Let’s Learn About Greek Varietals
The wines from Greece vary from location to location because the varietals that can develop and mature on one terrain-think high mountains-don’t necessarily do well on the other-think sunny islands.
The wine regions in Greece include three mainland regions : Northern Greece (including Macedonia); Southern Greece,(including Crete); Central Greece,( including Attica); and the Aegean Islands, (including Rhodes and Santorini).
Winemaking dates back nearly 6,500 years. Historically, there is evidence that suggests that the earliest remnants of crushed grapes originated in Greece.
So, why, after 6,500 years do we know so little about Greek wines?
I was in the same boat. I had limited knowledge about Greek wines until I took a trip to the Island of Rhodes. An hour by air from Athens, Rhodes is located in the Aegean Sea., nearly touching Turkey.
The food is Mediterranean and the wine scene exists with random tastings day in and day out. The tastings take place all over town, in both the new and the walled Old Town of Rhodes.
Once inside the Old Town, you will find a ‘world class’ wine and spirits shop called “marinos s.a. The shop has been a fixture of the community for generations. Owner, Theofilos Marinos, who I met on my last night, was an impressive, knowledgeable and generous shop owner. He offered to open any bottle in his shop for us to sample. We (Kosmas Sarakinis) said, ‘next time.’
Kosmas manages the hip ‘10GR Wine Bar,’ located below the upscale 10GR Hotel. Owner and entrepreneur Mzanolis Zaranis opened both establishments, under one roof, because of his love for the hospitality business. He is an active owner and loves both businesses.
Kosmas introduced me to the wines from Rhodes-which is a perfect start to the puzzle of Greek wines. Rhodes is home to numerous wine varietals. Two PDO wines are from Rhodes, the PDO Muscat and the PDO Rhodes. Greeks like either sweet or dry wines. Restaurants ask it in that manner. Do you prefer white sparkling or red? Sweet or dry? It makes it easy for the consumer.
The varietals that I sampled from Rhodes were Malagousia, Athiri, Muscat di Trani, Mavrathiriko, Amorgiano, Muscat White and Assyrtiko.
If you can get past the difficult indigenous varietal names, the rest is easy. There are a few varietals that are essential to learn about. You must sample the wines with these grapes and understand what your palate tells you.
After a long conversation with a few Greek wine specialists, there are certain indigenous Greek varietals you should sample and learn about.
Life isn’t just Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc.
Do your homework and search the internet, your local wine shops or your friends wine cellar for these varietals:
That’s a start….
As I mentioned earlier, Greece is a large country with numerous terroirs. Grapes grow everywhere that you travel in Greece. Vineyards are abundant in the Aegean Islands, Peloponnese, Macedonia, Crete, Epirus, the Ionian Islands and Thessaly.
If you need suggestions for wines, here a few that I sampled at the 10GR Wine Bar.
2017 Alexandris White, Alexandris Winery, Rhodes, Athiri
2017 Patoinos, Domaine Del’, Apocalypse, PGI Dodekanese (Patmos Island) Assyrtiko
2016 Kavalieros, Domaine Sigalas, PDO Santorini, Assyrtiko
2017-2018 Rose, Estate Dimopoulos, PDO Amynyaio, Xinomavro
2017 Nemea, Estate Gofas, PDO Estate Nemea, Agiorgitiko
2017 Mavrostyfo, Papargynou Winery, Lalioti Korinthias, Mavrostyfo
2006 Methistanes, Dougos Winery, Rapsani, Xinomavro-Krasato-Stavroto
As I learn about the grapes of Greece, as well as searching wine sellers, local, online or wherever, Ill share my wine experience in America with my readers.
If you didn't know, Astoria, Queens, New York, where my wife grew up, is known to most Greeks as the largest Greek community outside of their homeland. That is where my search for Greek varietals will begin.
Again, I would like to thank Kosmas Sarakinis for starting me on this journey.
Philip S. Kampe