Greece is one of the oldest wine-producing countries in the world, with records of wine production dating back to over 6,500 years ago. A varied climate makes Greece an ideal wine-producing region, with varietals and grapes that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. From vineyards perched on some of the highest mountains, to grapes that can be found on the most popular island in Greece, here are five unique Greek wines that are worth getting to know.
The island of Kefalonia is known for its stunning crystal-clear waters (hello, Myrtos beach!). It is also the most mountainous Ionian island, hosting some of the most important vineyards in Greece. Meaning “wine of the rock”, the Robola grape grows on the slopes of Mount Ainos, the highest peak of the island. Kefalonia’s mountainous terrain, the age of the vines (some of them are 100 years old) and unique microclimate mean that Robola is, simply put, Kefalonia in a bottle.
Best enjoyed with: The acidity of Robola pairs perfectly with lamb on the spit, enjoyed both during the process of cooking and eating!
Must-try: Gentilini Robola is made entirely from Robola grapes of Kefalonia. It’s fresh and crisp with notes of citrus that will add a touch of Kefalonia to your day, no matter where in the world you are.
Steeped in a rich history that goes back 3,500 years, Retsina is a wine that plays an important role in Greece’s cultural identity. Unfortunately, poor vinification practices over the past 50 years affected the reputation of this traditional wine for some years. However, it’s safe to say the quintessential Greek wine is making a comeback, thanks to some talented Greek winemakers who are bringing an elevated version of Retsina to the world. Modern Retsina is made following the same winemaking techniques of white wine or rosé, however small pieces of Aleppo pine resin are added during fermentation (the pine resin was an innovative means of preserving the wine in ancient times and is key to the signature flavour of Retsina).
Best enjoyed with: Retsina works beautifully with signature Greek flavours and is the perfect accompaniment to a Greek mezze spread. Olives, fried salty fish, marinated Octopus, Greek salad and a chilled glass of Retsina is a match made in heaven.
Must-try: Made from 100% Assyrtiko grapes, Kechris Tear of the Pine 17 Retsina boasts a fruity aroma and has a swag of awards to back it up. This impressive drop is changing the International perception of Retsina and is one to watch.
Assyrtiko is undoubtedly the current sweetheart of the Greek wine industry. Sourced from all over Santorini, this striking white grape lends itself to dry, crisp and mineral-heavy flavours. Anyone who’s been to Santorini knows how windy the island can be, and the clever Assyrtiko vines uniquely train themselves into a woven basket shape, staying very close to the ground to minimise wind damage.
Best enjoyed with: A chilled Assyrtiko is best enjoyed in the Greek Summer sun with an abundant feast of fish, shellfish and seafood. If you can get in a view of the Santorini caldera while you’re at it, you’re winning at wine appreciation!
Must-try: Artemis Karamolegos Winery has created a very special Santorini PDO 100% Assyrtiko wine, boasting hints of peach, pear and chamomile. Recently winning the Decanter World Wine Awards Best in Show award, this is a wine with an exciting future.
Located in Macedonia, Goumenissa is another PDO zone in Greece that lies on the southeastern foothills of Mount Paiko. Goumenissa PDO wine is usually made up of 70-80% of the Xinomavro grape, known for its deep red colour and complex aromatic character, and the corresponding 20-30% is made of the much softer, fruit-driven Negoska grape which is local to the region. The flavours of this wine continue to develop in the cellar, which make it a very special wine at any stage of its journey.
Best enjoyed with: Red tannic wines like the Goumenissa pair best with dishes that they can cut through, such lamb chops with potatoes and other protein-heavy dishes.
Must-try: Chatzivaritis Estate Organic Goumenissa is an exceptional introduction to wine from this unique region (with many other wonderful organic wines worth sampling while you’re at it).
This pink-skinned, aromatic grape is grown in the Peloponnese region of Mantinia and cannot be grown in other regions due to its Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status. A cool-climate wine made in a warm country, Moschofilero vineyards sit approximately 2,200 feet above sea level and are harvested in October, quite late by regular wine harvest standards. Moschofilero-Mantinia is one of Greece’s greatest grapes but remains a well-kept secret among Wine connoisseurs.
Best enjoyed with: Moschofilero is a refreshing wine that relaxes the palette. It matches magnificently with aromatic foods (think Asian, sour spicy foods) as well as sashimi, shellfish, salads and other cold dishes.
Must-try: Ktima Tselepos Blanc de Gris is a full-bodied Moschofilero with aromas of citrus fruits and lemon flowers. We challenge you not to love this refreshing wine!
These stunning Greek wines (and more) were all sampled at Oinofilia: A festival of the Food and New Wines of Greece.