An Introduction to Greek Grapes

Greece has a very interesting relationship with wine: despite having ancient wine history, it is now considered pretty new on the scene. The first evidence of wine in Greece dates from around 2000 BC, and come from traces of wine being found what was believed to be a wine press. However, the culture of winemaking didn’t last. After being taken over by the Ottoman empire, Greek wine culture mostly disappeared. Christians could still grow grapes for their own wine consumption at home, and as a result wine making was relegated to rustic, domestic production and consumption. Greek wine as we know it today only really started in the 1900s and has only gained reputation and respect within the industry in the last decade or so.

In the shops recently we have seen an increase in an interest in less well-represented countries and regions, and our lovely customers are keen to be experimental and try something new. Greece certainly provides these more individual wines. Most of the wine we see coming out of Greece is made indigenous grapes: Greece boasts over 300 indigenous varieties that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. As well as many local varieties, there are lots of unique microclimates, which help produce these exciting wines.

In our range, we show some of the most popular Greek grapes and wines at their best quality. One of our most popular wines is made from Assyrtiko. Assyrtiko has recently been brought into the limelight and has become quite the cult favourite. This grape originates from the island Santorini where it is now thriving and is producing some of the best of its kind. Most of the vines on the island are from 60 to 250 years old, due to their isolation from the mainland and the scourges of phylloxera. As the island is very exposed and windy, the Assyrtiko vines are trained into round, basket shapes, to offer some protection from the elements.

As a result of the increased interest in Assyrtiko, more vines have been planted on the mainland of Greece in several different regions, and it has become popular practice to blend the grape with others, such as Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. It is also worth noting that this wines pairs wonderfully with food seeing that it has savoury minerality and citrus freshness.

If Assyrtiko sounds like your kind of tipple, check out these two fantastic options:

The next grape on the list of things to try from Greece is Roditis. Roditis is the most widely grown white grape in Greece and is also known for being the most versatile. Most of the wine made from Roditis is easy drinking table wine with very neutral simple flavours. However, when placed in a challenging climate, such as up in mountain vineyards, complex flavours really start to shine through. Like any other neutral grape, with the right techniques in the vineyard and in the winery, complex, defined flavours can be drawn out to produce a really advanced wine. In these wines you’ll find a wonderful line of acidity with flavours such as lemon rind, white peach, and honey on toast hanging gently. Again, another great wine for food so trying with some roasted white meat or tougher fish.

To try it yourself, give these wonderful examples a go:

Now on to the most widely grown red, Agiorgitiko. This red is also highly versatile and diverse, producing a range of different styles and characteristics. Agiorgitiko produces rosé and sweet wines but is widely known for its range of reds. Within the red wines it produces you can find easy drinking, fruit forward styles or bold, structured, oaked styles. It is also becoming more popular to blend this grape with other well-known international grapes, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

The best examples of Agiorgitiko are found in the Peloponnese, specifically the region Nemea. In the Mediterranean heat the grapes create rich, highly concentrated flavours which produces distinct, generous wines. Wines from this region provide notes of raspberries with sweet, stewed plums and spices such as cinnamon and sometimes some subtle bitter herbs.

If you’d like to try the rich bold style or one blended with Bordeaux grapes, take a look at these two stunners:

And last, but not least, Greece’s leading grape, Xinomavro. This grape has gained a massive increase in interest of the last few years, and has been hailed to be the finest wine Greece has to offer, being to compared to Barolo or a high end Pinot Noir. The word Xinomavro itself is a conjunction of the Greek words for acid and black, which indicates the true flavour and structure of this wine. Xinamavro is known for its distinctive, tight palate of firm tannins and powerful flavours. Classic flavor characteristics include prune, strawberry, sundried tomato, and black olives.

If you’d like to try the best of the best, the region Naoussa is considered one of the most important for this grape, wines are required to be 100-percent Xinamavro. This region sits in the north of Greece, providing the perfect climate for this grape, and legend has it that Semele, mother of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and fertility, called the area home. If that doesn’t convince you to try this wine, what will?!