Gerovassiliou winery
COVER STORY

Greek wine: Historic and Magnificent

READING TIME
As long as it takes to eat a slice of watermelon

With a history almost as old as the country itself, the homeland of Dionysus welcomes you to the magic of Greek vineyards

A merry god wanders Greece from end to end harvesting wine from varieties lost for ages. Greeks have loved wine since 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 labourer and lord, an instant antidote to tiredness and pessimism. This same Greek wine, now internationally recognised and in surprising abundance, is still on tap at the humblest of daily meals, the grandest of celebrations and everything in between.

Vineyards throughout Greece

You can visit highly acclaimed 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 rediscovered, thriving in a solitary backyard somewhere in an island village on Crete, Santorini, Karpathos or the like.

They have been retrieved, grafted onto other roots, lovingly cared for and have produced wines well worth sampling. Vithiano, Vilana and Moschato Spinas are examples of such varieties that have helped put Crete on the winemaking map. They produce magnificent Greek wine, fruity and full of vitality yet soothing and sweet-tempered at the same time. Light and crisp or heavy and dry wine, they all share the ability to inspire thoughts and moments as ripe as the fruit from which they were made. There’s a wine for every special occasion; traditional feasts and festivals, baptisms and weddings. There’s a sparkle in the glasses raised for toasts and confident maturity in those enjoyed by the more discerning connoisseurs.

Gerovassiliou winery

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 they bring on back 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, at its best, it makes the perfect accompaniment to classic Greek dishes. 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 or three decades, but has recently been enjoying a comeback.

Winery in Crete

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