Greek Wine: the ancient years and the unique grapes
Wine Cellar

Sweet, dry, sour, white or black -equivalent of the red wine today- these all are descriptions found in Ancient Greek texts, revealing the leading role of wine in the greek culture for centuries. In Ancient Greece, the ‘symposia’ were intellectual gatherings where the philosophers would gather around a table, discussing and drinking wine, letting the thoughts and the words flow freely. This kind of events are depicted in the ‘Symposium’ of Plato where Socrates, Alcibiades and Aristophanes were among the attendees, praising Eros, the god of love and desire.

According to the ancient greek mythology, Dionysus was the Olympian god of grape-harvest, wine, winemaking and theater. The festivals dedicated to Dionysus, Dionysia and Lenaia, are considered as the ‘ancestors’ of the theater, but also as crazy celebrations that ended up in drunkenness. However, this perception is just a stereotype. These festivals were cult events centered on the correct consumption of wine, which could ease suffering and bring joy. Both Theophrastus and Hippocrates mentioned also the healthful importance of wine in their writings, and suggested it for treatments with olive oil and saps, for the cure of many health problems, from menstrual cramps to depression.

Nowadays, wine is one example of the modern life intersecting with ancient tradition. It always pairs the family meals or a special occassion and it’s a common moment to say ‘Geia mas’ by clinking our glasses. Produced by white or red grapes and vines in local wineries all over Greece, different types and labels of Greek wines own an exceptional position in the worldwide wine map.

Learn about the top must-taste Greek wines below and pick your favorite one to try it the next time you are travelling in Greece:

Agiorgitiko | Nemea, Peloponnese

Rose wines made by this unique and famous grape ‘Agiorgitiko’ are connected to this blessed region of Peloponnese, Nemea, worldwide known for the labour of Hercules. These wines are full-bodied and spicy, with raspberry notes and a deep pink color.

Nemea is not just a village. Its landscape consists of a sequence of mountains and plateaus with diversity in the subsoil constitution that creates so many microclimates leading to so many different wine types of Agiorgitiko.

Food pairing: spicy dishes, sausages, Greek moussaka

Vineyard in Nemea
Vineyard in Nemea – credits: Ollirg / Shutterstock.com

Asyrtiko | Santorini, Cyclades

It is produced all over Greece but is native to the island of Santorini. It is a full-bodied, white wine with higher acidity as it ripens. The high quality of Asyrtiko grape has resulted in the development of 3 main wine types connected to Santorini island that have the qualitative specifications to ‘compete’ the strong European wine types! These are: 

  • ‘Santorini’ with 75% Asyrtiko grape and a special mineral character due to Santorini’s volcanic ground.
  • ‘Vinsanto’ with at least 50% Assyrtiko grape: a well-known sweet wine since the Middle Ages produced with a technique that dates back to the ancient years. Its name comes from the Venetians and it means ‘Wine from Santorini’. 
  • Nykteri (nocturnal) with 15% alcohol which is the traditional white wine of Santorini

Food pairing: seafood, fish, galaktoboureko, orange pie and more.

Vineyard in Santorini
Vineyard in Santorini – credits: Vasily Mulyukin / Shutterstock.com

 

Moschofilero | Mantineia, Peloponnese

Being an original grey variety, a ‘kapnios’ vine, as it characteristically described in ancient texts of Theofrastus and Aristotelis, is the variety of grape that has introduced the Greek wine internationally, and the one with the most exports. It has two unbeatable benefits: the high acidity and the rich flavor, because of the intense variance of temperature during a summer or winter day in the area of Mantineia.

Food pairing: salads, white cheese, mussels and spaghetti

Xinomavro | Naousa, Central Macedonia

It translates as ‘Sour Black’, it is deep red and is the 4th in the list of the top regional Greek wine varieties. This wine’s high acidity and tannin content makes it an aging wine comparable to Nebbiolo, the Italian worldwide famous red grape wine variety. The cultivation of Xinomavro grapes has changed since 1970 due to the climate and subsoil changes in Macedonia, a fact that has a significant impact on the trade value of this type of wine and has emerged the need of new research and know-how for the development of this special variety.

Food pairing: tomato cooked dishes, mushrooms and cheese

Vidiano | Crete

Crete is an island-region of Greece with long lasting tradition and active presence in the wine production. One of the most important wine grapes is Vidiano, a variety that was in danger of distinction before around 20 years. Nowadays, it has attracted the interest of many winemakers as it stands out for its special characteristics: light yellow color, fruity essence and an oily texture that offers a creamy taste. 

Food pairing: grilled squid (calamari), cuttlefish, apaki

Retsina | Islands, Greece

The Greek white or rose wine that tourists are looking for when they come to Greece! Its name comes from the ancient technique the Ancient Greeks used to follow, to seal the wine by adding pine tree resin (pine tar) (in Greek: Ritini / Retsina), which, as they discovered, gives also a special flavor. Currently, young Greek wine producers are experimenting with tradition and innovation, in order to offer a new generation of Retsina, 

Food pairing: grilled sardine, dolmades, all Greek meze and entrees

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