“It’s all Greek wine to me.”

Greece is so rich in native wine varieties that trying to figure out the way they’re classified can be tough, almost like learning Greek – but absolutely worth the effort. If you’ve never had a Xinomavro with your steak or poured Assyrtiko for guests, then learning the basics of the Greek system is your first step to a whole new world of delicious wines.

Here’s what you need to know, so get your notebooks out:

Greek wine, like all wine produced in the EU, is basically divided into Protected Designation of Origin wines, Protected Geographical Indication wines and Table wines.

The European Union, by means of wine legislation, has decided, among others, to include wines in the framework applicable to all other agricultural products, thus establishing the following wine categories:

(You may want to open a bottle of wine for this next part.)

Protected Designation of Origin Wines
“PDO products” bear a “Protected Designation of Origin” indication. This wine category comprises Greek wines bearing a Designation of Origin (VQPRD), in other words, all  AOQS and AOC wines. Quality Wines are strictly controlled and monitored for authenticity, so if you’re having your boss over for dinner or meeting the in-laws, this might be the bottle you go for.

Protected Geographical Indication Wines
You’ll often see “PGI” on these bottles, which are split into two categories. The first is Regional Wines (or Vins de Pays). These wines are more commonly found than Quality Wines, but that doesn’t always mean “lower” quality – for instance, this is where you will find the fine international wines. This category comprises all Regional Wines (or Vins de Pays) and any of the wines of “Traditional Designation” (or Appellation Traditionelle) which, simultaneously, have an established geographical indication i.e., Verdea and 15 retsinas (PGI wines of Greece.)

(There’s more. Time to pour a second glass.)

Varietal Wines
Varietal wines are a new wine category which includes those table wines complying with all the necessary prerequisites and controls as those are stipulated in the relevant EU legislation. In contrast to ordinary table wines, wines of this wine category are entitled to bear an indication of their vintage year and varietal composition but not of their geographical indication.

Table Wines
“Ordinary” table wines belong to a wine category which includes all wines which are neither PDO nor PGI but, in addition, are not in the wine varietals category either. The regulation stipulates that table wines in this wine category are still not entitled to display their vintage year or the varieties participating in their composition. Because in this case the regulations aren’t as strict as in the case of PDO and PGI wines, many winemakers take this as an opportunity to experiment. You ‘ll find some creative blends here, as well as the standard table and restaurant –quality offerings that are perfect for a big gathering or a casual get-together.

As with all wine classification systems, there’s much more to learn about Greek wine if you’re interested: Wine Categories

There’s no test but you may want to open your second bottle and say, “It’s all Greek wine to me.”