Greece and wine go back about 4,000 years and just as Greece created the concept of culture and brought the first democracy to the world, they also developed the first appellation system that is so common today and even the first wine glass.
Greece is one of the world’s oldest and newest wine regions at the same time. Nearly 5,000 producers are using modern viticulture methods to make wine from 350 indigenous grapes along with many of the international varieties.
As the third most mountainous country in Europe, Greece has never been an easy place to make wine. Its distinct topography enables the cultivation of cool weather grapes in a warm weather climate. The result is wines with a perfect balance of high acidity and low alcohol. They taste crisp and fresh and work beautifully with a variety of foods.
Try the four most common varietals sold in the U.S. They may be difficult to pronounce, but a glass or two always makes it easier. (Try this: whenever you see a “g” in writing, it’s pronounced as a “y” and an “x” is pronounced as “c”):
• Assyrtiko: One of the great white wine grapes in the world, Assyrtiko is best known as being from the island of Santorini, although it can also be found in other parts of Greece. Typically unoaked, it offers great minerality and may remind you of a Chablis or dry Riesling. It is an ideal complement to fish and seafood.
• Moschofilero: Think Torrontes on the nose and a cross between Albariño and Pinot Grigio on the palate. Fresh, aromatic and elegant, this is a great wine with Asian cuisine, seafood and sushi. Cultivated on the high plateau of Mantinia in the north-central Peloponnese (Google a map of Greece if you must!).
• Agiorgitiko: If you can’t pronounce it, just call it Nemea, which is its region of origin. It offers fine tannins, an elegant, soft mouth feel, and layers of dark fruit, spices and cocoa. It’s perfect paired with duck, lamb and roasted meats.
• Xinomavro: If you love the great Nebbiolo-based reds of Barolo and Barbaresco, add Xinomavro to your list. From the mountainous Naoussa and Amynteo regions in northwestern Greece, this wine is known for its bright pale to deep red color, high acidity, strong tannins and complex aromatic character. It has a vegetal character and its tannins soften over time to give it a velvety structure. Xinomavro pairs well with strongly-flavored meat like steak, duck, and venison.
Besides these four, there are many more Greek wines you’ll love including some incredible dessert wines. Sign up for the Wines of Greece online community and you’ll learn more about Greek wines, get great recipes, travel ideas, and invitations to events. Pretty soon, when asked about the wines you drink, you’ll say, “It’s all Greek to me.”