roasted Lamb. It sits as the flagship variety for the white wines of Greece.

In Northern Greece, whites, are leaner and very crisp often fruitier and more gentle making them pair best with white meats, pastas, and salads. The red wines of the region are more powerful, with complex flavors and pair best with red meat on the grill.

Brands to Watch

Alpha Estate, Kir-Yanni, Domaine Skouras, Douloufakis and Siglas are some of the wineries to check out — many with a rich history spanning many generations of winemaking. Assyrtiko retains status as the most well-known indigenous grape of the Mediterranean country but there are other varietals to try, from varying climates and terrors.

Alpha Estate’s range of wines make it a great ambassador for Greece, with wines like Ecosystem Xinomavro Reserve Vielles Vignes Single Block “Barba Yannis”, Malagouzia Single Vineyard “Turtles” and Xinomavro Rose Single Vineyard “Hedgehog” leading the options.

Two Cretan indigenous grape varietals —  Vidiano and Liatiko —  seems primed for a bright future. Vidiano is a crisp white while the Liatiko is Crete’s oldest indigenous red grapes.

While the growth of Greek wine has taken place little by little over these last years, it’s reached a level where serving exclusively Greek wine has grown from a challenge to a strength.

Many of the trends that are happening in the wine world have been a part of Greece’s winemaking ethos for eons. According to Johnny Livanos, of Diamond Wine Importers, “Skin-contact wine, wine made with minimal intervention and indigenous yeasts, low-sulfite wine, and sustainably produced wines are trends we’re seeing take over the wine world. But Greece has been making wine this way for centuries. It’s part of the Greek ethos – a respect for their land and for nature is at the heart of what they do.”

With roots further back in history than almost anyone in the winemaking world, Greece is making waves by incorporating modern technologies and techniques. Alongside a powerful tourist presence, and strong wine education, there’s no reason demand in Greek wines will not continue to rise.

Wines from Greece can be ordered by visiting shop.diamondwineimporters.com.

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