Greek Wine: A Journey Through Time
When a culture anoints a deity as the God of wine and revelry, you know you’re in for the real deal. That’s commitment to the sauce, right there folks. Blotto by order of Dionysus. A Spiritual hangover. Godly merriment. Say what you will about Greece, they know how to party.
With over 4,000 years of continuous cultivation, one can only imagine what vineyards in Greece would look like had the country experienced the Renaissance instead of building mosques. Alas, at least we have baklava, right?
Greek wines have been on an upwardly mobile trajectory for the past few decades, but it’s the last few years that they’ve really come into their own. And boy what an entrance, they’ve made. Greece boasts 77 unique wine grapes. Between regularly hoovering up awards in international competitions and bringing back long lost vine varieties such as Malagousia, Greece is steadily climbing up the ranks. And how could it not?
The Greek landscape and climate are in fact a perfect fit. The rugged terrain and the plains coupled with favorable weather conditions and a steady rain flow mean that the variety and quality are superb. This can’t be overstated enough.
This diversity is manifested through a type of informal denomination according to location. In Greece there are 4 different types of climatic regions. Each climatic region represents a different variety, giving Greek wines an almost unfair edge over their rivals.
The northern Greek zone (including the regions of Epirus, Macedonia and Thrace) and its wet climate gives us the varieties of Malagoussia, Roditis, Assyrtiko, Xinomavro, limnio as well as a few mixes with sauvignons, merlots, syrahs and chardonnays.
The Aegean zone is all about the Assyrtiko, Athiri and Malvasia varieties. The arid climate lends itself to the citrus-y flavors. The volcanic soil of the islands, particularly Santorini gives these wines a distinct aroma. The island of Samos has a long history of cultivating the Muscat variety, while Tinos has been developing new and interesting techniques to offset the rocky terrain. While we don’t profess to be wine connoisseurs, we harbour a soft spot for the wines in the Aegean.
The central zone revolves around Savatiano, Assyrtiko, Begleri, Stavroto, Vradiano and Agiorgitiko varieties. The climate is conducive to the taste of the grapes here. Higher altitudes yield a different flavor. One that encompasses the berries, pepper and hibiscus.
The Southern zone consists of Crete, the Peloponnese and the Ionian islands and offers a stable climate where grapes can thrive. Red wine is prevalent here with the classic Mavrodaphne being the most well-known, among Greeks anyway. Moschofilero and Agiorgitiko as well as Liatko and Robola, are some of the local grapes grown in this region. The Peloponnese has the rose market cornered, while Crete produces some whites, too.
All across the country, the wine making tradition is undergoing a Herculean renaissance (got there in the end). Festivals and wine events such as the Oenorama event in Athens brings together all the wine tribes under one roof. Wine tours and various other tasting events exist in-situ at the wineries, some even going as far as setting up hotels in the estates for a more spherical approach. In the land of Dionysus, do as he would. And do it in style!