Best known for its laidback lifestyle, summers on the beach, and feta cheese, Greece’s bourgeoning wine industry has quietly been making a comeback over the past few decades. While the small Mediterranean country can no doubt take some credit for bringing the joys of wine to Western civilization, Greece has recently found itself in a winemaking renaissance. With a myriad of producers throughout the country combining the ancient varietals of their hometowns with modern winemaking practices, the result is an endless supply of unique Greek grapes that will transport you to the beauty of the Mediterranean with each sip.
There are over 300 indigenous grape varietals produced throughout 34 PDO’s and over 100 PGI appellations, meaning there is always something new to try. Here, we will explore varietals from four of the main regions you cannot miss and the producers that helped pave the way: Crete, Santorini, The Peloponnese, and Northern Greece.
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Wines of Greece: The Regions and Varietals To Check Out Now
Appellations: PDO Dafnes, PDO Candia, PGI Crete,
White Grapes: vidiano, vilana, malvasia
Red Grapes: liatiko, kotsifali, mandilaria
Notable producer to try: Douloufakis Winery
The largest island of Greece is one of the oldest wine producing regions in the world, home to many indigenous varieties and a rugged terrain that’s well-suited to agriculture. It’s wild landscape and southern location in the Mediterranean Sea gives Crete one of the best climates for producing wine. The ancient Minoan heritage runs deep here – and when you taste these wines, you are transported back in time. Specializing in the indigenous Cretan varieties of liatiko and vidiano, Douloufakis Winery produces delicious yet complex wines that are organically grown in the mountains of Dafnes.
Appelation: PDO Santorini
Most important Grape: assyrtiko
Notable Producer to try: Domaine Sigalas
Most famous for its stunning sunsets and striking cliffside landscape, Santorini is a tiny volcanic island that specializes in producing bright, acidic, mineral-driven white wines with tremendous power and vivacity. Grown on a unique sandy soil of volcanic ash, lava rock, and pumice, the wines of Santorini are truly miraculous. Violently strong winds and little-to-no rainfall make Santorini a challenging place to grow vines, but the end result is something truly fantastic. Worthy of aging or drinking fresh, you definitely want to try the wines of Santorini.
Domaine Sigalas is one of the most iconic producers on the island, having pioneered organic farming and introducing modern technology to the region. Try their classic Santorini assyrtiko for a full-bodied, mineral driven wine, or their assyrtiko-monemvasia blend for something a little more aromatic and refreshing.
Appellations: PDO Mantinia, PDO Nemea
Indigenous Grape Varieties: moscofilero, agiorgitiko
Notable producer to try: Domaine Skouras
This large peninsula south of Athens is famous for a variety of Greek essentials: the original Olympic games, King Leonidas of Sparta, and the delicious purple Kalamata Olives, just to name a few. But today, this area is home to some of the finest wines in Greece. Known for both red and white wines, this part of southern Greece is one of the largest wine growing regions in the country.
Covered by a variety of mountains, the best wine grown in the Peloponnese is produced in high altitude vineyards on the eastern side of the region. The appellation of Mantinia is best known for producing highly aromatic white wines of the moscofilero variety, while the neighboring region of Nemea is known for producing complex red wines from the agiorgitiko grape. Many vineyards are grown in the mountains at elevations over 2000 feet.
Domaine Skouras, located in Nemea, has red wine vineyards over 3000 feet, one of the highest in all of Europe. This creates a cooler climate that helps the grapes mature slowly and retain a beautiful fragrance, producing wines with character and complexity.
Appelations: PDO Amyndeon, PDO Naoussa,
Main Grapes grown here: xinomavro, malagousia, sauvignon blanc, assyrtiko, syrah
Notable Producers to try: Alpha Estate, Kir-Yianni
In the high elevation vineyards of Northern Greece, you are wisped away from the classic images of sandy beaches and white washed buildings and surrounded by an endless view of rolling hills covered in lush greenery. Within driving to the country’s second largest city, Thessaloniki, the wine regions of Northern Greece specialize mainly in a the noble variety called xinomavro. Grown in both the regions of Amyndeon and Naoussa, xinomavro can yield a tremendous variety of wine styles. From sparkling and still rose, to lighter fruit forward reds and full-bodied tannic wines, xinomavro is a grape that needs a skilled winemaker to bring out the grapes full potential.
The area of Amyndeon, boasting a more continental climate, produces elegant and polished xinomavro with a beautiful finesse, sometimes similar to a round pinot noir. Alpha Estate is the main producer in this area. Nearby in the region of Naoussa you will find xinomavro that is a little more robust and tannic. Try the reds from Kir Yianni if you are looking for a wine like this. While the reds of the region are definitely noteworthy, the area does produce some amazing whites from both indigenous and international varieties.
We suggest trying them all and deciding for yourself — and better yet, take a trip to Greece to visit these wineries once it’s safe to do so.
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