Greece is one of the oldest wine regions in the world and one of the first wine-producing areas in Europe.
In ancient times, Greece was among the noteworthy producers of wine,with the earliest evidence of producing dating back 6,500 years ago. Greek wine had a high prestige in the Roman Empire and during the Middle Ages, and highly priced wines were exported from Crete, Monemvasia and other Greek ports.
The current situation presents a contrast to Greece’s wine heritage. Modern wines are beginning to emerge in the rest of the world due to their unique value, and they are also setting a trend in the world of wine lovers.
To ensure the origin of the wine, a system of appellations was implemented, creating the Protected Geographical Origin (PGO) and Protected Geographical Identification (PGI), among others. Below are some of the must-taste Greek wines when exploring Greece’s unique flavors.
Probably one of the country’s top wines, it is produced all over Greece but is native to the island of Santorini. A variety that maintains its acidity as it ripens, it results in a lean white wine with lemon flavors and a subtle bitterness and saltiness on the finish. Assyrtiko labeled as Nykteri (nocturnal) are always oaked and offer more pineapple, cream and baked pie-crust notes.
Moschofilero grows in the area of central Peloponnese, and it produces a dry, aromatic white wine offering a crisp character, with flavors of peach and sweet lemon. Aging, the wines develop notes of dried fruits and apricots.
This variety is native to Nemea, a wine region from the Peloponnese, better-known for this grape. Agiorgitiko wines are full-bodied with flavors of sweet raspberry, blackcurrant and nutmeg with subtle bitter herbs and smooth tannins. The rosé wines made with Agiorgitiko have spiced raspberry notes and a brilliant deep pink color.
Growing especially in Macedonia, Malagousia presents a special that results in full-bodied wines, with a balanced acidity and interesting aromas. This white grape variety is a rather recent discovery, brought back to life by a winery in northern Greece.
Xinomavro translates as “sour black” and it is the main grape variety of Macedonia, mainly in the areas of Naousa and Amyndeo. Xinomavro presents a good aging potential and a rich tannic character. It is often compared to Nebbiolo due to is dark cherry and licorice notes.
One of the oldest Cretan white grapes, Vidiano is a rising star among the indigenous varieties of the island. It was nearly extinct until Cretan winemakers understood its potential and worked hard to revive its great complexity. Vidiano produces elegant wines with a variety of white and yellow fruit, citrus fruit and white flowers aromas while remaining robust and full-bodied. Vidiano is one of those varieties that is making a statement in the international world of wine.
Also known as the Saturday grape, Savatiano is the main white variety from the Attica region, with an important resistance to heat. Under cold fermentation, it can offer flavors of green apple and lime. If aged in oak, it is characterized by a more creamy mid-palate. When fermented without cooling, it makes retsina or rustic unresinated wines.
The “black laurel” of Greece is a variety grown mainly in the Peloponnese and Kephalonia. It is normally blended with the Black Corinth currant grape to produce a late harvest dessert wine with a distinct taste of raisins and chocolate, and high tannins. Some producers are blending it with other varieties, producing rich and full-bodied dry red wines.
This sun-dried sweet wine comes from the island of Santorini and is made from three white grape varieties: Assyrtiko, Aidani and Athiri. It is a a wine with aromas of raisin, dried apricot, raspberry and maraschino cherries, which also offers stunning contrasts between sweet and bitter flavors caused by its noticeable tannins, something quite unexpected in a white wine.
Muscat of Samos
Muscat of Samos comes in different fashions, both dry and sweet, always with quite aromatic notes. Among the most popular Samian Muscat wine we count Vin Doux, fortified by 15 percent and with less acidity than other Samian varieties. Another Muscat from Samos is Samos Anthemis, aged in oak for five years, which created an amber color and gives flavors of butterscotch, toffee and light molasses. Finally, Samos Nectar is made from sun-dried grapes and aged for three years in oak. This wine has intense aromas, a darker coffee-like color and presents a lower alcohol level than other Samian dessert wines.
A word on Retsina
The most famous wine tourists expect to taste in Greece is this white one infused with the sap of the Allepo pine tree. Retsina wines have aromas of linseed oil with a subtle piney, saline finish. Currently, young Greek producers are experimenting both with tradition and innovation in order to offer a new generation of Retsina.