The island of Crete is one of the world’s oldest wine cultures. Yet, its new terroir driven wines are capturing the hearts and palates of sommeliers everywhere. In this rediscovery process, it has come to the attention of avid tasters that older style Greek wines are being quietly reinvented.
The new producers in the Greek region of Crete are combining old word methods with the newest winemaking techniques. Most of these highlighted local producers have a family history in the region. They are experimenting with blends of grapes grown in Crete for hundreds of years such as Vilana, Malvasia, Mandilari, Liatiko and Kostifali grapes to produce various levels of strong reds and fruity flavorful whites.
Small producers have emerged reinventing the traditional wines produced in this area for centuries. The region of Crete has a fresh feeling generation of terroir-driven, small production wine made with modern vinification techniques and newly planted vines.
If you plan to travel to this region soon or just want to see the pulse of the area, this article highlights producers worth visiting while the island gets it groove back. Discovering new and unique wines here will be easy. Take time to revisit the classics to truly make for a well-rounded tour.
This area of the world is now planting new varietals and producing wine for the new millennial wine drinker. They also hope to capture the existing lovers of Greek wine with blends of traditional indigenous grapes. The two approaches make for a rebirth and reinvention of Greek wine, and the wine community is taking notice.
As you can read in Wine Enthusiast magazine’s article about Greek wine, wine and Greek culture are as intertwined as the twin serpents found on the Greek god Hermes’ staff, the caduceus. From the Aegean Islands to Thessaly, Greeks have been enjoying the purple fruits of their labor for over 6 millennia.
It was so highly regarded that ancient Greeks worshiped Dionysus, the god of wine. In fact, Greek philosopher Plato once noted, “Nothing more excellent or valuable than wine was ever granted by the gods to man.” Of course, more than just a pairing for fish or lamb dishes or a way to complement tzatziki, wine was also considered a cure for one’s ills. This included helping balance humors, thought to be the cause of all ailments.
The diversity of Greece’s micro climates — from high altitude vineyards to remote volcanic islands and a diverse range of soils — helps support a number of different types of grapes for a variety of different styles of wine. Production in the Peloponnese region of southern Greece dates back to the time of the legendary poet, Homer. Of course, Ulysses, the main character of his epic, The Odyssey, used wine to make the one-eyed Cyclops drunk so that he could escape from him.
Some 3,000 years later, wine making traditions in Greece continue and appeal to people far beyond the country’s borders. Many of the more than 300 indigenous grape varieties, that were once only known domestically, now have wine fans everywhere acknowledging its “Greek wine to them”, as well.
Whether it is a dry white wine from Assyrtiko or the great god Zeus, Susan Kostrzewa reveals the rich and passionate relationship between Greece and its wines, food and culture in her piece: The A-to-Zs of Greece and its Wine.
While Debina and Athiri grapes are both Grecian varieties used to make white wine, they come from extremely different climates. Exploring these two varieties can give wine samplers an impression of the diversity of Greek white wine, and a taste of the difference between the continental and island flavors.
Debina grapes originate from Zitsa, one of the coldest wine regions in Greece. While summer in Zitsa is warm and breezy, winter often drops fluffy blankets of snow across the vineyards. These temperature variations particularly suit Debina grapes, allowing them to retain their acidity and create outstanding sparkling and dry white wine. The crisp, clear essence of Debina is akin to the flavors of a fresh orchard, leaving lingering fruity sensations across the palate.
Athiri is a white wine grape that is native to the Aegean Islands. For centuries, Athiri grapes have been cultivated on the rugged islands to produce dry white wine, much to the enjoyment of Greece and the rest of the world. Athiri’s bright, zesty character pairs well with Greek flavors such as olives, capers and tomatoes. Athiri’s modest, unobtrusive flavors make it an excellent choice to become acquainted with the dry white wine of the Aegean Islands.
Enjoying a delicious dessert is a great way to spend the evening. Many desserts can also be paired deliciously with wine – especially Greek wines, which are known for their sweet choices.
The most noble of sweet wines is Samos. Pairing this honey-like wine with holiday pies is one of our best recommendations. If your dessert contains fruit, drinking a glass of Samos will enhance your dining experience.
You are a wine lover, so why not try a glass of Vinsanto? Santo stands for Santorini, which will recall strong images and amplify the emotion in your banqueting table. The intense flavors of nuts, dried fruit and caramel give this wine a truly unique blend. A salty cheese, i.e. a Roquefort, or a chocolate dessert pair splendidly with this wine choice. If you have never had either, try them for yourself.
Mavrodaphne of Patras is a sweet red wine with a thicker, flavorful, luscious taste. If you have a sweet tooth and love chocolate treats, choose a glass (or a bottle) of Mavrodaphne of Patras to pair with it.
No matter what delectable desserts you like to enjoy – we like many! – there is a Greek dessert wine to pair with it.
If you can’t, you should start practicing because this most prolific grape in Greece makes exceptionally food-friendly wines that match with a wide range of cuisines – perfect for holiday and hearty, winter meals! Here’s a pronunciation hint: wherever you see a “g”, say the sound of a “y”. Now try again: A-yor-yi-ti-ko. Easy right? Well, if you’re still finding it difficult, you can call these wines Nemea, which is one of the largest and most famous wine regions of the Peloponnese peninsula. The easiest part, if you’d like, is that you can call it St. George, which is the translation of Agiorgitiko into English. Most good sommeliers or wine store clerks will know the different terms. Continue reading Can you say Agiorgitiko?
In 418 BC, Athens and Sparta fought the largest land battle of the Peloponnesian War in what is known as the First Battle of Mantinea. After your first taste of Mantinia’s wine made from the Moschofilero grape, you’ll know why the region is so prized today. To really know if this was the cause of war, you’d have to ask a Spartan, as they were the ones who won. Continue reading Wine Worth Going to War for
If you want to know more about the many Greek wine varieties, we can think of no better source than the just published “A Guide to the Wines of Greece” by Master of Wine, Konstantionos Lazarakis. In a well-written digital ebook with beautiful photos, Lazarakis covers everything you need to know about Greek wines. Continue reading Best Greek wine guide ever!
You may be used to seeing vineyards in neat, straight rows. But that’s not the way they do it in Santorini, one of Greece’s most fascinating islands and the producer of some of the best wines using the Assyrtiko grape. The vineyards are exposed to the sea and the wind blows too hard on the island to plant vineyards the usual way. So they grow in clumps or baskets that are low to the ground and retain the moisture that collects during the night. It practically never rains there. Continue reading World’s Most Unusual Vineyards