With a history almost as old as the country itself, the homeland of Dionysus welcomes you to the magic its vineyards
Greeks have loved wine since antiquity. They even had a patron god for it, Dionysus, and some of his favourite varieties of grape have been revived to join the constellation of modern Greek and international varietals being grown and turned into excellent wines all over the country.
Visit the vineyards
You can visit highly acclaimed wineries all around Greece, from Florina and the Zagori mountains in Epirus to the hills south of Heraklion on Crete and Lemnos in the northeast Aegean.
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, ancient varieties are still being revived, 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 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 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.
Famous Greek varieties
Many grape varieties have been awarded the prized PDO classification, among them Zitsa, Mantineia, Mavrodafne of Kefalonia and Patras, Santorini, Monemvasia-Malvasia, Moschatos of Lemnos, Naoussa, Nemea, Paros, Rapsani, Robola. 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 Lemnos 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. And don’t forget to take a bottle back home with you.
And of course, there’s 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.