A drunken god wanders Greece from end to end harvesting wine from varieties lost for ages. Greeks have loved wine since deepest antiquity. They even had a patron god for it, Dionysos.
Some of his favourite varieties of vines are being revived to join the constellation of modern and uniquely Greek wine. In Greece, wine has always been on the table of both the labourer and the lord. Tiredness was banished by a glass from their own vineyards. This same Greek wine, now internationally recognised and in unexpected abundance, is proudly set on the table, whether for an everyday meal or the grandest celebration.
Vineyards throughout Greece
You can visit venerable vineyards and partake of the heady harvest of Greek wine throughout the country, from Florina and the Zagori mountains in Epirus to the hills south of Heraklion on Crete and Limnos in the northeast Aegean.
Meet the small producers and walk the Wine Roads together. The best time to visit is September when you can help bring in the harvest, choosing only the best bunches to ensure a premium vintage.Though the origins of Greek winemaking are lost in the mists of time, singular varieties are still being discovered surviving in a single yard somewhere in an island village on Crete, Santorini or Karpathos.
They have been retrieved, grafted onto other roots, lovingly cared for and have produced wines worth seeking out. Vithiano, Vilana and Moschato Spinas are examples of such varieties that helped place Crete on the winemaking map. They produce magnificent Greek wine full of fruit, jumpy yet sweet-tempered, offering calming sips. Light and crisp or heavy and dry wine that intoxicate and provoke thoughts as full and ripe as their flavour. Wine for traditional celebrations, sweet wine for weddings, sparkling wine for toasts, aged wine for connoisseurs.
Famous Greek Varieties
Many of them have been awarded the prized PDO classification (Protected Designation of Origin), among them Zitsa, Mantineia, Mavrodafne of Kefalonia and Patras, Santorini, Monemvasia-Malvasia, Moschatos of Limnos, Naoussa, Nemea, Paros, Rapsani, Robola etc. On Santorini, you’ll drink splendid wine from volcanic soils while in northern Greece you’ll also be impressed by the long aftertaste of full-bodied red and aromatic white wine from other areas like Drama, Imathia, Kilkis, Florina and Rhodopi.
In the Peloponnese you’ll sample fruity reds from Nemea and crisp whites from Mantineia, in Epirus naturally fizzy and playful Zitsas, on Santorini the flinty Assyrtiko, while for sweet wine you’ll turn to the Moschatos of Limnos and Samos which are ideal after-dinner drinks. Ask for Greek wine by name: Mavrotragano, Xinomavro, Agiorgitiko and Kotsifali for the reds and Athiri, Moschofilero, Savvatiano and Roditis for the whites. Discover wonderful, delightful wine and take the pleasant tipsiness of Greek wine home with you.
And don’t forget to try refreshing retsina, the traditional Greek wine of old, from the Mesogeia area of Attica (near the airport), Viotia and Evia. Though much maligned for what some tourists used to call its resemblance to turpentine, when good it can be the perfect accompaniment to classic Greek foods. Usually made from the Savvatiano grape to which powdered pine resin has been added, it almost disappeared from the Greek table as the wine industry developed in the past two-three decades, but recently it has been enjoying a comeback.