10 things you need to know about Greek wine!

wine wankers new wines of greece greek wines 2I recently attended a two day Greek wine roadshow and masterclass in Sydney where the Greeks showcased their wine under the banner of “New Wines of Greece”. Talk about bad timing though, it was held right as the recent crisis hit the poor buggers back home. I tried hard not to mention the situation because I could tell they were struggling with it all unfolding while they were away. I did chuckle at someone joking that they’d be paying for wine in Greek drachmas by the time they got home. Whoops, sorry.

So here’s the top 10 things you now need to know about Greek wine

wine wankers new wines of greece greek wine 31 – It’s relatively inexpensive, especially in Greece. You’ll pick up quality Greek wine in Greece for around ten Euro or even less. Twenty Euro will get you a superb bottle of wine. Above that there’s some really special wine produced but there’s often no need to be that extravagant. Oh, and you can still pick up a flagon of cheap village wine for a Euro or two, if you’re game.

2 – Greek wine is unique. Yes, some common varietals are used like Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet and Syrah but these are often blended with the local varieties like Assyrtiko, Vidiano, Moschofilero and Savatiano in whites and Xinomavro, Agiorgitiko, Kotsifali and Avgoustiatis in reds… just to name a few. Look out for producers like Avantis (multiple regions), Boutari (multiple regions) and Brintzikis (Peloponnese).

wine wankers new wines of greece crete wine3 – Beautiful wine is made on gorgeous islands. If you’ve ever been to the Greek islands you’ll know how scenic they are, and how fun they can be too. Did you know some islands make great wine? A lot of Greek islands produce local wine and often from local indigenous grapes. The beautiful island of Santorini is a wine-archaeologists heaven. Assyrtiko comes from here and makes up 70% of the island’s wine production but there are varieties amongst the remaining 30% that still aren’t formally classified. Vines can be over 500 years old. You’re bound to come across something you’ve never had before on this island. Then there’s the big island of Crete with numerous local varieties on offer, like Thrapsathiri, Plyto, Vilana and Mandilari. And then there’s Robola and Mavrodaphne on the island of Cephalonia. Look out for Lyrarakis (Crete), Alexakis (Crete), Douloufakis (Crete), Gentilini (Cephalonia) and UWC Samos (Samos).

wine wankers new wines of greece santorini assyrtiko4 – Assyrtiko is the star! Although produced elsewhere in Greece, Assyrtiko from Santorini is the speciality. Critics apparently rave about this being Greece’s showcase wine and wine region and after trying some sensational Assyrtiko I can see why. A white wine that is a little rough and tough when young it soon develops a complex array of characters from citrus fruits through to hints of the tropics all carried across a mineral filled backbone. It also makes a sensational dessert wine that is just as age-worthy as the dry versions. Be careful though, they can carry a punch and are a little more expensive than other Greek wines due to their growing popularity. Look out for Argyros (Santorini), Sigalas (Santorini) and Santo (Santorini).

wine wankers new wines of greece greek food and wine5 – Greek food is delicious and Greek wine is its perfect match. Simpler Assyrtiko is a seafood wine but I was impressed by how well good Assyrtiko goes with lamb especially if it has been drizzled with lemon. The citrus characters in the wine are what this pairing is about. The Viognier like rich apricot characters of Vidiano would make it a great wine with chicken or pork. Agiorgitiko, a red with soft tannins, would be good with lighter meat dishes and Xinomavro is for your gutsy red meats.

6 – Acacia barrels are sometimes used instead of oak. These barrels impart their own unique floral and aromatic characters without the toasty vanilla characters that oak barrels give. I tried a lovely complex Assyrtiko Sauv Blanc from Dougos (Rapsani) that beamed white flowers and tropical aromas with a nutty olive like background.

wine wankers new wines of greece retsina7 – The Aussies invented boxed wine, the Greeks invented Retsina. Both are ‘acquired tastes’ but there’s some seriously interesting Retsina being produced where only a dash of pine resin is added to the wine rather than it being poured in by the gallon. This ‘hint of resin’ makes for an intriguing wine. You feel like you’re strolling through a forest without the trees reaching down your throat and pulling your insides out. These wines are prime examples of the Greeks successfully adapting to a modern market. Look out for Retsina by Vassiliou (Attica) and Papagiannakos (Attica).

8 – Greek grape varieties aren’t the easiest to pronounce. Just in case you missed it, see above. Don’t let this put you off. Think of wine as an exploration and an experience. You’ll be trying something totally new.

wine wankers new wines of greece kir yianni ramnista9 – The Greek economy has its problems but none of this is reflected in the wine. I was well impressed with the wines that were on offer and I think the moniker of “New Wines of Greece” is most fitting. It’s also heartening that the Greeks are investing in their wine industry under the circumstances. And if there’s any way a winelover could help Greece out then that would be buying a bottle of Greek wine.

10 – Dionysus was the Greek god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual madness, fertility, theatre and ecstasy. So in otherwords, the party dude! Why did they give him up?

Author: Conrad Grah

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66 comments

  1. I’ve never had Greek wine before, this is certainly a stunning photographic display that flirts with the palate. Lucky you trying out so many wines and delicious food pairings.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on the red ant and commented:
    With a cousin in Greece, I’m following the crisis with trepidation. Here is a way in which we can all help that battered country. Btw to those who believe the Greek population brought it on themselves, that is like saying, the South African population built Nkandla and put the illegal e-tolls in place, and is encouraging Eskom not to do any maintenance on its power stations so that we can have load shedding.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Nice post.

    Although, so long as Greek wines remain undiscovered. Then the price reflects that. I grew up with Greek Cypriot friends, one with a younger uncle. We used to raid his Retsina stash, in one huge honking bottle. Since then my ex. and I spent a wonderful three weeks on an art tour there. On Mainland Greece. … just sublime. Now while not a wine, but a spirit Ouzo is also a fine drink. I used to drink my Ouzo straight … I am not a wimp. But really, it is much better with water added. This dilution brings the alcohol level down quite quickly, so it might qualify as wine? It’s certainly flavourful. Another spirit also made by Metaxa is their Brandy. A spirit, I prefer over wine any day.

    “Brandy wankers “just doesn’t have the same ring … does it?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. In 2008, my wife and I spent three nights in Athens. First, the lowlight: we did a ferry cruise to three islands and bought a carafe of white wine, or at least that is what we ordered. It was an undrinkable amber; there were lots of nearly full carafes on other tables. The highlight: the rooftop garden at Hotel Plaka was level with and close to the Acropolis which was lit up. We drank with other travellers, including a couple from Sweden who had flown down for the weekend. Plaka might be the tourist area but it is bustling and full of affordable restaurants.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great article Conrad!

    I first encountered quality Greek wine at a consumer wine show in 2000 and have liked them since. A producer called Gaia makes an excellent Assyrtiko which goes down very well in Ireland (and was one of my top 10 whites of 2014).

    Ely used to do a Xinomavro from Naoussa by the glass, like nothing else I’ve tasted!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Gaia had a great Assyrtiko represented at the roadshow. They’re one of Greeces biggest producers so they had wines from a few regions. All good.

      I should have also mentioned in the blog post that Xinomavro is the star of red wine and a speciality from Naoussa.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Amazing! I love your article. I love tasting the Greece wine. It very unique and the price is cheap. Different wines will give the differenet experience. And I am a little shocking about the wine price. Because I know the Greece crisis is a tragedy for them. And I thought Greece would has less investment on the wine industry. And now, it seems like their economy problem didn’t affect the wine industry. There is a good news for our wine lovers. If I got a opportunity, I believe Greece is my next destination! Go, try awesome Greece wines.

    Stella Pan
    The Wine Elite
    http://www.wineelite.org/

    Like

  7. I’ve had Greek wine twice in the past week (sampled 3 different bottles this past Friday). I enjoyed it all but would definitely like to learn more about it and why I like the different varietals. Thanks for this post!

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  8. Brilliant post…. Wines from Greece are under rated, and there are some supreme examples to be tasted. I recently had Thymiopoulos Rosé de Xynomavro at wine bar in Toronto and it was a fall in love, lick your glass clean, talk about it for hours…..amazing. This is a super read for anyone who wishes to know more about Greek wines. Thank you! M.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. As an Aussie backpacker on Crete some 35 years ago, my first taste of retsina (the cheapest of the cheap) tasted like kerosine. I can attest that after three months on “illegal” waitress wages – I definitely acquired a taste for it 🙂 Never graduated to a higher class of wine.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Wine is such an amazing journey. Few year ago, I visited Boutari vineyards in Santorini and it was amazing: the wines culture was so different than the way we do in France and wines really not bad with such low price for the quality.
    Thanks for the article, very interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. “This ‘hint of resin’ makes for an intriguing wine. You feel like you’re strolling through a forest without the trees reaching down your throat and pulling your insides out. ”

    Now, there’s a sales pitch if I ever saw one! Where do I sign up? 😀

    Seriously, though, it’s a fascinating article. There’s a fairly decent Greek community here in the Czech Republic, So I’ll have to see if I can source some Greek wine locally.

    However, living in the Czech wine country as I do, the local vintners may have done something to hold their ground against too much foreign competition.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Visited Crete last summer, house wines were quite delicious at restaurants, but I must say we ended up drinking ouzo (or home made moonshine they served after dinners) a lot more than Greek wines. Surely made for interesting (cross eyed) walks back to our hotel 😛

    Liked by 1 person

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