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Jun 24, 2019

Greece is among both the oldest and among the newest wine nations
in the world. Although it got cooking with winemaking more than 6000 years ago, a huge break in the action took it out of the winemaking game from about the mid 1400s until the 1990s. It's back these days, and as it has always been grapes are grown everywhere in this small but diverse country.  With the best wines made from indigenous grapes and select regions, you'll want to listen to this show to know what to seek out. And don't forget to look at a map while or after listening! 

Here's a rundown of the topics we covered: 

Geography: We go over where the heck Greece is and what’s here that’s good for grapes!

  • Greece is in the southern end of Balkan Peninsula between Italy and Turkey
  • Climate: Mesoclimates matter to quality wine!
    • Mountainous & semi-mountainous vineyards: altitude moderates climate, cools down the temps
    • Islands and the coast: Maritime climate/Mediterranean climate but very hot. Growers need cool sites for grapes to thrive
    • Volcanic Vineyards:Santorini especially - volcanic soils layers of which are 30 to 50 meters thick, VERY DRY -- high acidity of the grape of Santorini


  • We discuss the entire deal – from evidence of wine in Greek peninsula since the 4000 B.C. to Ottoman Rule which destroyed much of Greek viticulture until the early 1800s to the rebirth of viticulture of the last few decades.


Classification:Before we launch into the regions and wines, we tell you about the classification

  • For PDO (Protected Designation of Origin)wines – higher quality):
    • Onomasia Proelefseos Anoteras Piotitos (OPAP) Dry wines
    • Onomasia Proelefseos Eleghomeni (OPE) --sweet wines
  • For PGI level (Protected Geographical Indication): cover larger areas, more styles and grapes
    • Topikos Oinos (local/country wine)
    • Epitrapezios Oinos (table wine)



The Regions and Grapes

Northern Greece: Epirus, Macedonia, Thrace

Thrace –isbordered by Turkey and Bulgaria in the North, Aegean in the south, makes mostly international wine varieties

Greek Macedonia– borders the Republic of Macedonia, Albania, Bulgaria in the north and the Aegean sea in the south. It’s semi-mountainous, and the rocky soils make it great red wine country

  • Xinomavro (Kseen-oh-MAHV-roh):RED GRAPE.
    • Best when from Naousa in Macedonia
    • Firm tannins, bright acidity with flavors like red fruit and flowers, tomatoes, olives, dried prunes, nuts (compared to Nebbiolo)
    • Other growing areas: Northern and central Greece, Rapsani in Thessaly
  • Malagousia (mala-GOO-zee-ah):WHITE GRAPE.From Macedonia, near Thessaly
    • Full bodied wines with strong acidity, peach, lime, lemon, and soft textures. There are sweet or dry versions
    • Thought to be extinct -- professors and top growers, brought it back –resurrected by a winery Ktima Gerovassiliou (ktima = “estate”)


Epirus: NW Grecian mainland, mountains are essential to high quality.

  • Wines have great acidity – the PDO of Zitsa is making excellent sparkling wines and floral dry whites from Debina (WHITE GRAPE)



Central Greece: Central Greece, Thessalia

Central Greece (this is where Athens is): Hot and dry, more white than red

  • Saviatiano (sa-VAH-tee-AH-no) WHITE GRAPE is the most widely planted grape in Greece. It makes dry wines but is known for Retsina, which tastes like the pine resin that’s added to the must before fermentation.


Thessalia (Thessaly): Borders Greek Macedonia, Central Greece, the Aegean Sea  – Mediterranean climate with continental influences. Best areas are in the mountains that surround the region

  • Rapsani is on south facing slopes on Mt Olympus at altitude and makes Xinomavro and red blends



Southwestern Greece: Ionian Islands, Peloponnese

Peloponnese: Where Sparta and Olympia were this is a peninsula on the southern edge of mainland Greece. Best areas are on the eastern side of the Peloponnese, at altitude

  • Roditis (Ro-deet-is) WHITE GRAPE: dry, food-friendly, high-acid with lime, melon, saline, bitter citrus. Grown all over.
  • Agiorgitiko (ah-YOUR-yee-TEE-ko) RED GRAPE: Full-bodied with sweet raspberry, black currant, and plum, nutmeg and Italian herbs, smooth tannins. Wines from mountains are best especially Nemea
  • Moschofilero (MOSH-ko-fah-LAIR-oh)WHITE GRAPE:Lychee, rose, lemon flavored with good acidity and medium body. Grown in Mantinia: One of the coolest growing regions of Greece, specializes in the grape
  • Mavrodaphne (MAHV-roh-DAF-nee) RED GRAPE:Sweet, late harvest, red wine that usually tastes of raisins and chocolate with high tannins. Better when blended. Grown in Patras


Ionian Islands: Ruled by Venetians in Middle Ages – today tourism = shrinking vineyards

  • Robola, WHITE GRAPE:is Probably Ribolla Gialla from northeastern Italy. Lemon with pineapple, beeswax, quince, tart apple, can be rich and terroir-driven. Grown in Cephalonia




Crete: Largest Island (150 miles long), on the southern edge of Aegean. Hottest vineyards in Greece.

  • Mandilaria, RED GRAPE: found throughout Greece and Crete in particular. It is too powerful to be made alone. Flavors are like stewed fruit, leather, with VERY powerful tannin



Aegean Islands

  • Santorini: Volcanic island, most famous WHITE GRAPE is Assyrtiko (ah-SEER-teek-oh)grown in basket-like vines (see below)
    • Dry Assyrtiko: lean, mineral, concentrated whites
    • Nykteri (“nith-terry”): oaked with creme brûlée, pineapple, fennel, sugar cookie notes
    • Vinsanto: Made with Assyrtiko, Aidani, and Athiri with cherry and raspberry notes. Tannic, high acidity, and can have high VA (‘nail polish’ smell)


  • Samos: Muscat of Samos, WHITE GRAPE, possibly homeland of Muscat Blanc
  • Límnos: Limnio, RED GRAPE with raspberry fruit and herb notes.
  • Paros: Monemvassia, WHITE GRAPE. From Peloponnese but cultivated only on Has mineral, citrus, nectarine flavors with a medium body, refreshing acidity.



To sum up:

  • Best whites:Assyrtiko, Malagousia, Moschofilero, Debina, Robola, Muscat of Samos
  • Best reds:Xinomavro, blends with Agiorgitiko, sometimes Mandalaria or Limnio
  • Best regions:Naousa (Xinomavro), Nemea (Agiorgitiko blends), Mantinia (Moschofilero), Santorini (Assyrtiko), Samos (Muscat)



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Most of the info for this show came from the Official Wines of Greece Web site: