There are literally hundreds of grape varieties in Greece. And no wonder, since the Greek vineyard is one of the oldest in the world and has produced wines for thousands of years.
Story: Vana Antonopoulou
The Greek vineyard is one of the oldest in the world, and still remains for many oenologists an uncharted new world. This is one of the greatest advantages of the wines of Greece for they manage to combine a viticultural tradition of seven centuries with modern oenological practices. Furthermore, they have intense and complex aromas, sophisticated flavor, exceptional food-friendly character, and unique varieties.
“Most Greek wine-makers have left rustic style wines behind, and have introduced fresher, lighter wines that showcase the virtues of each indigenous varietal”
The most popular varieties
Assyrtiko-Santorini: A rare island white
Assyrtiko-Santorini wines are rare and distinctive. These wines are born from the indigenous Assyrtiko grape, cultivated in some of the world’s oldest vineyards, dating back, about 500 years, on the volcanic island of Santorini. Assyrtiko-Santorini dry whites can be enjoyed young or aged, as they are age-worthy wines; the ideal complement to haute cuisine, fish, seafood and, surprisingly, even meat dishes. These terroir-driven wines of distinct character are structured on exciting minerality and density.
As a rare island variety, Assyrtiko-Santorini thrives in the Aegean climate and the arid conditions of Santorini, yet its fruit aromas are not those of hot climates. They are fine, elegant and restrained, more along the line of citrus. Assyrtiko-Santorini also has the ability to retain high acidity as it ripens and accumulates sugar, a trait it shares with Riesling. Hence it produces wines with great freshness and wonderful vibrancy.
Moschofilero-Mantinia: Young and fascinating
Moschofilero-Mantinia dry white wines unleash surprising freshness and aromas, creating unexpected pleasures on the nose and palate. This aromatic variety has existed for centuries in Greece and ideally belongs to the high plateau of Mantinia in the north-central Peloponnese and isn’t likely to perform in the same way elsewhere. Likewise, the vineyard practices that have allowed Moschofilero-Mantinia to shine are not those of the high quantity, warm climate regions of the New World. What characterizes the uniqueness of this exotic grape variety are the hand-tended vines, the family-based practices, the limited yields, and the chemical and pesticide free vineyards, which are part of the terroir. The grape’s wild and exotic floral intensity, along with its tangy crispness, offers a unique character and profile. The exhilarating Moschofilero-Mantinia wines are the perfect aperitif or complement to a sumptuous array of elegant dishes, Middle and Far East cuisine, sushi and seafood.
Nemea-Agiorgitiko: Captivating red
Nemea-Agiorgitiko red wines, are integrated into the myth and history of the region of Nemea, in Peloponnese, as well as its local culture and legends. Traditionally, a deep, dark ruby color, with concentrated aromas of red fruits and aromatic complexity, Nemea-Agiorgitiko wines include rich, complex, age-worthy reds for the cellar, as well as light, easy drinking wines with the fresh aromas of red fruits. The variety’s still dry red wines are exceptionally food-friendly and perfect for a wide range of cuisines and occasions.
The Nemea-Agiorgitiko zone is the largest red wine appellation in Greece and the land is as diverse as it is vast, with often snow-capped peaks as high as 6,000 ft, surrounding a valley floor, with undulating hills, and myriad valleys and passes, creating many mesoclimates and soil types in between. The diversity of the soils, where the grape flourishes in ancient vineyards, which are planted at varying elevations and topography, greatly influences the styles of these captivating Nemea wines. Vineyards might be situated on the valley floor, at as low as 850-1,150 ft, as well as throughout valleys and up the hillsides climbing to over 1,950-2,650 ft, even higher, making these red wine vineyards some of the highest in all of Europe.
Among the oldest of Greece’s hundreds of indigenous grapes, the Nemea- Agiorgitiko is the only grape allowed to use the Nemea Appellation (PDO Nemea).
Xinomavro-Naoussa/Amynteo: The noble grape
Xinomavro-Naoussa/Amynteo, a singular, northern red, is the most significant red grape of northern Greece. The place of origin and most important growing area of the indigenous Xinomavro grape ‒a red variety‒ is northwestern Greece, in the monovarietal appellations of Naoussa and Amynteo. With a multitude of terroirs and elevations combined with Xinomavro’s specificity to environment and subtle changes in winemaking, a broad range of wine styles invites discovery. These distinguished reds are ideal for food with intense and rich flavors. Xinomavro-Naoussa/Amynteo is a wine lover’s wine; not fruity and sweet, nor soft and round, but stern and austere, especially when young, with dry, dusty tannins and saliva-inducing acidity.
Xinomavro-Naoussa/Amynteo has a breathtaking array of aromas and flavors. It is exceedingly age-worthy and food friendly.