Greece is one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world and the first wine-producing territory in Europe. The earliest evidence of Greek wine has been dated to 6,500 years ago where wine was produced on a household or communal basis. In ancient times, as trade in wine became extensive, it was transported from end to end of the Mediterranean; Greek wine had especially high prestige in Italy under the Roman Empire. In the medieval period, wines exported from Crete, Monemvasia and other Greek ports fetched high prices in northern Europe.
GREEK WINE VARIETIES
Assyrtiko grape varietyAssyrtiko is one of Greece’s finest multi-purpose white grape varieties. It was first cultivated on the island of Santorini, where it has developed a unique character producing excellent AOC wines. Assyrtiko has the ability to maintain its acidity as it ripens. It yields a bone-dry wine that has citrus aromas mixed with an earthy, mineral aftertaste due to the volcanic soil of Santorini. In the last 25 years Assyrtiko has been planted throughout Greece including Macedonia and Attica where it expresses a milder and more fruity character. Assyrtiko can also be used together with the aromatic Aidani and Athiri grapes for the production of the unique, naturally sweet wines called VINSANTO (wine from SANTOrini), well known since Byzantine times.
Athiri grape varietyAthiri is one of the most ancient of Greek grape varieties. The name of the grape indicates its origin from the Island of Santorini, also known as Thira, where it is used together with Assyrtiko and Aidani for the production of AOC Santorini wines. Athiri is found in other regions in Greece including Macedonia, Attica and Rhodes where it produces AOC Rhodes wines. Athiri grapes have a thin skin and give sweet and fruity juice. It produces wines slightly aromatic, having medium alcoholic content with low acidity.
Aidani is another Ancient Greek grape variety and is mainly found in the Cyclades Islands. It produces wines pleasantly aromatic with medium alcoholic content and acidity. It can be successfully mixed with grapes having a high alcoholic content and acidity such as Assyrtiko.
A very promising grape originating in Kalavrita in the Peloponnese. Since its revival, the Lagorthi grape is cultivated mainly on the slopes of Aegialia at an altitude of 850m by the Oenoforos Winery. The Lagorthi grapes produce wines with medium levels of alcohol that have a pronounced acidity derived primarily from the malic acid content of the grape. Its elegant aroma combine hints of peach, melon and basil together with citrus and mineral flavors.
Malagousia grape varietyMalagousia originated in the region of Nafpaktos in western Greece. The winemaker Gerovassiliou, was the first to begin experimenting with the nearly extinct Malagousia grape, realizing its vast potential for producing high quality wines. It is found mainly in Macedonia and is now cultivated in some vineyards in Attica and the Peloponnese. It is an especially aromatic grape leading to elegant full bodied wines, with medium acidity and exciting aromas of exotic fruits, citrus, jasmine and mint.
Moschofilero grape varietyA distinct aromatic grape from within the AOC region of Mantinia, in the Peloponnese, Moschofilero grapes have a gray colored skin and therefore produce a wine that is a blanc de gris. Its crisp character and beautiful floral aroma of roses and violets with hints of spices can be drunk as an aperitif or with food.
Robola grape varietyGrown most notably in the mountainous vineyards of Cephalonia, the noble Robola grapes yield distinguished wines with citrus and peach aromas mixed with smoky, mineral hints and a long lemony aftertaste. Robola’s fine character assisted in its qualification as the AOC Robola of Cephalonia.
Roditis grape varietyAs the name implies, Roditis is a rosé colored grape that is very popular in Attica, Macedonia, Thessaly and Peloponnese where it is cultivated for the production of AOC Patra wines. It produces the best results when cultivated with low yields on mountainous slopes. Roditis produces elegant, light white wines with citrus flavors and a pleasant aftertaste.
Savatiano grape varietySavatiano is the predominant grape in the region of Attica where is displays excellent resistance to the dry summer weather there. It leads to the production of elegant, well balanced white wines with an aroma of citrus fruits and flowers.
A very interesting Mediterranean grape producing pleasant light wines with fruit and honey aromas. This grape is now found mainly on the island of Cephalonia where it usually blends well with the local Robola giving well structured wines.
An aromatic grape which leads to the production of excellent dessert wines and interesting dry whites. Fresh or aged, natural or fortified the dessert Muscat wines are ready to please even the most difficult wine enthuthiast. It is cultivated in many regions of Greece but is known to produce the best results and AOC wines in Samos, Patra and Rio of Patra. It also yields a small production of AOC Rhodes and Cephalonia wines.
Agiorghitiko grape varietyOne of the most noble of the Greek red grapes, Agiorghitiko (meaning St.George’s) is grown mainly in the AOC region Nemea in the Peloponnese. It produces wines that stand out for their deep red color and remarkable aromatic complexity. Agiorghitiko’s soft tannins, in combination with its balanced acidity lead to the production of many different styles of wine, ranging from fresh aromatic reds to extraordinary aged reds. It also produces pleasant aromatic rosé wines.
Xinomavro grape varietyThe predominant grape variety in Macedonia is a native red called Xinomavro, (meaning “acid-black”). The wines made from Xinomavro are known for their superb aging potential and their rich tannic character. Their complex aromas combine such red fruits as gooseberry with hints of olives, spices and dried tomatoes.
The Mandelaria grape, rich in color, is also known as Amorgiano. It is mainly cultivated on the islands of Rhodes and Crete. Mandelaria participates in various Appellations of Origin usually with other grapes such as Monemvassia in Paros, Kotsifali in Crete or as a single variety on the island of Rhodes, producing distinctive red wines.
Mavrodaphne, meaning black laurel, is mainly found in the Peloponnesean regions of Achaia and Ilia as well as the Ionian Islands. It is blended with the Korinthiaki grape to produce a delicious fortified dessert wine known as Mavrodaphne. It also yields very good results when blended with Refosco, Agiorghitico and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.