Greece is not only well-known for gifting democracy to the world but also for its rich and glorious history. The Mediterranean country has been a melting pot of cultures since the ancient times, and fermenting wines constituted a significant part of the nation’s colorful legacy. According to Greek legends, it was Dionysus-the god of grape-harvest and the vine-who first distilled wine from grapes.
Oenology (the technique of wine making and wines) and Greek wines are as primordial as the Parthenon and Grecian temples. Archaeologists have unearthed and discovered artifacts which prove that winemaking was extremely popular even 6 millenniums back. The Holy Roman Empire, during the medieval period, regarded wine making as highly venerable, exporting the produce to neighboring countries.
Nowadays, Greek vintners are doing their best to revive the wines of yore by exploiting latest fermentation technology for processing nearly 300 native grape varieties. The Greek climes also contribute to the thriving of almost innumerable varieties of wine-producing grapes species. The following topnotch Greek wines can give most of the globally-renowned wine brands a run for their money.
Avaton is one of the most popular Greek wines distilled by Gerovassiliou. The wine is fermented using three distinct red grape varieties-Mavrotragano, Mavroudi, and Limnio-cultivated in Epanomi; a GI designated zone. The Limnio variety has been cultivated since the 5th century BC in the Greek island of Limnios.
The must from the grapes is fermented in oak tanks procured from France’s Burgundy region. The fermented extract, thereafter sits and matures in oak barrels imported from France. The burgundy color becomes distinguishable as you pour the wine into a long-stemmed glass. The flavors of Avaton are a balanced medley of cacao, coffee, raisins, and raspberries. Savor the Avaton with sides of red meat sautéed in peppery sauces.
Ovilos is a white wine produced by Biblia Chora vinery. Two premium grape varieties, Semillon, and Asyrticus, farmed in Mount Athos slopes, go into fermenting the Ovilos. Following pre-fermentation for a short duration, the grape must undergo ageing in French oak tubs, lending to the wine, its complex variety of flavors.
The color of Ovilos is distinctly bright yellow with a shade of light green. On sniffing the wine, you’ll be deluged with whiffs of citrusy notes and tropical fruits coupled with honey and apricot flavors. The wine can be aged for a period extending up to about 8 years.
Enjoy Ovilos with generous servings of cheesecake, seafood, stuffed turkey or grilled salmon.
Assyrtiko is another sought-after white wine, indigenous to Santorini, a volcanic island, but accessible throughout Greece. This wine is distilled from a grape variety that gives its name to the spirit and thrives in the island’s soil rich in volcanic ash. Aged in oak barrels, the Assyrtiko has a typical salty and bitter finish on the palate.
The acerbic tang is somewhat mellowed by the baked pie-crust, cream, and pineapple finish. You can blend the wine with Malagousia and Sauvignon Blanc varieties for a more full-bodied feel. Enjoy sipping the Assyrtiko with grilled seafood and fresh salads.
Fermented and bottled by Yiannis Paraskevopoulos, the Agiorgitiko is a classic red wine that exudes balanced oak and ripe fruit flavors. The Agiorgitiko grape abounds in Peloponnese’s Nemea region that is famous for its vineyards. This red wine has a archetypal deep pink hue and gives off nuanced aromas of tannins, bitter herbs, nutmeg, blackcurrant, and sweet raspberry.
Relish Agiorgitiko with barbecued lamb, mashed potatoes, and crispy salads.
Moschofilero is another highly admired Greek wine that comes from the Peloponnese’s Mantinia region. A grape variety with the moniker ‘The Chameleon’, growing in the misty mountainous vineyards in Mantinia, is the source of this white wine. The Moschofilero mirrors the exotic flavors of the grape from which it is obtained-spicy, ripe, and delicate.
Wine connoisseurs and aficionados often put the Moschofilero on the same pedestal with Traminer and Riesling, its distinctive Greek character notwithstanding. The white wine has a crisp texture with undertones of sweet lemon and peach.
The Vidiano is one of Greece’s rarest, old-world wines distilled from an equally rare grape variety-the Cretan Vidiano. Vidiano is a grape with a whitish skin and only a limited number of vineyards in Crete grow the variety. This white wine has a lemony green tinge and its flavors remind you of minerals, traces of aromatic herbs, ripe apricots and peach.
Vintners in Crete usually blend the Vidiano grapes with other local varieties for releasing the variety’s intrinsic flavors. Finding a bottle of Vidiano could be quite challenging as the demand overwhelmingly exceeds its limited supply. If you want to make the most of Vidiano, sip the wine with charcoal grilled halibut or salmon or crisply fried prawns.
The grapes used for creating the Xinomavro wine grow in the northwestern Greece region of Naoussa. Xinomavro means acid-black in Greece and the grapes have a blackish red color. The grape must, can be matured in oak barrels and casks for years on end to impart to it the distinctive tannic personality.
The flavors of this red wine release a combination of essences on the palate, including olives, spices, and fruits.
The must from three white grape varieties-Athiri, Aidani and Assyrtiko go into developing the ferment for Vinsanto. These grape varieties flourish in the volcanic isle of Santorini. The wine’s aromas represent whiffs of maraschino cherries, raspberries, dried apricots, and raisins.
If you’re visiting Greece for the first time, then make sure you do sample pints of the Retsina. Tourists regard the Retsina as Greece’s premium wine and the same is fermented conventionally from pure Savatiano grapes. Sap from the Allepo pine tree is infused with the white wine to offer it a nuanced piney, saline finish.
If you want to take advantage of the wine’s natural flavors, drink the same in broad daylight with traditional Greek dishes.
Before we elaborate on the last Greek wine on the list, let us remind you that the spirit has nothing with the Omani capital-Muscat. Muscat of Samos has two distinct varieties-Vin Doux and Samos Anthemis. The Samos Anthemis is an amber colored wine and exudes flavors of light molasses, toffee, and butterscotch.
The Vin Doux has a strong, full-bodied zest, owing to its high alcoholic content.