Wines for a real taste of Greece
Photo: Robert Wallace
'Greek wines lift the highest awards'.
It wasn't so long ago that the dull wines produced in Greece and the Greek islands were widely regarded by the wine world, and even by Greek holiday visitors, as just a boring 'sea of plonk'. Things are very different today, with Greek wine labels regularly picking up major awards and the wineries of Greece now ranked alongside the best in the world.
The Greek wine industry has undergone enormous changes since the early '90s with some serious money pumped into modern winemaking technology.
And a new generation of Greek winemakers have graduated from the best wineries in the world and taken their skills back to their native soil.
Their efforts, skill and enthusiasm are paying off as Greek wines begin to lift the highest awards in international competitions and wineries achieve greater recognition and status.
It's not as though the Greeks don't know a thing or two about wine. It's been an important part of Greek culture for more than 4,000 years.
What makes Greek wine unique are not just the climate and soils but the huge number of home grown grape varieties — more than 300 of them — that have been cultivated since ancient times.
The distinct flavours of native Greek grapes have not only impressed the world's top wine critics but also give Greek wines a strong marketing advantage.
This great variety of grapes alongside plentiful summer sunshine, low rainfall and good winemaking soils have combined with modern commercial winemaking techniques to produce high quality wines of great distinction.
Here is a short breakdown of the top mainland wineries of Greece that are leading the way in bringing Greek wine to international notice.
The oldest and finest wine-making region of Greece has undergone extensive replanting and heavy investment in modern technology. Naoussa wine is grown on the slopes of Mount Vermion, a full-bodied red wine from the native Xinomavro grape, while the Alpha Estate in remote Amynteon relies on northern winds and sandy clay soils to produce cutting-edge wines.
Domaine Gerovassiliou is near Thessaloniki where a state-of-the-art winery produces a range of world class wines. On the nearby western cost of Halkidiki are the Domaine Porto Carras vineyards and its distinctive white and red wines while Mount Athos has the Metohi Chomitsa vineyards where world-class wines are grown from indigenous and international grapes.
This region of Attica is one of the oldest winemaking areas of Greece. It is dominated by Boutari's Matsa Estate which regularly wins top prizes for its world-class wines. On the slopes of Mount Gerania is Domaine Evharis whole wines benefit from soils rich in calcium while two estates merged to create Katogi-Strofilia which has done so much to popularise Greek Estate wines. In the foothills of Mount Penteli is Semeli Wines where grapes benefit from the cold winters and cool summer nights.
As old as the hills, the vineyards of the Peloponnese are known for their diversity and complexity. Near Nafplion is the Nemea label where the Agiorghitiko grape produces deep red wines with a velvet texture. Higher up at Mantinia they use the Moschofilero grape for make exciting aromatic white wines and in Patras you find a the savoury dry white Patra and the aromatic dessert white Moschato Patron and Moschato Rio.
Just south of Patras are the Antonopoulos Vineyards on the slopes of the Achaia mountains that regularly win international acclaim. Gaia Wines, founded in 1994 ha grown so popular production now exceeds 100,000 bottles annually while the Mercouri Estate, near ancient Olympia, has revived ancient winemaking traditions for its distinctively branded bottles.
It is not only the mainland that produces fine Greek wines. Many of the holiday islands of Greece have returned to winemaking and wineries are regularly notching up top awards. There are too many to list here but the islands of Rhodes, Crete, Santorini and Kefalonia are leading the way in the resurgence of Greek winemaking.
So next time you are on a Greek island holiday and comfortably settled in a taverna make sure to check out the Greek wines and help yourself to a taste of the real Greece.