Attica, the peninsula surrounded by the Aegean Sea where Athens stands, is a region of many surprises. Look around if you’re landing at Athens Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport and you’ll notice some of the 29,000 acres of vineyards, where 32 wineries produce world-class labels.
Fascinatingly enough, the culture of winemaking in Greece has existed in the region for around three and a half thousand years and in mythology, the God Dionysus travelled across Attica offering wine. Krasi (wine) has always been an important gastronomic and cultural staple of the Greek diet and lifestyle, as proven by archaeological finds of amphorae and kylixes (cups) that wine was transported and consumed in.
The dry, warm climate and abundant sunshine in Attica through most of the year certainly help – both in the production of wine and in providing the perfect opportunity to visit wineries to taste and shop local varieties in 30 to 60 minutes of travel from the centre of town. Attica also produces honey, pistachio nuts, and prized black figs in season.
The areas of Kapandriti, Koropi, Pikermi, Spata, Pallini and Stamata are where you’ll find the wineries of Attica, where the famous Savvatiano and Roditis, as well as Retsina, made from Savvatiano wine with added pine resins. “Savatiano is like drinking the Greek summer,” said global wine expert Tara Thomas to Wine & Spirit magazine, “fruity, complete in taste, easy to drink, with the scents of citrus and green apple popping out of the glass; a world-class grape.”
More modern varieties include Malagouzia, Assyrtiko, Fileri, Cabernet Sauvignon, Agiorgitiko, Athiri, Vilana, Merlot, Robola, White Muscat, Muscat of Hamburg and Muscat of Alexandria. GCT spoke with leading oenologist Nico Manessis to get some top tips on the most highly recommended Attica wineries to visit. Manessis is a leading expert on the wines of his native Greece. He authored the pioneering ‘The Greek Wine Guide’ and the’ Illustrated Greek Wine book. His travels on the wine routes continue chronicling developments which are published in his excellent and informative website Greek Wine World.
“It is little known that the Attica vineyard remains the largest in size. The age-old Savatiano white grape is a star in its own right. Few wines are so versatile with food,” he says. “There are a number of Attica wineries geared for gratifying wine tourism, and it’s well worth visiting most. However, if you’re short on time there are four that I recommend that you shouldn’t miss. Please note that it’s important to call ahead to arrange your visit, especially if you want to taste the wines: 1. Milonas Wines a family run artisan producer; 2. Gikas Winery, a historic winery that has been competitively producing good wine since 1875, 3. Papagiannakos, a modern winery awarded for its energy-efficient architecture and 4. Ktima Kokoutou a family-managed winery that also hosts events.”
Manessis, who spends his year travelling around Greece and reporting on wine culture – from the ancient to the ultra-modern – also recommended his best Attica wine choices for GCT readers, whether you get to visit the wineries or just your closest city cava.
“My favourite wines from Attica are unsurprisingly from the wineries I most recommend one should visit: from Milonas, try Savatiano ‘Naked Truth’, a single vineyard wine showcasing Attica’s lighter bodied character. From Gikas, taste the ‘Vradiano & Merlot’, a rare Greek grape with some cosmopolitan French and a kiss of oak from this fruity red wine. From Papagiannakos winery, try ‘Old Vines’, which has a sophisticated minerality with staying power. Age it for 3-5 years. And from Ktima Kokotou try the barrel-fermented ‘Chardonnay’.”
For more detailed information for planning your trip along Athens’ wine routes, see the Wines of Athens site: winesofathens.com