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Although the country has long lived in the shadows of its neighbors’ winemaking, Greece is home to one of the world’s longest-standing and most diverse viticultural scenes. There, wines are produced all over the color and flavor-profile spectrum, crafted from a variety of native and international grapes. Can’t get enough gamay in your life? Dive into the world of vlahiko or negoska. Crave acid-driven white wines? Assyrtiko and athiri promise to be up your alley.
The grapes’ names are likely unfamiliar, but don’t let that intimidate you. The wines produced from Greek varieties offer some of the most delicious and thought-provoking drinking experiences out there. Best of all, their price tags are frequently much more attractive than wines from other countries. This is what you need to know about the country’s wines.
What Is Greek Wine’s History?
Greek wine is produced all over the country, from the mountainous regions of the north to the sunny islands of the Aegean Sea. Wine has been produced in the country for more than 6,500 years, making Greece one of the earliest wine-producing countries. During ancient times, wine trade was one of the country’s most prestigious and important sectors of commerce.
What Are the Major Wine-Producing Regions in Greece?
There are eight major wine producing regions in Greece: the Aegean Islands, Central Greece, Crete, Epirus, the Ionian Islands, Macedonia, Peloponnese and Thessaly. Each of these major regions is home to numerous subregions. Greek wine regions are designated as PDOs (Protected Geographical Origins), PGIs (Protected Geographical Identifications) and Epitrapezios Oinos (table wines), similar to France’s AOP, IGP and Vin de France classifications.
What Are the Main Grape Varieties Used in Greek Wine Production?
The main white grapes in Greek wine production are Assyrtiko, Athiri, Debina, Malagouzia, Moschofilero, Roditis and Savatiano. The main red grapes in Greek wine production are Agiorgitiko, Kotsifali, Limnio, Mandilaria, Mavrodaphne, Negoska and Xinomavro.
How Is Greek Wine Made?
Greek wine ranges across all color, style and flavor-profile spectrums. Red, white, orange and rosé wines are made across Greece, in both still and sparkling format and at various levels of dryness or sweetness. Greece is also known for retsina, a traditional wine flavored with pine resin.
What Does Greek Wine Taste Like?
The flavor profiles of Greek wines vary widely and as with any other country’s wines are highly dependent on the grapes used and the specific regions in which they are grown. Wines crafted in the mountainous areas of northern Greece are frequently rather rustic, whereas sea-tinged whites from the country’s southern islands will have much more saline-driven traits.
Which Foods Should I Pair with Greek Wine?
They say what grows together goes together, and in the Greek wine game, this couldn’t be more true. If hearty meat-based dishes (think moussaka, souvlaki and gyros) are on the menu, opt for a bottle of Greek red. For Mediterranean-inspired mezze (tzatziki, bite-size spanakopita and fresh fish), look to a salty Greek white. For flavor-packed dips and spreads, Greek rosé or orange wine will have your back.
These are nine bottles to try.
Anatolikos Natural Orange Wine (Avdira)
Crafted in the village of Avdira (also known as Abdera) in the ancient area of Thrace, this skin-contact wine is made with assyrtiko and malagouzia grapes. Vinified bone-dry, the wine shows flavors of citrus rind, orange blossoms, cured meats and a touch of honey on the palate, marked by a long and lingering finish.
Domaine Glinavos Vlahiko (Ioannina)
Love Beaujolais? Then this light-bodied, fruit-driven wine is the Greek pick for you. Bright flavors of cherries, cranberries, cedar, cracked pepper and sweet spice weave together on the palate and lead to an acid-driven, refreshing finish. It’s best enjoyed with a slight chill, even more so with Greek-inspired meat and cheese boards.
Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko (Santorini)
For a benchmark bottle of Greek white wine, look no further than this assyrtiko. From one of Santorini’s most renowned producers, this saline-tinged bottle jumps with flavors of freshly squeezed lemon, white flowers and briny sea salt. Sip it with raw-bar favorites for an out-of-this-world treat.
Domaine Zafeirakis Limniona Rosé (Tyrnavos)
In the central-eastern area of Thessaly, the red limniona grape is where it’s at. When it’s vinified into rosé, these charming wines often take on refreshing flavors of peaches, red fruits, blood orange and dried flowers. Domaine Zafeirakis’ bottling is no exception; even better, the estate was the first in its area to become certified organic in 2005.
Gaia Agiorgitiko (Nemea)
Hailing from Greece’s renowned wine-producing region of Nemea, this easy-drinking agiorgitiko jumps with flavors of black cherries, plums, red flowers and vanilla. For a medium-bodied red that promises to please a variety of palates, this is the bottle for you. Gaia also produces wines in Santorini; if you find yourself liking the assyrtikos on this list, you’re bound to like this producer’s expression, too.
Hatzidakis Nykteri (Santorini)
For a deeper dive into the wines of Santorini, check out this bottle of nykteri from Hatzidakis, another of the island’s leading producers. Nykteri indicates that the assyrtiko grapes for the wine were harvested at night, ensuring that freshness and acidity are retained in the fruit. For a more standard expression of the estate’s assyrtiko, try its entry-level bottling.
Kir-Yianni Single-Vineyard “Ramnista” Xinomavro (Naoussa)
In the realm of traditional xinomavro production, this producer is one of the top players. This delicious and renowned wine is produced from organically farmed fruit in the heart of Naoussa. Flavors of spicy red fruits, fresh cut herbs, tomato leaf and dried sage lead to a lingering acid-driven finish. And for those looking for a bold Greek red with an international twist, check out Kir-Yianni’s Paranga cuvée, made from merlot, syrah and xinomavro.
Stilianou Theon Dora (Crete)
For something more obscure, check out this dry white blend from Stilianou. Located just 20 minutes away from the bustling city of Heraklion, this organic blend of Thrapsathiri, Vidiano and Vilana bursts with flavors of citrus, white flowers and almond skin. Theon Dora means “gift of the gods,” and this bottle is simply that.
Tatsis Old Roots Xinomavro (Goumenissa)
Based in the northerly region of Goumenissa, Tatsis is one of the leading pioneers of natural winemaking in the area. This old-vine xinomavro shows a beautiful brick hue in the glass, leading to a palate laden with flavors of sour cherries, tomato leaf, damp earth and used leather. Think of it like nebbiolo with a natural Greek twist.