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.