… well, four wonderful Greek grapes in any case.
Greek wines have been around for a long, long time… some 4,000 years to be sure! Greece (aka ‘the land of the wine-dark sea’) is not only responsible for spreading the vines throughout its colonies in Europe beginning in the 8th century, but also for ‘democratizing’ the drink and making it a social (rather than strictly religious) beverage. That said, upon mention of Greek wines, many still only think of ‘Retsina’ (traditional wine aged in pine resin) and this is usually followed by running and screaming to the hills.
So despite its illustrious beginnings, the modern Greek wine industry had a lot of catching up to do since ancient times, but since the 60’s and 70’s, it has caught up quickly. Today Greece offers wines that are incredibly food-friendly because of the zesty acidity in both white and red wines AND at excellent value.
Moreover, it’s a wine adventurer’s dream: there are over 300 grape varieties that are indigenous to Greece to explore. Unfortunately, many people are intimidated by all these impossible-to-pronounce grapes and wines, so they tend to shun them altogether. If by chance you fall into this camp, there is help. Here are four grapes to help you get started:
1. Moschofilero (moss KOH feel air oh): A pink-skinned variety from mainland Greece known for floral, grape-fruited and citrus white wines (still or sparkling). It is similar in aromatics to the grape Muscat.
2. Assyrtiko (Ah SERE tee koh): A smokey, minerally white wine with haunting flavor and complexity, from the Cycladic islands, most notably the volcanic island of Santorini.
3. Agiorgitiko (aye YORE yeh tee koh): This is the noble red of mainland Greece in Nemea (where Hercules killed the lion) and is responsible for wines that range from lighter and fruity (but still with tannic grip) to deeper and more brooding flavors. The name is actually a corruption of ‘St. George.’
4. Xynomavro (zee NOH ma vroh): This northern Greek grape translates as ‘bitter-black’ but don’t let that scare you, it’s delicious and often described as a cross between Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo.
If these four grapes whet your appetite (and I think they will), you should check out the New Wines of Greece website, it’s packed with information … Happy exploring!