Greek wines are on the rise. In fact, they have been ever since Assyrtiko from the island of Santorini broke through especially in North America.You may not know this but Greece is one of the oldest wine regions in the world and was one of the first wine-producing areas in Europe. In ancient times Greece was one of the best producers of wine. In fact, Greek wines were prestigious during the Roman Empire and the Middle Ages.

It is not surprising that Assyrtiko broke through as it is one of the most distinctive Greek wines. Santorini, the original home of Assyrtiko, is a singular, large chunk of volcanic rock in the Aegean Sea plagued constantly by wind and rarely touched by rain.

To protect against the harsh environment, Assyrtiko vines are trained in “kouloura” (basket-like coils) that hug the ground. Over decades, the vines are curled around themselves several times. This shape forces nutrients from the volcanic soil to travel far to reach the leaves and fruit so yields can become very low – at this point the vines are pruned at the base of the trunk and the training starts again. Many of these vines are over 400 years old and thanks to an absence of clay, they are actually phylloxera-immune.

Santorini winemakers appreciate the distinctiveness of their terroir and make their wines to show it off. The results of this are present in the wines produced and the awards. For example, the Assyrtiko of the winemaker of Vassaltis Vineyards, Yiannis Papaeconomou, Decanter’s 50 most exciting wines of 2018!

Beyond Assyrtiko there are other Greek grape varieties that are starting too be noticed by wine lovers. These include:

Moschofilero which grows in the area of central Peloponnese and produces a dry, aromatic white wine offering a crisp character, with flavors of peach and sweet lemon. As they age these wines develop notes of dried fruits and apricots.

Agiorgitiko, a grape variety native to Nemea (a wine region from the Peloponnese) better-known for this grape. Agiorgitiko wines are full-bodied with flavors of sweet raspberry, blackcurrant and nutmeg with subtle bitter herbs and smooth tannins. The rosé wines made with Agiorgitiko have spiced raspberry notes and a brilliant deep pink color.

Roditis is a pink-skinned grape variety that is one of the most widely planted grape varieties in Greece. Roditis, despite its grape colour, is cultivated for the production of white wines that are medium to full-bodied with moderate acidity and have aromas and flavours of citrus and green fruit. Fresh Roditis wines that you can drink whenever match perfectly with most of the light olive oil-rich dishes of Mediterranean cuisine.

Malagousia was almost lost as a grape variety. However, it was rescued from extinction in the 1970s by Professor Logothetis of Thessaloniki University, who collected vines from mountain villages in Greece and planted them in his experimental vineyard in Porto Carras. The wines it produces range from fresh, aromatic and delicate to more full-bodied wines, vinified at least partly in barrel. Malagousia’s distinctive aromas range from basil, lime and citrus to exotic fruits. In addition to outstanding dry wines, the variety is also used to make wonderful sweet wines.

Xinomavro which in English is “sour black” is the main grape variety of Macedonia, mainly in the areas of Naousa and Amyndeo. Xinomavro presents a good aging potential and a rich tannic character. It is often compared to Nebbiolo due to is dark cherry and licorice notes.

Vidiano is one of the oldest Cretan white grapes and was nearly extinct until Cretan winemakers understood its potential and worked tirelessly to revive its great complexity. Vidiano produces elegant wines with a variety of white and yellow fruit, citrus fruit and white flowers aromas while remaining robust and full-bodied.

Savatiano (aka the Saturday grape) is the main white variety from the Attica region and has an essential resistance to heat. Under cold fermentation, it offers flavors of green apple and lime. If aged in oak it has a more creamy mid-palate. When fermented without cooling, it makes retsina or rustic unresinated wines.

Retsina wines are much more delicate in flavor than they were in historic times when they were produced using seawater. Today these white wines are typically fermented with fresh pine resin that is removed at the end of the winemaking process. These wines have aromas of linseed oil with a subtle piney, saline finish. Retsina wines made with Assyrtiko grapes are more angular in style and age longer while Retsina wines made with Savatiano grapes provide a more generous taste with ripe apple and peach flavors, as well as an oily texture on the palate. Today young Greek winemakers are experimenting both with tradition and innovation in order to offer a new generation of Retsina.

As you can see there is a diversity of wines to choose from various areas of Greece. Click on the link below to get more help in making your choice:

Greek Wines: Recovering at Home, Surging Ahead Internationally

Lastly, “Opa!” is the quintessential Greek expression of enthusiasm so remember to shout it out when you open your bottle of Greek wine. rtiko