The Greeks are known for many things – the Acropolis, democracy and the gyro being just a few. But there is one Greek creation that is too often overlooked. That’s right – Greek wine! With a winemaking history going back at least 4000 years, the Greeks aren’t new to the party. According to Stephen Roussos of R&R Selections, Greek winemaking has been so influential that that hundreds of years ago the Venetians likely took some key Greek winemaking techniques back to Italy. To this day, some of the most unique and delicious wines in the world come from Greece’s diverse growing regions – here are just a few.
The island of Santorini is one of Greece’s most well-known wine growing regions. The island was formed out of a massive volcanic eruption, and while the volcano that formed it is still technically active, it is currently in a dormant state. For us, though, this means one thing: volcanic soil! Santorini is home to more than 30 indigenous varietals, but the most popular by far is Assyrtiko, a white wine that is super high in acid and minerality and covers most of the island. The entire island, by the way, is considered one single vineyard by local winemakers. Because of the super porous soil, Santorini is one of the only regions in the world that was not devastated by Phylloxera, meaning that some of these vines are 500 years old (that’s really old for grape vines!). These vines are also unique in that they’re grown in a basket-like shape, called “kouloura,” that are designed to protect the grapes from the harsh winds and island sun.
Peloponnese is the highest producing wine region in Greece, with 30 different PGO classifications. This peninsula in the southern part of the country is known for its red Agiorghitiko grape, which Stephen says produces a wine that is spicy and bold while still incredibly versatile – it’s even used to make rosé! Most Agiorghitiko is grown in Nemea, a region that is steeped in Greek history. Here you will find ancient ruins still standing right in the middle of a sea of grape vines. Nemea is where Hercules was said to have slain the Nemean lion. The region’s terroir is made even more diverse by its combination of steep hills that open onto wide plateaus.
This central area is different from the rest of Greece in that it is more spread out, with a wide array of microclimates. The wine grapes here are grown away from the coast in a mountainous region, meaning the growing conditions are quite different from other Greek wine grapes. Thessalia has fewer designated growing areas than Santorini or Peloponnese, which contributes to its perception as a more up-and-coming region. It is also different in that there are many international varietals grown here (think: Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon), rather than indigenous grapes. Thessalia is not without it’s share of culture though – the region is home to Mt. Olympus, which is where the gods of Ancient Greece were believed to have lived. Today, wine grapes are grown on its slopes.
This is an area where Phylloxera hit – and hit hard. It took several decades, but the replanted vines here have finally begun to garner the respect they used to command. Macedonia is most known for its Naoussa region, towards the west, where Xinomavro is grown. These grapes, whose name translates to “acid black,” produce an incredibly complex wine, with flavors like olives and sun dried tomatoes. Winemakers here pride themselves on quality over quantity, so while production is very small, these wines are considered among the highest quality in country.
Ready to try some Greek wine? Join us, in New York City on May 9th, for a very special event for wine novices and connoisseurs alike. Discover Greece’s culture through wine, poured by some of the country’s most popular vineyards, and gastronomy, from NYC’s best Greek restaurants, all while benefiting the Friends of Boroume Charity! More info here!