Greek Wines are some of the most underrated and complex wines I have ever tried. In fact, Greece ranks eleventh among wine-producing countries in the world! So if you don’t know much about Greek wines, you should 🙂 If you think back to history class and ancient times, the Greeks even had their own God of wine. All of the great philosophers wrote about Dionysus’s gift and the benefits of wine, such as health and creativity. Today, we aren’t completely sure of the exact date in which winemaking in Greece started. Historians can estimate that the domestication of grapevines was about 8000 B.C.
Greece’s wine regions have various climates and terroir from cold inland, mountainous regions in the north, and islands in the Aegean sea with mediterranean breezes. Overall, Greece has a hot Mediterranean climate. The range in climates and topography allow Greece to produce many different styles of wine. There are over 200 native grape varieties. These grape varieties are well adapted to hot, arid conditions and infertile soils.
Naoussa PDO (Protected Geographical Origin) is located in the Macedonia region in Northern Greece. Here there are vineyards with altitudes up to 400 meters. This region, especially compared to the rest of Greece, is cooler. Wines in this area range from savory red wines to fresh and fruit forward whites. Xinomavro in Naoussa is the most popular grape variety. This grape is often compared to Nebbiolo because it has high levels of tannin and acidity but it typically lacks fresh fruit flavors, and has medium color that quickly fades.
Other varieties grown in Northern Greece are Malagousia, Limnio, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc.
Central Greece produces the largest amount of wine in Greece and has a warmer climate. The most common grapes grown in this region are Assyrtiko, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Athiri. Retsina wine is also extremely popular.
Retsina wine is made using a winemaking process that mimics ancient traditions of when ancient Greeks sealed wines with resin closures. Basically, this stuff is like flavored wine! Sounds kinda crazy, but the tradition goes way back. Today, Retsina accounts for nearly 15% of Greece’s total wine production. Most Retsina wine is made in Attica, a region surrounding Athens. However, this wine can be made anywhere in Greece. The most common grape variety used is Savatiano. This is because is it a relatively neutral grape. Aleppo Pine (tree sap) is added to the grape juice as it ferments. This gives the wine a turpentine aroma and piney flavor. I’ll admit I have not tried this yet, but I’m definitely curious as to if I’d like it!!
Southern Greece has a hot climate and produces fruity red wines, perfumed whites, and rich dessert wines. Nemea is a PDO for red wines made exclusively from the grape, Agiorgitiko. The vineyards are on a range of altitudes, with the best fruit coming from the middle range at about 600 meters above sea level. Lower altitude vineyards produce fruit that create wines that are more jammy and fruity for early consumption. Higher altitude vineyards have higher acidity and less fine tannins, so the grapes are good for rosé production. The prime spot is in the middle and produces deep ruby colored wines with high tannins, medium acidity, rich red fruit and spice flavors.
Santorini is the most well-known Greek island for producing wine. The soil is all volcanic, which creates some interesting, complex wines. Because of intense winds on Santorini, the vines are trained in a method called “basket training”. This system keeps the vines low to the ground and protects the vine and the grapes against the harsh winds.
Assyrtiko is the most popular grape variety on Santorini. It is a white grape that produces a medium to full bodied wine with perfumed romans and flavors of ripe citrus and stone fruit and bright acidity. Assyrtiko is a blending grape and made in a few different styles. I love to pair assyrtiko with light cheeses or acidic salads.
On Santorini, Vinsanto is also an important style of wine produced. This wine is a late harvest dessert style in which the grapes have been sun-dried for up to two weeks! Typically, Vinsanto is made with Assyrtiko or blended with a few other grapes. This wine gives off notes of caramel, dried fruit, vanilla, and espresso. It is definitely an amazing wine to pair with a dessert! See below for an amazing one I recently tried!
Malagousia: A white grape that makes full bodied and aromatic wines with citrus and tropical fruit flavors.
Moschofilero: A grape that has pinkish / red skins, but is mostly made into white wines! It’s super aromatic with some spicy notes.
Muscat Blanc A Petits Grain: A white grape made into the famous sweet and lightly fortified wines.
Liminio: An ancient unique variety that has spicy and earthy notes native to the island of Lemnos.
Mavrodaphne: A major red grape variety that produces sweet, fortified, aged wines in the Peloponnese region.
Most Greek sparkling wines are made from Debina, Xinomavro, Athiri and Moschofilero. Now Assyrtiko and Agiorgitko starting to make more of an influence!
This Gaia estate Agiorgitiko is one of my favorite wines I tried this year!
If you enjoyed this post, please let me know! I always love hear feedback from you all, and want to create blog posts you can learn from 🙂 My recent post, The Best Salad And Wine Pairings for Summer, is a fun food and wine pairing post to check out! Cheers xx.