Greece

Greece has a long rich history of wine production dating back thousands of years. Wine was important in Greek society from the earliest times, forming part of the Greek cultural identity. The Greeks were the first society to make wine available and acceptable to all classes of people, as well as for use in medicine and religious ceremonies.

Wine was probably first used medically as a pick-me-up or a tonic, and later, by experience it became clear that certain wines helped digestion or could be used as a diuretic.

In religious ceremonies wine was used to quench the altar fires during sacrifices and was also poured on the ground as an offering to the dead.

Early Greek colonization took the vine throughout the Mediterranean and later through many parts of Europe. Most modern day European wine regions owe their existence to the Greeks. Technological advances were also developed in Greece including: Pruning techniques, Drying of grapes on mats, Pigeage to extract color from grape skins, Torsion press to separate skins from juice, and also the idea of matching grape to soil and climate.

Unfortunately this booming wine culture did not continue during the Ottoman occupation from 1444-1832. During this time the Greek wine industry was basically halted and remained in the dark ages while the rest of the world moved ahead.

Modern day Greece was founded in 1913, but the wine industry did not really have a chance to modernize until the 1960′s. It now boasts excellent diverse climates and soils for grape growing, as well as a host of young well-trained winemakers. The modern style is a blend of clean winemaking and international varieties with native grapes and traditional know how.

Central Greece

Central Greece finds itself in a quandary; money and modernism in the south, and traditional wines like Retsina (Savatiano and Rhoditis grapes with addition of Allepo Pine Resin. Made mostly in Attica) in the north which showcase history BUT are seen to be horrible wines. The areas of central Greece are Thessaly, Epirus, Attica and Peloponnese. The most important region here currently is the Peloponnese. Basically it is the part of Greece that looks like a hand. The Peloponnese has been cultivating wine for almost 7000 years. In the Middle Ages the Peloponnese was the centre for the wine trade in the East. However, Ottoman occupation and the Second World War stunted the wine production here. Recent interest in the area is revitalizing a lot of the traditional areas and most of the focus is on the Aghiorgitiko and Moschofilero grapes. The regions of Nemea, Mantinia and Patras form the bulk of the wine growing area. It is also where the town of Sparta was originally located. Nemea is near the Corinth Canal that separates the Peloponnese from the Mainland of Greece. It is considered to be one of the shining examples of the new Greek wine industry. The Aghiorghitiko grape, also known as St.George, is grown here and can produce intense fruity red wines especially at around 1600 feet in the "semi-mountainous" zone. Here the acidity and tannins are sharpened and are an excellent counter point to the lush fruit this grape is capable of. This region has been growing leaps and bounds, but perhaps still has it's best yet to come.

The Islands

Roughly speaking there are the Ionian Islands, the Cyclades, and Crete. The Ionian Islands lie off the west coast of Epirus neighboring Albania in the North. A dry white made from Robola is probably most famous. Crete produces wines from a few different varieties, but the Mandelaria grape is probably the most important. It produces powerful, deep colored, robust wines. The Cyclades consist of the islands in the Southern Aegean Sea, and are perhaps the best know. The extinct volcano island of Santorini is the most notable of these. Here the rainfall is very low and the wines very strong. The vines are weaved into small baskets which help collect any condensation and also protect the grapes against the wind. The soils are volcanic soils and have a high calcium content. The wines themselves are dry wines from Assyrtiko grapes blended with a little Athiri and Aedani. They are high in acidity and have a fine floral nose with a high mineral content.

Northern Greece

The Northern part of Greece consists of the regions Macedonia and Thrace. These regions are mostly known for red wines based on the Xinomavro grape. Macedonia is the most important region to know in the North. It is the home of Mount Vermio which contains the Naoussa and Amyndeo regions. Evidence suggests that vines have been cultivated here for over 5000 years. Unlike most of the rest of Greece this region is mostly a continental climate and does not have the sea breezes and maritime climate. As a result a distinct set of microclimates and geological environments shape the wine regions here. Naoussa lies on the southeastern slopes of Mount Vermio at around 1000 feet elevation. Traditionally aged in wooden casks for one year this wine can be made in either a light style or a fuller more age worthy style grown on the clay-limestone soils. Amyndeo is situated opposite Naoussa on the northwestern slopes of Mount Vermio. The soil is still a clay-limestone blend, but the altitude here is at 2000 feet and the wines tend to have a little more acidity and greater tannins than their Naoussa counter-parts.

Greece Wine Producers

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Greece Area
Producer
Label
About the producer
Central GreeceSkourasSkouras Winery was established in 1986 in Pyrgela, Argos by Dijon-trained oenologist George Skouras. In 1988 Skouras launched his pioneering Megas Oenos label. Pioneering because he was the first winemaker to blend Saint George, a Greek grape (aka Aghiorghitiko), with Cabernet Sauvignon and had illustrious results with the combination.
The winery is just under one and a half hours drive from Athens, strategically situated off the Athens-Tripoli highway, on the national road leading to Argos. It is surrounded by a predominantly eye-soothing green landscape stretching all the way to Mycenae in the north, to the city of Argos in the east and to the steep mountains in the south and west. The facility encompasses a spacious visitors wine-tasting, lecture and exhibition hall, with stunning views of the Argive plane and a magnificent cellar. It is equipped with the latest in wine-making technology.
Today Skouras Winery is at the forefront of Greek estates, full of momentum and with a sharp focus on its future. Demand for its terroir-driven and estate-bottled wines is consistent both at home and around the world.
For tasting notes and technical information on Skouras please see:
www.skouras.gr
IslandsDomaine SigalasDomaine Sigalas is located on the plain of Oia, in Santorini. Founded in 1991, Domaine Sigalas has become a shining star of the Greek wine industry, merging modern technology with traditional techniques to create quality wines of history.
Here the most vibrant variety of the Mediterranean zone the Santorini Assyrtiko, as well as the Aidani, Athiri, Mandilaria and the Mavrotragano are grown.
The vineyards where these varieties are cultivated are considered the oldest continuously cultivated vineyards in the world at over 3000 years old.
The soils of pumice and volcanic ash and climate of the area are the most unique in the world. This "terrior" can not be replicated anywhere else on the planet. This is indeed a very special place.
The vines are over 50 years in age, and the replanting and pruning of the vineyards employs the same techniques today as was used 3000 years ago.
The pruning technique used here is to protect against the harsh Spring winds and scorching Summer sun.
The vineyard manager takes 4 to 5 amolites (one year old canes with 8-10 fruit buds) and interweaves them into a wreath of old and new vines. The vines pruned in this fashion, resemble a basket made of vine twigs, this protects the grapes against the elements.
The Mediterranean climate is moderated during the hot Summer months by sea breezes. At night in the summer months, humidity created by the caldera sea falls like a gentle rain at the surface of the soil and vine leaves. This rain, known by the locals as pousi (meaning a mist rising from the sea), soothes the vines from the high temperatures during the day.
For tasting notes and technical information please see:sigalas-wine.com
Northern GreeceAlpha EstateThe name Alpha Estate derives from the first letter of the Greek alphabet and the intial letter of the region the winery is located in: Amyndeon.
Moderate temperatures and heavy winter rains create ideal conditions for the grapes to ripen. Poor soils with good drainage create a mild water deficit for the vines, resulting in small berries with intense red color and concentrated flavors and aromas.
Makis Mavridis is a third generation grape-grower, and works closely with winemaker Angelos Latridis. Angelos was educated in Bordeaux, Italy and Greece. Their intention is to make wines which bring out the true characteristics of the region; wines that can reveal the soil, the climate and the typicity of the grape varieties they are made from.
The wines produced from these vineyards are powerful and complex, displaying an intense fruity flavor and excellent balance. The company devotes a tremendous effort in improving the quality of its wines, through carefully planned investments and research programs, in collaboration with many research institutes.
For tasting notes and technical information please see:
alpha-estate.com
Northern GreeceDomaine KarydasDomaine Karydas is a small family estate in Naoussa run by Konstantinos Karydaas and his son Petros. The winery is run in a very Burgundian fashion:
There are no tricks or tinkering, just old-fashioned winemaking and only the most essential equipment. The vineyard is a small 2.1 hectare vineyard planted in 1979. The higher elevation allows for a longer fuller ripening of the Xinomavro grapes, recent advances in the vineyard have allowed for a richness of flavor. The grapes are fermented in cement tanks and then aged almost 2 years in French oak barriques. For tasting notes and technical information please see:
www.diamondwineimporters.com