The Long History and Rich Heritage
of Greek Wines

Greece, the renowned birthplace of Dionysus, the god of wine, has arguably the longest wine history in the world, as well as the richest heritage. In Ancient Greece there were numerous feasts honoring Dionysus, like Linea and Dionysian. Greek wine is being produced for more than 4000 years. The most ancient winepress for the production of wine, Linos, has been discovered in an area of Crete called Vathipetro. Wine culture - the consumption of wine as a social event and the appreciation of it at a very sophisticated level was something developed for the first time by the ancient Greeks.

There is clear evidence that in ancient Athens it was known that the forms of cups were affecting the taste of wine. Nowadays, Greece has a major role in the international wine culture and industry. In a wine world that is increasingly dominated by chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon and merlot, indigenous grape varieties can provide a much needed point of difference. Greek wine producers, through better understanding of vine physiology, matching site and grape variety and attention to detail, have realised the potential of local viticultural treasurers.

Glossary of the main Greek grape varietals

Agiorgitiko (a-gee-or-GHEE-tee-ko)

The king of red grapes in the Peloponnese, Agiorgitiko is cultivated in Nemea. It produces wines that are deep red in color with pronounced cassis and blackberry flavor and a rich, mature, velvety, luscious texture.

The supple young Agiorgitiko wines are fruit-forward and are enjoyable early. However, there is enough big structure to support long term cellaring (5-10 years).

Assyrtiko (a-SEAR-tee-ko)

Assyrtiko is the dominant grape of Santorini, but it has successfully migrated to Halkidiki, Epanomi, Drama, and Mount Pangeo in Northern Greece as well as to the Peloponnese.

It maintains a high acidity even in fully ripeness. With crispy acidity and excellent minerality, its wines are rich and refreshing. The aromas suggest citrus, lemon blossom, orange zest and grapefruit.

Athiri (a- THEE-ree)

This is another white grape, common to the islands of the southern Aegean and Halkidiki, in eastern Macedonia. Its wines have lovely floral aromas and a good mouthwatering attack that wakes up the palate.

Debina (de-BEE-na)

A white variety from Epirus whose wines place emp­hasis on the fruit. They are noted for their refreshing pcidity and for the aroma's finesse, which is reminiscent of green apple and pear. Debina offers a high potential for the production of effervescent wines.

Kotsifali (ko-tsee-FA-Iee)

A red Cretan grape, - Kotsifali produces wines that are wonderfully juicy, with bright red plums and a good grip on the palate. It is usually blended with another island , red grape, Mantilaria.

Liatiko (Lee-A-tee-ko)

An exclusively Cretan grape, Liatiko is considered one of the oldest Greek varieties.

It matures in July, hence its name, which is a transliteration of "Juliatiko." Liatiko is a variety with high alcohol potential that best demonstrates its qualities when sufficiently ripe.

Limnio (Lee-mnee-O)

Limnio, is an ancient a red grape varietal native to the island of Limnos. It was mentioned by Aristotle and other ancient writers.

Today it is cultivated not only in Limnos, but also in Halkidiki, and northern Greece, where it produces lovely, silky red with the exotic perfume of wet violets and cherries.

Malagouzia (Ma-Ia-ghoo-zee-A)

This fine white Greek variety is very possibly related to the famous Medieval wine "Malvasia." It was saved from oblivion thanks to the acumen of several Greek producers who believed in its potential.

Critical praise and consumer excitement have proven them right. Malagouzia wines have strong fragrance, complexity. And verve, as well as a long, slightly peppery finish.

Today, there are more than 500 companies active in the wine industry in Greece, both in the private and the co-operative sector, the majority of which have wine production as their sole activity.

The quality of the Greek wine is owed to the Greek climate conditions and the know-how of the Greek wine companies.

(Posting date 6 June 2008)

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