Wines of Greece

Wines of Greece

Posted by EWWines on 7th Jun 2024

Greek wine has a rich and fascinating history that predates prehistoric times! Evidence of wine grape vines in Greece can be traced back to the Ice Age, which makes vine growing and winemaking among the oldest activities of humankind in the region.

Fast forward to modern times (1945–1975), Greece was recovering from World War II and then a bitter civil war. However, the last decades of the 20th century marked the new Greek wine revival, with small-to-medium-sized producers emerging alongside large producers.

Today, wine lovers worldwide can enjoy the excellence of new Greek wines, produced from varieties and vineyards that have yielded renowned wines for millennia. This blog piece will give an overview of the country and common varieties before recommending a few of our favourites from our range of Greek Wines.

Before we proceed, if you would like to know more about Greek wines, then we are excited to announce as part of our celebration we are hosting Effie Kalinikidou (Export Manager) for Lyrarakis Winery of Crete for a wine tasting dinner on 19th July. This will be a wonderful event so get your tickets HERE before they all go!

Also, as part of our campaign we have a selection of Greek wine to taste in our Wine Emotion machines this June so a great excuse to come for a FREE taste of these great wines.

Greek Terroirs

Greece boasts an extraordinary array of unique and distinctive terroirs, thanks to its varied latitude, topography and climate. The interplay between the majestic mountains and the extensive coastline creates a mosaic of altitudes, microclimates, aspects, and soil types, often within a single region.

This diversity is reflected in the character of Greek wines, which have a remarkable ability to convey a sense of place. The Greek terroirs can be broadly categorised into four groups:

Mountainous terroirs: the most common type in Greece. These terroirs are found in the mainland's imposing mountains in Northern Greece and the inland vineyards of the islands. Altitude reduces the temperature and therefore slows ripening of the fruit and allows the preservation of the natural acidity of the fruit.

Volcanic terroirs: such as Santorini, where vines grow on a deep layer of lava, ash, and pumice deposited by successive volcanic eruptions over millennia. This gives wines unique terroir driven characters.

Coastal terroirs: Vineyards have thrived along Greece's endless coastline, both on the mainland and the islands.

Continental terroirs: Despite the predominantly Mediterranean climate, some inland regions experience a more continental influence.

Greek Grape Varieties

Greece boasts a wide array of indigenous grape varieties that form the backbone of its unique and diverse wine industry. While some of these varieties have gained international recognition, others are still waiting to be discovered by wine enthusiasts worldwide. Here's an overview of the main grape varieties of Greece we stock examples of!

White Varieties:

Assyrtiko: Known for its crisp acidity, high alcohol, and intense minerality, Assyrtiko is the flagship variety of Santorini, now also cultivated throughout Greece. Assyrtiko produces full-bodied, age-worthy whites or fresh bright and early drinking sunshine wines.

Malagousia: Rediscovered in the 1970s, Malagousia is an aromatic variety with notes of ripe peaches, apricots, and green bell peppers. It yields full-bodied wines with ageing potential.

Thrapsathiri: An important variety of Crete, being highly resistant to drought. Thrapsathiri gives notes of melon and peach. Again, full-bodied, age-worthy wines with high alcohol and a soft acidity.

Red Varieties:

Xinomavro: Often compared to Nebbiolo, Xinomavro is known for its brick red colour, firm tannins, and complex aromas of red fruits, tomatoes, and olives. It has excellent ageing potential.

Limniona: An ancient variety, now enjoying a resurgence hailing from central Greece. A late ripening variety which enjoys the heat of the region. Despite the deep colour of the wines, they are surprisingly soft with red fruits, herbal notes and baking spice. Very Pinot Noir like in the right hands like one of the pioneers of modern single variety Limniona Christos Zafeirakis.

Liatiko: Liatiko produces wines with moderate colour intensity and aromatic profiles. The palate is often full, with high alcohol, low, soft silky tannins, and moderate acidity. Sweet Liatiko wines, made from sun-dried grapes, are even more intense on the nose, with a candied fruit character and concentrated flavours on the palate, and notable acidity. Long barrel ageing is common for most Liatiko wines.

Our Greek Recommendations

Now as promised, we will share a few of our favourite Greek producers and wines from our range.

Estate Argyros

World-famous estate which owns the largest share of Santorini vineyards (only 120 hectares). They have been quality focused since 1903 and aim to produce the very best wines, not the most wine!

Santorini Assyrtiko 2021

The terroir of Santorini is famously rugged, almost lunar. This spectacularly beautiful volcanic island is hot and dry with very little water. As a result, the viticulture is uniquely designed to protect against one and preserve the other! This is a high energy Assyrtiko with bite and equal intensity. Assyrtiko is the indigenous grape of Santorini. The islands unique terroir, viticultural techniques and incredible age of the vines due to no phylloxera sculpt these wines marvellous. Produce concentrated but vibrant, crisp, energetic and minerally wines. This is outstanding wine from this famed Estate. Lightly oaked and full of stone fruit (ripe apricot), blossom character and almost volcanic dust aromas. Pairs particularly well with fresh seafood or sun-dried octopus which Santorini is most famous for.

Vinsanto (4 years barrel aged) 2013

An absolute must try! This multi-award-winning sweet wine is a blend of 80% Assyrtiko, 10% Athiri and 10% Aidani. It is hugely aromatic, with a marmalade character, citrus peel, dried dates, nuts, honey and spices. This is perfect with our dark chocolate coated figs or a traditional walnut pie.

Lyrarakis Winery

Family-owned producer hailing from Crete, Greece's largest island. Lyrarakis are committed to protecting the biodiversity of Crete. They work with native varieties only and operate no pesticide and no-till farming. Find out more by joining us for our July Wine Tasting Evening with Lyrarakis Winery.

Lyrarakis, Thrapsathiri 'Armi Vineyard' White

Armi is the Cretan dialect to define the top of a mountainside. This single variety, single vineyard Thrapsathiri has depth and texture due to its barrel fermentation and extended time on the lees. The unique terroir of the Armi vineyard allows for an incredible aromatic expression and fresh fruit flavours of this wine. Food wise for the adventurous this wine would be perfect with Chochlioi Bourbouristi (fried snails). However, this is also great with seafood ranging from Sardines to Lobster depending on your budget!

Domaine Zafeirakis

Domaine Zafeirakis represents one of the most exciting new (ish!) Domaines of Greece. Nestled in the foothills of Mount Olympus Christos Zafeirakis created the first Organic vineyard of the region of Thessaly in 2005. Since then, he has worked tirelessly to reintroduce the obscure native varietal Limniona which was nearly extinct due to phylloxera. After all that work, we would highly recommend his Limniona wines!

Limniona Rose

With minimal intervention, only using ambient yeasts for fermentation and organic winemaking the nature of Limniona variety really shine in this rose wine. It is very good indeed!! With strawberry, cherry, cranberry, white flowers and herbs. Expressive mouth with medium body, discreet acidity and light oily texture. Do not let the slightly darker pink put you off! This is almost Sancerre Rose. Pretty, perfumed and utterly moorish. Great with sunny BBQ’s, lamb kebabs or any tomato salads.

Limniona Red

A very perfumed and pure nose displaying aromas of roses and red cherries. Simply Delicious! Savoury notes combine with well-played tannins on the palate. This is a great example of Limniona. It is pinot-esque in quality. Give this a try if you like a refined Pinot Noir. We can certainly see why Christos was driven to reintroduce this variety! This is an absolute must with Moussaka or other traditional Greek dishes!

We hope you enjoyed this blog piece and hope that you visit us soon to discuss and try our Greek wine selection this June at EWWines.