Although Greece is a relative small country with a limited wine production, the task of choosing what wines to look out for while visiting can be a daunting prospect. Visitors might be eager to try ‘the real thing’, but most won’t be too familiar with the indigenous grape varieties, appellations, and wineries.
In Athens, there are a number of very good wine bars that offer solid wine by the glass selections. The folks there are very knowledgeable and helpful, and this might be the most efficient way to ‘taste your way through’. For in depth info, please read this great article by Maria Dimou, published in the Wine&Spirits Magazine.
Alternatively, there is of course always the option to visit one of the local wine shops (Cava), chat to the staff and seek out their recommendations.
Should time be an issue, there is a convenient alternative: The Greek supermarkets usually stock a surprisingly large number of Greek wines at competitive prices. The following recommendations are a solid starting point to explore the diversity of Greek grapes and to discover the typicity of wines from different regions. This short list is thought as guidance only; I have included those wines that I find myself reaching out for on a regular basis and that are fairly widely available. The name of the producer (plus the name of the wine when available) is followed by the grape variety, the area of production, and the current listed retail prices.
Sokos Savatiano, Attica, 3,90 Euros: Savatiano is Greece’s most widely planted indigenous grape variety. The grape is mainly used for the production of Retsina, but there are some delicious fruity whites being produced. This bottling is a nice introduction at a very low price point.
Moraitis Monemvassia, Paros, 6,16 Euros: Monemvassia is mainly grown on the Cyclades islands and Evia. The island of Paros has the most significant plantings. Aromatic and spicy, this is delicious to sip.
Tselepos Moschofilero, Mantinia Peleponnese, 8,17 Euros: Moschofilero is a pink skinned variety, yielding wines that are floral, spicy and crispy. The appellation of Mantinia with its cooler climate gives the best results. Tselepos is one of the very finest producers of this variety.
Matsa Malagousia (sold under the Boutari banner), Attica, 10,45 Euros: Malagousia is one of the real success stories of the Greek grapes. Nearly extinct a few decades ago, it is now being planted throughout Greece. This wine is dense and savoury with serious ageing potential.
Gaia ‘Thalassitis’ Assyrtiko, Santorini, 11,75 Euros: Assyrtiko from Santorini has established itself as Greece’s white cult variety. Bone-dry, mineral, with a screaming high acidity are the hallmarks of the wines. Gaia’s Thalassitis is my personal favourite, but you can try any of the other ten producers from the island– you won’t be disappointed. Sadly most Assyrtiko wines are consumed far too young, after 3 to 5 years of bottle age one will be rewarded for the patience.
Boutari Xinomavro, Naoussa, 7,20 Euros: There is no doubt in my mind that Xinomavro is Greece’s finest red variety, and quite possibly belongs to Europe’s best, capable of greatness. The Boutari wine is one of best bargains money can buy. The wine has tremendous ageing potential and can be enjoyed for decades. As with Santorini’s Assyrtiko, the quality level from the other Naoussa based wineries starts at a high level and you can try any of them.
Palivos ‘Anemos’ Agiorgitiko, Nemea Peleponnese, 7,36 Euros: Agiorgitiko is Greece’s crowd pleaser variety, it’s home is the appellation of Nemea. This unoaked wine is the perfect example of why it is nearly impossible to not like this variety. It pairs great with slightly spicy cuisine.
Driopi Agiorgitiko, Nemea Peloponnese, 9,84 Euros: This wine has received careful oak treatment, it it is a good example just how versatile the Agiorgitiko styles can be. Fuller bodied than the Palivos Anemos, it makes for a fascinating comparison. The Driopi line belongs to Tselepos.
Domaine Paterianakis Mandilaria/Kotsifali, Crete, 9,93 Euros: These two Cretan varieties are traditionally blended together. The special thing about this particular wine is that I have only seen aged samples (vintages 1999 and 2001) at the supermarket shelves. At this price point, it makes for an utterly delicious drinking experience. A mellow wine with a lovely vegetal character.
In addition, there are a number of limited production wines that you should seek out. Most of them are not easily to be found, but can be purchased at online stores like Greece and Grapes. Delivery is available throughout Greece, and free of charge in Athens for orders above 50 Euros. The English translation of the website is impeccable.
Bosinakis Moschofilero, Mantinia Peloponnese, 7,70 Euros: A personal favourite – one of the most distinctive, captivating and complex Moschofilero wines that I have come across.
Vakakis white Muscat, Samos, 8,40 Euros: The island of Samos is famous for its sweet Muscat wines. This small producer is also making a striking dry version that offers seductive aromatics and is quite full bodied.
Diamantakos Preknadi, Naoussa, 10,30 Euros: Preknadi was cultivated extensively in the vineyards of the Naoussa region five to six decades ago. The zone was invaded by phylloxera in the 1960ies and the majority of Preknadi plantings were lost. Growers and winemakers have only very recently started to concentrate their efforts once again on the variety. This is a rich and serious wine with an oily texture.
Gentilini ‘Cellar Selection’ Robola, Cephalonia, 13,90 Euros: Robola is the top white variety of the Ionian islands, and yields stunning wines at the island of Cephalonia, with Gentilini being amongst the top producers. There are only about two to three thousand bottles produced annually of this Cellar Selection, from ungrafted vines of 50+ years of age. This is a rich, explosive and opulent wine.
Aidarinis Xinomavro/Negoska, Goumenissa 9,70 Euros: Goumenissa is one of the four Xinomavro appellations in Greece, but at least 20% Negoska must be added, so the wines are always a blend. This Goumenissa wine is round, soft and elegant, with mellow tannins and is simply delicious.
Tetramythos Black of Kalavryta, Aegiala Peleponnese, 10,20 Euros: Black of Kalavryta is a local grape variety that grows only in the area of a single village. Tetramythos is the only Greek producer who produces a varietal wine. Gentle and elegant with soft tannins, not unlike Pinot Noir.
Zafeirakis Limniona, Tyrnavos, 16,80 Euros: Limniona was planted in the area until phylloxera decimated the vineyards 80 years ago. The variety became forgotten until Christos Zafeirakis revived it just a few years ago. His first vintage was in 2007. The wine is silky and ever so elegant, a true original.
Domaine Economou ‘Sitia’, predominately Liatiko, up to 20% Mandilaria, Crete, 22,80 Euros: The Liatiko that Economou works with is a small berried local clone, found nowhere else in Greece. He releases the wine only when he believes it to be ready; currently available in Greece is the 2000 vintage. Complex, with finesse and intensity. A must try for any serious wine lover.
These are merely a number of suggestions of what wines to try while visiting Greece. While there are many more solid choices, the idea was to enable you to pick from a representative selection that promises much joy and enables you to expand your palate. I hope you will start exploring Greece’s wine treasures on your next visit.