By Grecian Purveyor and Wine Experts
Join us on our Grecian Wine Odyssey and discover the most popular Greek wines that created a Hellenic wine renaissance and put Greece firm on the map of fine wines!
Greece has over 6,000 years of viticulture history dating back to earlier than 3,000BC and over 350 indigenous grape varieties, sitting on top with Italy and far more than France. After all, French wine originated in the 6th century BC with the colonisation of Southern Gaul by Greek settlers and even to date there are French varieties that directly originate from Greece, like the Muscat blanc à petits grains. However, the wine making in Greece was stalled or limited for hundreds of years and it was mainly home-grown wine making… until the 1980s with the modernisation of many long-standing wineries and the world started to slowly re-discover Greek wines.
Nowadays a lot of the wine produced in Greece is of outstanding quality and a large number of Greek wine producers have gained international recognition for the quality of their wines, their excellent viticulture skills and their unique grape varieties that they cultivate (some nearly extinct and others that go back to Homer times), which cannot be found anywhere in the world. However, some Greek varieties, like Assyrtiko, are now cultivated in other countries like Italy, South Africa and Australia.
"If it were possible to give an entire country an award for 2022, our Rising Star would in all likelihood be named as Greece. The country’s winemaking has made enormous strides, and it is now producing truly world-class wines. Much credit for its increased profile on the global stage should go to one person, though, who is the very worthy winner of this year’s Decanter Rising Star award. Apostolos Thymiopoulos, based in Naoussa in Macedonia, northern Greece." Sarah Jane Evans, Decanter
And it's very notable that in recent years fine Greek wine is rapidly becoming accessible to most places globally, whether you're at your favourite Mediterranean eatery, dining at some fine restaurant in an Aegean island or visiting your favourite Michelin awarded restaurant, it's very likely that you'll find some good quality Greek wine at a moderate price. So, next time make sure to ask for a Greek wine at your favourite restaurant!
We’re honoured to have selected some of Greece finest wines and make them accessible to the whole of Australia.
“Greece can be daunting when dipping your toe in for the first time with its unpronounceable grape varieties, places and regions you've never heard of (even if you have heard of them, few can point to them on a map) and a history steeped in retsina it struggled to shake for so many years. In a way, Greece should be approached in the same way as Italy: a large country packed with indigenous varieties and terroirs not found anywhere else on earth. The Greeks and Italians have influenced each other when it comes to wine more than many might think, trading varieties (such as aglianico) and techniques for centuries. But most importantly, Greece is a treasure trove of genuine, authentic wine. It's a part of the country's history and is imbedded in the soul of every Greek man, woman and child. Just like Italy.” Matthew Horsley, The Wine Society
Greek White Wine Varieties
The most popular white wine variety that originates from Santorini and brought the world’s attention to Greek wine again. Broad on the palate, with fresh and crisp acidity and high levels of alcohol. On the flavour profile there are distinctive citrus fruit aromas and intense minerality. Aged wines reveal a more solid structure and increased aromatic complexity. It pairs exceptionally well with seafood and fish. A must try if you like Sauvignon Blanc or Chablis.
Ioannina's PDO white wine that is very unique and with its own idiosyncrasy. A dry white wine that also produces superb sparkling and semi-sparkling wines. Fruity, classy and elegant aromas of apple, pear and peach with distinct freshness. Perfect with any Greek pies, oysters and fish from the Ionian sea.
Moschofilero is Greece’s most aromatic white wine variety. Intense flowery character, with an emphasis on rose petal aromas, citrus and fresh fruit. On the palate it has fresh flavours, crisp acidity and medium to low alcohol levels. A wine that can be easily consumed on its own or with food. It’s often compared to Pinot Grigio, Riesling, a dry Viognier or Chardonnay, though its character is distinctively Greek.
MUSCAT OF SAMOS
As the name indicates this Greek white and dessert wine is produced in the island of Samos. Outstanding complexity of fragrant rose petal, ripe fruit and bergamot flavours. Rich and dense, with moderate acidity, dense structure, and ageing ability. When aged in oak, sweet versions gain an intricate spiciness while retaining a remarkable freshness.
The official wine of the island of Kefalonia. Aromatic, fresh wines of exceptional quality with delicate citrus and mineral aromas. Very balanced, with crisp lemony acidity and medium body. Depth of fruit and complexity. Can be interesting when aged in bottle.
Pink-coloured variety. High levels of fruit, often reminiscent of ripe melon and honey, intense aromas and flavours. The palate has a broad framework and a refreshing, almost Sauvignon Blanc-like, lemony finish.
This is Greece’s most widely planted white grape variety and it’s the base for the best quality Greek retsina. It has the potential to produce wines with aromatic intensity, high fruit levels while being balanced and juicy on the palate. Surprisingly elegant and aromatic when sourced from cooler sites and/or old vines.
One of Crete’s most popular white wine varieties. Elegant but highly defined aromas on the nose, suggesting florality together with ripe stone fruits. On the palate it is medium in body but shows extract and minerality. Emerging varietal with claims for top quality.
A sweet sun-dried wine that smells more like red wine even though it’s made with Assyrtiko, Aidani, and Athiri white grapes! The smell is arresting at first and comes with the contrasting sweet fruit and bitter flavors caused by the wine’s noticeable tannins. The nose is complex, ranging from sweet spices like cinnamon and cloves towards dried fruits such as apricots and raisins. One of the best dessert wines you’ll ever try!
Greek Red Wine Varieties
The wine of St. George and Greece’s most popular red wine variety, with PDO of Nemea, Peloponnese. When aged in oak, it displays a deep colour, concentrated character of red fruits and aromatic complexity. Rich in body, with high quality and ripe tannins. When bottled young, it is an easy drinking wine, with medium acidity, soft tannins, and fresh aromas of red fruits. A red wine that can easily be consumed by itself or with food. A must-try Greek red wine if you like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Sangiovese or medium to full bodied red wines.
This is Crete’s benchmark red wine variety that is fast gaining international recognition with wine connoisseurs. Pale-coloured, a truly Mediterranean variety, with high alcohol content, intense red fruit aromas and moderate acidity. Kotsifali needs a blending partner that can add colour, acidity and tannins, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon blends are some of the best in the country. Perfect pairing to red hearty meat dishes, game meat, lamb, casseroles and BBQ meats. A must try wine if you like Syrah/Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese and Grenache.
As its name suggests, Limnio is a variety that originates from the island of Lemnos, where it is often called Kalampaki. An ancient grape variety, first mentioned by Homer, suffused with fresh herb and small-berried fruit aromas, coming across with clarity and intensity. On the palate it has moderate tannins, colour, a moderately full body and relatively low acidity.
Greece’s answer to Pinot Noir, which has been mastered by organic wine producer Zafeirakis and it’s highly acclaimed as one of the best Greek red wines ever produced. A variety that has raised great expectations and it’s very sought after. Full of minerality and fresh herbs on the nose while the palate is multi-layered, with a highly focused acidity. A very perfumed and pure nose displaying aromas of roses and cherries and with savoury notes that combine with well-played and structured tannins. A must-try Greek red wine if you like Pinot Noir, Chianti or Sangiovese and medium bodied wines.
Usually associated with a pale tawny-red, sweet, fortified wine. Silky, fine-grained, and faintly tannic; impressive and extraordinarily complex when aged in oak barrels for years, even decades. Very promising dry varietal reds too, which are gaining momentum.
A recent discovery, with dense colour, concentrated and deep on the nose, but without a single note of burnt character. Rich on the palate and coated with graceful tannins that can stand up to two years in oak. A rising star.
Few are the grape varieties privileged enough to be exclusively planted in one single area. Yet, such is indeed the case of Messenicola Black, the red-grape variety once planted near the breathtaking Plastira Lake by Monsieur Nicolas, a high-ranking Venetian official. Black Messenicola and has been categorised as O.P.A.P. (Appellation of Origin of Superior Quality). This velvety full-bodied wine has a long aftertaste of floral & forest fruit aromas and soft tannins. One of Greece’s most unique varieties you’ll ever come across and produced in very limited quantities.
Mainly planted in Viotia, Central Greece at the Valley of Muses. Mouhtaro red wine is from a rare variety with dynamism and full body, it has an intense colour and aromas of black fruit, spices, pepper, and nutmeg, a pronounced acidity, and intense yet silky tannins which cellars wonderfully for a long duration even beyond 10 years. It also makes outstanding rose wines like the Amuse Rose by Muses winery.
Not a grape variety as such, but a well structured, dense blend of Xinomavro, Stavroto and Krasato is the specialty of the region and the sole wine permitted under the PDO rules. Rapsani is a coastal Protected Denomination of Origin on the southern foothills of Mount Olympus, the home of the gods. With spicy flavours of raspberry, anise, fennel, cherry, and occasionally olive or tomato. The wine’s tannins build slowly (but surely) on the palate. The Rhône of Greece and perfected by one of Greece's longest standing wineries Tsantali Vineyards.
A PDO wine from Epirus with strong and distinct aromas of red forest fruits, bright but not deep ruby colour, discrete and fine grained tannins and with high, but good acidity and an incredible velvety taste with a lasting finish. Vlahiko is a grape for all those wine drinkers that are bored with thick, blank, heavy, overly rich red wines. It is refreshing, charming yet packed with flavours, so it is en excellent choice for a slightly chilled red on a warm summer evening.
Perhaps Greece’s most acclaimed red wine variety that cannot be missed from a wine connoisseur’s wine cellar. Mastered by Thymiopoulos Vineyards in Naoussa, Macedonia. Producing wines that rise to prominence with aging, it displays a bright red colour, fine grained but firm tannins, solid structure, and elegance. A complex aromatic character, with distinct aromas red fruits, tomatoes, and olives. It usually has aromas of oak, with subtle hints of spices, dried prunes, tobacco and nuts. Long ageing potential in bottle. A must try wine if you like Nebbiolo, Pinot Noir or the finest Barolo crossed with a silky red Burgundy.
What Greek wines should I try first?
If you're never tried any Greek wines before or you have tried some mediocre retsina in the past, we have some of Greece's finest wines that will certainly take you by surprise! Whether your personal preference is for red, white or rose wines, a good start to explore Greek wines is to try a few reds, whites and roses and identify the ones suited to your palate and your needs. We’d strongly recommend starting with the following white wines: Assyrtiko, Malagousia and Moschofilero. Then for the red wines, a good start would be Agiorgitiko, Xinomavro, Limniona and a Kotsifali blend. When it comes to Rose wines we strongly recommend to try the Amuse rose wine and the Karanika Rose Brut and Peplo rose blend.