The wines of France and Italy may be globally – and justifiably – revered, but like most good things, they have Greece to thank for it.
In a wide-ranging discussion on Greek wines on the Ouzo Talk podcast, avid wine collector, Nick Andriotakis, alongside wine importer Con Ipermachou from Miloway, suggest that Greece’s standing as the cradle of much of Western Civilisation extends to Europe’s wine culture.
“The origins and the heritage of the European wine industry, comes from Greece,” says Andriotakis.
“Remember, the Greeks had colonies all over the Mediterranean, as Plato said; ‘like frogs around a pond’.
“The Greeks took the vine to Marseilles, they took it to Spain, they took it to Southern Italy and the Romans took the Greek gods – took Dionysus and called him Bacchus – and took the wine-making culture. From there, they then in-turn put it all through Europe.
“Even today in southern Italy, there are grape varieties that have Greek names. ‘Greco di Tufo’ in Campania. ‘Aglianico’ – which is a corruption of ‘Elliniko’. ‘Grechetto’ is another one.
“All these Greek varietals went through Italy and then eventually went to northern Europe.”
But while the likes of France and Italy’s wine-making reputation is well ahead of that of Greece, that tide is slowly turning, with wine enthusiasts across the Greek diaspora throwing their support behind a wave of Greek wineries and their memorable offerings.
Take Santorini’s ‘Assyrtiko’ for example – a wine that Andriotakis has no hesitation in labelling “the most unique wine in the world,” thanks to the volcanic and mineral rich soil in which the grapes grow.
With some 350 varieties of indigenous Greek grapes – found nowhere else in the world – plus a wide diversity of micro-climates, Andriotakis is certain that Greece is only just getting started and that best is yet to come.
“How many varietals can France pull out in their wine industry? There might be ten, twenty maybe.” says Andriotakis.
“The Greeks are just starting with 20 varietals now – mainstream. But they’ve got another 330 to go, whereas the French have lost theirs. Not only have they lost theirs, they’ve lost their root systems through phylloxera, and they’ve brought over American root stock to plant.
“But the Greeks have still got some of their vineyards. Santorini again, some of the vineyards (there) are original and they have the most unique and amazing vineyards in the world. We’re blessed to still have this history that is still relevant and happening today, and it’s evolving.
“What you’re drinking when you drink Greek wines – you are drinking the descendants of vineyards that have been there for thousands of years.”
It’s a sentiment Ipermachou supports.
“You’ve got 1300 wineries in Greece – so you’ve got a lot of wines to try. You haven’t seen nothing yet.”
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