Greece is best known for a mere two wines: Retsina and Muscat de Samos. Unfortunately, this means that Greece is not known for the greater number of varietals that are actually grown and vinified in this Mediterranean country. Sadly, this also means that the world has little idea about the wines of Greece, and about how wines “speak” in this region. How is this possible, considering wines have been being made here for at least 6,500 years?
Greece does have areas where international varieties such as Chardonnay are planted, but this ancient wine-growing region is home to varieties that the average folk has never heard of including Athiri and Xinomavro. One can also find Robola, Moscophilero, Savatiano, and Mavrodaphne spread throughout this island-heavy country. Try saying those 10x each. I know you tried.
Because Greece is not well-set on the international stage of wine, it is thus better to talk about producers who are doing things well, as opposed to good regions. Producers generally desire to make competitive wines that will do well on the export market, but they are doing this slowly. This can be conCRETEly (ha!) seen with how many Greek wines we actually see when we walk into our local liquor stores. When choosing wines from Greece, you can be guaranteed that the reds will always be the most striking and thrilling. This is partly due to the climate being so hot. Greece does do sweet wines excellently, usually based on the Muscat grape, especially from the islands on the Aegean Sea. The best Muscat wines are said to come from Samos, near the Turkish coastal area, however, modest Muscat wines can still be quite impressive. Samos is said to be making the best of the best, as the “Samos Nectar” is made from sun-dried Muscat grapes.
In Part II of “The Wines of Greece”, we will have a look at the white varietals that are grown & harvested, and vinified in this region of the world. During the 2013 Wine Bloggers Conference in Penticton, BC, in June of this year, I had the opportunity to try a huge gamut of Greek wines from white to dessert. I’ll highlight a few that I thought were most interesting and compare textbook notes to the ones that I took. Should be interesting!
Cheers, and see you soon!