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experience culture, gastronomy & more


F I R S T e d iti o n

2016 ISSUE

06 - 46

47 - 86

87 - 141


Dis cove r

Ex pl ore

143 - 175 Taste

Within just a few years, Greek wine built a name for itself and earned a unique position on the global market. Leading experts put together the pieces of the puzzle.

From the first traces of winemaking in 4300 BC to the visionaries who lay the foundations for a new era, Greece’s vineyards tell a fascinating story.

The diversity of Greece’s terroirs and the wealth of its native varieties make it one of the most fascinating countries in the wine world right now. Let’s travel from end to end, to get a taste of it all.

Reading about wine is nothing compared to enjoying it with both Greek dishes and popular foreign cuisines. We have prepared a snap guide of what goes with what, wine restaurants and bars.


A Treasure Poised for Discovery G R E E K W I N E O F F E R S G R E AT V A L U E F O R M O N E Y I N T H E P R E M I U M C AT E G O R Y

BY GIORGOS TSIROS editor - I N - C H I E F , G R E E C E I S

“We are ready to be discovered,” is something one can hear many Greek winemakers saying ever more confidently. No wonder, considering the amount of ground they have covered in recent decades. They have put their faith in native varieties (a treasure that distinguishes them from other, greater and more established powers in the wine world), are investing in technology and expertise, and experimenting and scaling the quality ladder to impress even the toughest of critics. All the pieces of the puzzle are starting to fall into place: Greece’s age-old winemaking history; its associated legends and traditions; a deeply rooted love of the vine and its fruit; unique geoclimatic characteristics; a rich culinary heritage; a significant improvement in the “window dressing” that ultimately attracts consumers, Greek or foreign; as well as restaurants, wine bars and buyers. In other words, the Greek wine industry is ready. Or almost. The challenge ahead is to acquire a full appreciation of wine as a product worthy of respect, deserving of being an experience in its own right – served at the right temperature and in the right

glass, sold at the right price even at the humblest, off-the-grid local taverna, as is the case in, say France or Italy. The good news is that Greece has a comparative advantage in its arsenal. Sure, we’re not yet ready to share the tight space on the very top among the true masterpieces in winemaking, limited in number and worth hundreds, if not thousands, of euros. On the other hand, we have made significant headway in conquering the premium category, which represents less than 5 percent of global production. That’s our field of glory, the market segment in which we can shine by offering excellent, lovingly made wines with great value for money, from the as yet undiscovered “New Old World.” This, if you will, is the “message” we are trying to convey to our international readers with this issue of Greece Is, drawing on the help of leading Greek and foreign experts: That Greece today, despite its enormous challenges, is an exciting wine-producing country, capable of breaking the monotony of other varieties that have come to dominate the global market. A hidden gem, Greek wine is just starting to show its brilliant colors.

Original artwork by Dimitris Tsoumplekas




56 100



CONTENTS Greece Is - Wine, First Edition, 2016 WELCOME 6. Why Greek Wine? A key question, answered by seven market insiders.

8. Ιnternational Praise: Mark Squires, Julia Harding, Tim Atkin, Tara Q. Thomas and other influential experts

44. A German’s Ode to Greek Wine

of the Greek vineyard.

DISCOVER 46. Dionysus, God of Wine and Ecstasy 48. Bottoms Up: The art of drinking

share their insights on Greek wine.

wine, Greek-style.

18. The Cool Factor! Architecture,


design, winemaking trends, high scores

The Timeline

60. Mists of Time: A journey through

for Greek labels... It’s all here.

wine myth and history.

26. Facts & Figures: The world of

68. Byzantium’s Gifts to the West

Greek wine, at a glance.

28. New Old World: Winemaker Yiannis Paraskevopoulos comments on

74. Lady of the Vines: A rare interview with Stavroula Kourakou-Dragona, the oenologist who devoted her life to the

Greece’s place on the global map.

Greek wine sector.

32. The New Era: Master of Wine

80. The Pioneers Gallery

Konstantinos Lazarakis on the renaissance of Greek wine.

36. At a Crossroads: Winemaker Stellios Boutaris, on battles won and yet to be given.

40. How the West Was Won:

EXPLORE 88. Northern Greece: Epirus, Macedonia and Thrace

100. Central Greece: From the foothills of the Olympus to the outskirts of Athens.

Oenologist Sophia Perpera gives us

106. Peloponnese: Nemea, Mantinia

the inside story.

and beyond.


118. Santorini: The volcanic force 128. Crete: The rising star 132. Tradtional Sweet Wines 138. Retsina, the big comeback EXPERIENCE 144. Best Friends: Pairing wines from indigenous varieties to famous Greek dishes

152. Go Greek All the Way: Great local cheeses and... their favorite wines. 156. There’s Always Room for a Greek: Versatile and exciting, the country’s wines find their match in the world’s cuisines. 160. Wine & Dine: Our team of experts picks the best wine restaurants and bars around the country. 162. Try Them at Home: Greek wines on the lists of fine restaurants around the globe.

Drink responsibly

118 160


134 greece is - wine first edition, 2016

Published by: Exerevnitis - Explorer SA, Ethnarchou Makariou & 2 Falireos St, Athens, 18547, Greece ISSN: 2459-2498 Editor-in-chief: Giorgos Tsiros ( Deputy editor: Natasha Blatsiou Editorial consultant: Vassilis Minakakis Creative director: Thodoris Lalangas / Creative consultant: Costas Coutayar Art director: Ria Staveri Pagination: Dimitris Stappas Translations/editing: Damian Mac Con Uladh, Stephen Stafford, Christine Sturmey, Pavlos Zafeiropoulos Proof-reading: Christine Sturmey Photo editors: Dimitris Tsoumplekas, Maria Konstantopoulou Photoshop: Christos Maritsas, Michalis Tzannetakis, Stelios Vazourakis Commercial director: Natasha Bouterakou ( Head of public relations: Lefki Vardikou Online marketing: Thanasis Sofianos, GREECE IS - WINE is an annual publication, distributed free of charge Contact us:

It is illegal to reproduce any part of this publication without the written permission of the publisher.

ON THE C OVER Original Illustration by Katerina Alivizatou & Ignatios Manavis


The Gift of Dionysos Dry white wine from the Sideritis variety

Petite Fleur Dry rosĂŠ from the Sideritis variety

Pnevma Grape marc spirit produced by the distillation of marc from the Sideritis variety

Apostagma Distilled wine from the Sideritis variety aged in oak barrels


An indegenous variety of Achaia, Greece, gives us two unique wines and two unique spirits

Parparoussis Winery, Proastio, Patras, Greece t: (+30)261 0420334 | f: (+30)261 0438676 | email: |



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George Skouras

Paris Sigalas

Yiannis Vogiatzis

The sleeping giant wakes

Competing with the best

A matter of character

In the past 30 years, the number of winemakers in Greece has soared from less than a hundred to over a thousand. This fresh injection of new blood has helped shape a new profile for the modern viticulturist and winemaker. Young in age, scientifically savvy, in tune with global developments, these are people who hail from the land, from vineyard-owning families, working hard and conscientiously to transform their grapes and win over new markets in Greece and abroad. This is no easy challenge: In a country with more than 300 native varieties, 30 of which are relatively well known, young winemakers must not only honor the achievements of previous generations, but also create new trends in wine. The history books of the future have a glorious chapter reserved just for them.

Over the past few years, we have seen a clear preference from the international consumer for varieties that are different to those like Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, so widely cultivated around the world. A new appreciation has emerged for varieties that were previously unknown, varieties such as the Italy’s Nero d’Avola, Austria’s Gruner Veltliner, Portugal’s Touriga Nacional… and among these, Greece’s own Assyrtiko and Xinomavro. The country’s varietal wealth is largely untapped, but Greek wine is becoming increasingly attractive to foreign consumers thanks this wealth, the diversity of its terroirs and its excellent value.

We don’t produce large quantities; we have wines that stand apart because of character. Ancient history, indigenous varieties, a wonderful climate and incredible terroirs are all encapsulated in our bottles. From volcanic Santorini and the arid islands of the Aegean to the verdant arc of Samos, Limnos and Crete; from the coast of Halkidiki, where the vineyards reach down to the sea, up to the northern hinterland of Naoussa and Amiantos, and from there down to the Peloponnese and the Mantineia plateau that stands 650 meters above sea level, we have myriad stories of human accomplishment, of our amazing wineries, to share with the world.

George Skouras is President of the Greek Wine Federation, the man who launched Moschofilero and Agiorgitiko on the international market.

A winemaker, Paris Sigalas is one of the most highly awarded producers of Assyrtiko in Santorini.

Why Greek wine? Seven market experts give compelling reasons to explore the country’s new world of wines BY n ata s h a b l at s i o u


President of the National Inter-Professional Organization of Vine and Wine of Greece and winemaker, Yiannis Vogiatzis is regarded as one of the people who united the industry’s forces towards a common goal.

Roxani Matsa

Nico Manessis

Enriching your palate

Tick it off your must-do list

It’s our time to be discovered

At numerous restaurants along America’s East Coast, wine lovers today have the opportunity to taste a Greek wine, opening their palate to new discoveries and alternatives to Cabernet Sauvignon and all those other eblematic varieties that have conquered vineyards and wine lists around the world. What’s more, they can find them in stores as well. Sure, buying a bottle from the shelf is not the same thing as drinking a glass on a beach in the Aegean, but don’t forget that the best match for Greek food is always Greek wine.

If you happened to have tasted a Greek wine a few years back – served in a jug at whatever taverna you may have been eating at – and found it bland and/or of moderate or even poor in quality, let me assure you that those days are gone. Today, everything has changed. The diversity that has shaped our wine industry is remarkable, and we have developed a world of flavors that is certainly worth exploring. Sure, the museums and archaeological sites are the stars, but taking some time to discover the wine is also very rewarding.

Constantinos Boutaris is a winemaker whose Moschofilero Boutari has been ranked among the Top 100 Most Exciting Wines of 2015 by Wine Spectator.

A winemaker, Roxani Matsa spearheaded the revival of Malagousia.

Our history is great, our sun is strong and our terrain, thanks to intense seismic activity, is varied; what’s more, all these assets are squeezed into the 130,000 square kilometers that make up this country. You can be in Athens sipping on a glass of Savatiano and, in just 20 minutes, fly to Santorini to taste an Assyrtiko or head to Crete for a sample of Vidiano. These three wines vary so greatly in style and character, and their stories are so different, that it’s hard to imagine that you can visit so many different flavor worlds in under one hour. There are interesting terroirs all over the world, but today it is our turn to be discovered.

Constantinos Boutaris

Haroula Spinthiropoulou A story to tell

Greece is a new oenotourism destination, a country of great natural beauty that has its own wine stories to tell, and wineries that are increasingly opening their doors to the public. Friends of Xinomavro is the first association formed in Greece to attract travelers who are looking not just to taste Greek wine, but to hear the stories of the people and the place, and be part of the productive process, from pruning to harvest. PhD viticulturist and winemaker, Haroula Spinthiropoulou is the founder of Friends of Xinomavro.

For the last 20 years, Nico Manessis has been a wine writer, commentator and international wine judge (www.greekwineworld. net). He has authored guides and contributed to numerous reference books.


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Elegance & Individuality Many people forget how mountainous Greece is. Producers can make the most of cooler areas to make wines with elegance and individuality, from bone-dry to super-sweet whites and light to full-bodied reds. The quality and consistency of Greek wines has improved enormously and the range of indigenous varieties and great vineyard sites is truly impressive. Viticulture and subtle winemaking, along with less oak, have resulted in wines with greater finesse that reveal the region of origin and the grape varieties. It is a shame that many visitors to the country never get to taste these wines... By julia Harding*

The mountainous vineyards of Metsovo, on the slopes of Pindos range, produce the Debina variety.

* Julia Harding is an awardwinning Master of Wine, writer and reviewer for www.jancisrobinson. com, one of the most prestigious wine websites in the world.


GENERATION NEXT Master of Wine Yiannis Karakasis’ top-10 of young winemakers.


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Unique Grapes, Good Bargains Greece is likely to be the next cult wine destination, with a vast array of indigenous grapes like Xinomavro and Assyrtiko, not to mention more obscure ones like Robola and Limnio. Greece’s greatest advantage is that its unique grapes give the country a clear wine identity. You can even taste modern examples of wines that were famous back in Aristotle’s time. Such romance aside, the bottom line is that the grapes are good, not merely different. I keep finding yet more wines I like. There are some issues, of course. First, Greece needs more top producers of its interesting grapes. I like Robola, for instance, but not many wineries make it (try Gentilini and Foivos). Also, it can be confusing to drinkers who are exploring Greek wines because they have heard about different and interesting grapes to 10

discover that many wineries here are equally well known (often more so) for their French grapes. Then there’s retsina, a persistent public relations issue. It is not a grape, but wine with resin added. It has, in my view, done a lot of damage to Greece’s reputation. Two local grapes that are known internationally are my favorites, Assyrtiko from Santorini and Xinomavro from Northern Greece. Some fine examples I’ve enjoyed include the Sigalas 2014 Santorini and the 2007 Foundi Naoussa. International consumers picking wines like this from emerging regions can expect high quality, something different and good prices. One day these grapes, mostly bargains now, will not be so inexpensive, so take advantage while you can. ΒΥ Mark Squires*

Xinomavro grapes, one of the “big four”

*Mark Squires covers the wines of Greece for Robert Parker’s consumer newsletter, the Wine Advocate.

THE BIG FOUR Wine journalist Ted Lelekas on Greece’s flagship varieties.

“A natural match for Greek food” Q&A with Kim Marcus Managing Editor o f W i n e S p e c tat o r

If you were to pick three Greek varieties that really stand out, which would they be and why? Assyrtiko, because of its creamy textures and flavors; Xinomavro, for its impressive structure and potential; Malagousia, for its melon and white fruit flavors, and everyday drinking pleasure.

What are the unique selling points of Greek wines in the global market? The native grapes and the flavors they provide, the incredible history, and the modern renaissance of its winemaking culture.

How can Greece continue to evolve its wine-production? Keep the focus on native grapes and on Greece’s unique heritage. De-emphasize wines made from international grapes. And in the US market, teach Americans that Greek wines are a natural match for Greek food.

“I love the enormous variety of Greek wines and the country’s array of indigenous grapes. For me, Greece is one of the most exciting wine-producing countries in Europe at the moment.” T i m At k i n M as t e r o f W i n e

Vineyard in Messinia, Peloponnese.

Tara Q Thomas has been writing about wine for 20 years now, mainly at Wine & Spirits, where she is the executive Editor and the wine critic for wines from Austria, Germany, Hungary, Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean.

Tasting Greece by the Glass © GIANNIS GIANNELOS

Β Υ Ta r a Q . T h o m a s




fter nearly 20 years of covering Greek wine, I’m still as excited about my next trip as I was the very first time I set foot in the country. Then, news of a winemaking renaissance hadn’t trickled down to the places in Exarchia where I hung out after work – or the restaurant where I was cooking. But one day, after a catering gig somewhere down the coast from Athens, the host of the event handed me a glass of wine. Standing on a hill overlooking the sea, I had the sort of experience that, until then, I’d only read about: I tasted the place in my glass. The sun, the sea breeze, the warm stones and the brush that grew around them; it was all there, and it was delicious. Years later, when I began to write about wine, I thought of that wine often. I got to taste quite a lot of wine – good wine, too – but much of it was homogenous and dull. I knew that, in Greece, this wasn’t usually the case. And so I went back. To the Peloponnese, where it was easy to imagine Pan drinking deeply of the juicy, dark Agiorgitiko in Nemea or reveling in the floral Moschofilero in Mantineia. To Monemvasia, where I found not just one of the most beautiful places on earth, but also a handful of winemakers reviving wines that were once world-renowned under the name Malvasia. Since then, I’ve watched Santorini blossom, as winemakers stood their ground to protect  their ancient vines from rampant tourist development and went on to create wines that  compete with Grand Cru Burgundy in their complexity and finesse. I’ve eaten my weight in delectable pies while discovering Crete’s local varieties, and reveled in fresh fish and glasses of Robola in Cephalonia. And then there’s the north, a world away, where snow blankets the vineyards every winter and the wines, white and red, hold a cool tension in their flavors. There were dark moments in these travels – like when winemakers didn’t believe in the power of their own grapes and covered up their unique tastes with foreign grapes or the vanilla of oak chips and barrels. And it’s still not all perfect. Like anywhere else, there are bad wines here and there. But thanks to a growing band of seriously committed winemakers, many vineyards that seemed destined to disappear 20 years ago are doing more than surviving; they’re putting out some of the most compelling wines I know of — the ones made from Greece’s plethora of ancient varieties, the ones that no one else in the world can imitate, made with a light enough hand that we can taste the place. And there is no place like Greece. G R E E C E IS

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“The white wine grapes of Greece – with names like Moschofilero, Roditis and Assyrtiko – sound a bit scary, like alien beings. But I think of them as the constituents of a parallel universe in which crowds of people embrace these wonderfully refreshing, intriguing whites, rather than defaulting to generic summer whites like Pinot Grigio.” ERIC ASI M O V TH E N E W Y OR K TI M E S

Bronze-and-steel corkscrew designed by Athanasios Babalis.

“It wasn’t that it was the best wine I had ever tasted; it was just that it had a particularly unusual and enjoyable flavor. And it was from Greece. Not that this should have made any difference but, given the current state of affairs in the country, it caught my attention. As I took a second sip, it occurred to me that if Greece can keep producing wines of this quality, there will be at least one export business with a bright future... The wine in question was an Assyrtiko from Santorini. When its identity was revealed, I nearly dropped my glass.” W ILL LYONS TH E W A LL S TR E E T J O U RN A L

“As more and better Hellenic wines arrive in American shops and restaurants, wine drinkers are learning to value their charms and even how to pronounce their names.” LETTIE TEAGUE TH E W A LL S TR E E T J O U RN A L

“Somewhat ironically, one of the worst times for the Greek economy happens to coincide with one of the best times for Greek wines.” Joe Harpa z F o r bes . c o m

EXPERT PICKS “Now, Greece is in the throes of a second revolution, as talented young winemakers experiment with single-vineyard wines, special cuvees, even sparkling wines. The up-and-coming white grapes are Vidiano from Crete, the latest regional hot spot, and Robola from Cephalonia, in the Ionian islands; the hot reds are Limnio, Greece’s oldest grape, and Mavrodaphne, which used to make only sweet wines. Of the country’s diverse wine regions, the one now having its New York moment is spare, whitewashed Santorini, that Cycladic island so beloved by tourists. Its striking Assyrtiko wines, the best whites in Greece in my opinion, have captured many of New York City’s top sommeliers (like Michael Madrigale of Boulud Sud) with their lemony, mineral, summer-perfect freshness.” Elin McCoy B l o o mbe r g . c o m



Two Greek wine bloggers name their favorite labels.








UTILITY WITH A SENSE of style From the pre-industrial canavas of Santorini to ultra-modern facilities, pairing wine and architecture in Greece enhances the travel experience. BY n ata s h a b l at s i o u

1. 3. 5. 7.

Boutari, Crete. 2. Mercouri, Western Peloponnese. Pavlidis, Drama, Macedonia. 4. Katogi Averoff, Metsovo. Papagiannakos, Attica. 6. Gavalas, Santorini. Boutari, Santorini.



hen we talk about the marriage of wine and architecture, we usually associate the ideal wine experience with the vast vineyards and castles of Bordeaux and Tuscany. The Greek countryside, however, has its own treats in store: dramatic changes in landscape, from lush mountains to arid vineyards on rocky, sun-baked islands and fascinating facilities that offer unexpected wine experiences. The traditional cellars dug into the rock (canavas) in Santorini, for years busy, out-of-sight production units, have been given a makeover and opened to the public. Attractive buildings denoting the country’s industrial heritage like the Mercouri Estate in the Peloponnese or Katogi Averoff in Metsovo have acquired added value. Meanwhile, we have witnessed the almost simultaneous emergence of pioneering structures such as the Pavlidis Estate in Drama, whose simple, modern lines are a direct reference to its New World philosophy, and the futuristic Boutari wineries in Santorini – named one of the Ten Architectural Wonders of the Wine World – and in Fantaxometoho in Crete. For many winemakers, environmentally friendly and sustainable practices are becoming increasingly important. This is the case at Papagiannakos Winery in Attica, which was designed according to bioclimatic principles. In Greece, you will find it all: from small traditional wineries to impressive facilities where wine is produced in near-industrial conditions. The diversity of winery architecture is such that each one you visit is as different as the wine it produces.



Venetsanos Winery, Santorini.

Marios Karystios for Lefteris Logothetis & Papargyriou Winery

Βob Studio for Pure Drops

G Design Studio for Base Grill Restaurant


Red Fish for Photos Photiades Distributors Ltd Beetroot for Pieria Eratini Winery

Athanasios Babalis and Red Creative for Ktima Gerovassiliou

Creative designers give Greek wine a new look. Beetroot for Pieria Eratini Winery

Getting Greek wine out into the global market is a challenge involving many different parameters. In recent years, an increasing number of producers are entrusting their (re)branding to creative firms, making up for the cost with increased sales. As the Greek design scene continues to evolve in leaps and bounds, earning accolades and gaining fans both at home and abroad, the obvious question is whether packaging can really make or break a wine. “Competition is making wineries look for ways to create a strong brand for themselves. The label on the bottle is the first step in promoting that brand. This needs to be quickly and clearly,” says Grigoris Tsaknakis of Mousegraphics in Athens. Crete-based Lazy Snail is a case in point, as it helped a small winery on its native island double overseas sales thanks to a complete brand overhaul. “The challenge was to get the consumer emotionally involved in the product, to convey the winery’s story and to create a bond so that the consumer wants to learn more about it,” says firm owner and designer Ioanna Drakaki. Is design one way of drawing the world’s attention to Greece’s wines? The creative director of Thessaloniki’s Red Creative, Simos Saltiel, is optimistic: “New markets have more freedom to do new things, and a modern and attractive label is the first beacon of light. After that, it all comes down to quality. But I have no doubt in this regard because our native varieties are quite exceptional.” - M ARIA KORACHAI

Beetroot for Biblia Chora Estate

Red Creative for Ktima Voyatzi Lazy Snail for Rhous Winery

Mousegraphics for Domaine Spiropoulos

Chris Trivizas for Markogianni Winery



High Scores G REEK WINE S G AIN TO P M ARK S F RO M IN F LUENTIAL C RITI C S In recent years, Greek wines have been gaining top marks from some of the world’s top critics, who put them on par with the best wines from international vineyards. This recognition is establishing Greek indigenous varieties on the world’s wine map and helping oenophiles discover the delights of native grapes such as Assyrtiko, Xinomavro, Athiri and Mavrotragano. Discover the full spectrum of Greek wines from fresh, vibrant whites, complex reds and skillfully aged sweet wines. On our website,, we’ve selected just some of the best-rated Greek wines from Mark Squires for www. and Julia Harding for – just scan the QR code. - O M AIRA GILL


SEE THE LIST Top rated Greek wines

Wine bars: More than a Trend Dozens of labels in 25ml servings to help you decide if this is what your taste buds yearn for; old vintages from the best Greek winemakers; impressive cellars, informed sommeliers and excellent dishes: all this makes up the phenomenon of wine bars that has conquered the center of Athens and spread across the country. Ιt’s so much more than a trend. Up until a few years ago, imbibing in a top-notch Greek wine when going out for leisure or romance meant going to a fancy restaurant and accompanying it not just with food, but also with the bitter pill of a hefty bill at the end. Wine bars – with their modern look, laid-back atmosphere, well-informed wine lists, light dishes and budget friendly prices – brought good Greek wine closer to a broader and younger crowd. The expression “let’s grab a glass” has taken on a whole new dimension; a different quality. Tasting, appreciating or rejecting a wine is no longer a scary prospect on the pocket. It has become a legitimate alternative for a good night out, an adventure and a cultural phenomenon. In this regard, wine bars play an essential educational role as well. And that alone is nothing to be sniffed at.



Emerging Trends The Greek wine industry is currently one of the most exciting in the world.

BY Ko n s ta n t i n o s Lazarakis, MW


dapting all the time and mirroring the changes around it, wine is, metaphorically speaking, a living organism. The same holds true for wine production in general. Actually, these changes illustrate the health, vibrancy and quality of the sector – and Greek wine is bound to captivate even more consumers with its ever-changing fashions. The trends discussed here can only be considered the tip of the iceberg.


Funky winemaking There is a growing segment of oenologists that, bordering on the experimental, wants to craft wines that go beyond the obvious styles and achieve cult-like status. Greeks had a headstart of a few centuries, if not millennia, to develop these rule-breaking methods. While aging wine in amphorae has recently attracted a lot of attention, the ancient Greeks even had laws regulating the shape and size of amphorae with specific appellations. Another method of aging, tested by Gaia in Santorini, is submerging bottles in the sea. Deeply colored orange wines, created from white grapes that have been vinified like a red wine, have also been documented in antiquity. These intriguing wines, sweet in flavor but with a dry, tannic palate, are an excellent accompaniment for many Greek dishes.

Excellent jug wine

Rediscovering old varieties

Greece has been blessed with a number of indigenous grape varieties. According to some estimates, it is home to more than 300 varietals, though only about 40 are currently commercially important and available. However, more and more producers are returning to old, forgotten blocks to identify near-extinct varieties. Even 10 years ago, grapes like Vidiano and Spinas Muscat from Crete, Limniona from Thessaly or Lagorthi from the Peloponnese, were nowhere to be found on a wine label; today all of these produce sensational wines. And there is more to come.

Tourists are usually attracted to Greece’s simple local tavernas, where wine tends to be served by the jug. Most would assume that this wine is poured from a barrel at the back of the restaurant and made from the owner’s own vineyards, but this is no longer true. The majority come from bag-in-box packages, produced by good, modern wineries. Due to the financial difficulties many Greeks have faced over the last six years, quite a few people stopped drinking bottled wine, resulting in falling sales. So, a number of wineries, with bag-in-box becoming more popular, had no choice but to package good quality wine in such a manner. Jug wine in Greece can be excellent – but bear in mind that the people serving at the taverna should be able to name the producer and the area the wine comes from.

Exclusive bottlings


High-priced wines are crucial in helping producers achieve a top-quality image. While the Greek market has been thirsty for lower-priced wines, export markets demand premium product. Santorini producers are leading that trend, making some outstanding wines in very limited volumes, which sold out in weeks in countries like the US or Canada and, rather surprisingly, in Greece as well. A comforting point is that these labels are not a one-off success, but in growing demand with each vintage. This is proof that Greek wine is finally entering the upper echelons of the fine wine sector.

Organic, natural and biodynamic These styles of wine are much in vogue all around the world. Such is the case in Greece, albeit with a couple of marked differences. The great, hazard-free climate in Greece not only makes organic and biodynamic cultivation viable but, in some cases, the only logical option. Moreover, Greeks have a long wine-producing history that stretches back to a time when chemicals or winemaking additives were not available. What other wine producers must struggle to attain, Greeks have naturally. The results are fantastic.


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at a glance What’s behind the 1 percent of global wine production that Greece represents. SLOPES OF MELITON R, W GOUMENISSA R NAOUSSA R AMYNTEO R
















PDO Wines bear a Protected Designation of Origin indication as defined by the European Union. Organization of Vine and Wine, Hellenic Statistical Authority

26 Sources: National Inter-professional



years of history

300 90%

native varieties representing of total cultivation


€62.7 mln

biggest wine producer

Total value of Greek wine exports

( 2 0 14 )

( 2 0 14 )

33 PDO


120 PGI






vine growers

2/3 WHITE 1/3 RED

1,100 M


Greece’s highest vineyard is in Yiniets in Metsovo, nortwestern Greece



of arable land given over to winegrapes

17% Savatiano 13.73% Roditis 5.45% Agiorgitiko 3.37% Xinomavro ( 2 0 12 )

Average price of PDO grapes

2.7 mln hl Wine production in 2015

REECE I L L U S T R A T IO N S K a t e r i n a A l i v i z a t o u & I g n a t i o s M a n aGv is


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The Fortunate Ending of a Rather Big Misunderstanding Despite a history of thousands of years, modern Greek winemakers did not know how to make it in highly competitive foreign markets. Until now. BY YIANNIS PAR ASK E VOPOULOS


reeks have an entirely different perception of time. Subconsciously, almost instinctively, we believe that everything began down here, on this nubbin of land on the southeastern underbelly of the European continent, which we now know as Greece. Considering matters more impartially, we may “add some water to our wine,” as the Greek saying entreating


Socrates Know thys(h)elf


moderation goes, before begrudgingly arriving at the more rational admission that everything actually began in the greater Mediterranean region, and okay, possibly one or two things in China too! Despite its navel-gazing Hellenocentric basis, there is in fact much truth in this seemingly oversimplified view of history. Take wine for example, a drink worshipped through the eons, steeped

in mystical and religious symbolism, a liquid companion to man in sorrow and joy, a beverage that did indeed begin its legendary journey on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, or, let’s be honest, some kilometers further inland, in the sub-Caucasian region of present-day Armenia. So, while our ancient forefathers may not have discovered wine in the strictest sense of the term, but rather welcomed it into their lives from Phoenicia around 4,500 BC, Greeks have ever since both cultivated and worshipped it with remarkable consistency, even through the toughest and darkest hours of their long history. Today no oenophile can look upon the 4th millennium BC wine press at Vathypetro in Crete and then – without so much as a thought – place Greece


among New World producers such as Australia and Chile. Yet this outrageous belief, revealing gross ignorance of history, has become so prevalent that it is considered not only correct but also widely accepted by everyone but the Greeks themselves. So why this distortion, you may ask. The truth, as in most things, can be found in a plethora of different – and possibly equally important – reasons. The country’s geographical isolation from the rest of Europe, its centuries-long occupation by the Ottomans and its exclusion, because of this occupation, from the influences of the Enlightenment and the Renaissance are certainly factors, later compounded by the reluctance – and to some extent, inability – of Greeks to invest in a better and more aggressive marketing of their history and products.

Greeks justifiably believe themselves to be among the world’s oldest, traditional wine-producers, even though the rest of the world considers them newcomers in the field. This conundrum is best addressed by a person I consider the absolute expert in all things wine-related, British Master of Wine Jancis Robinson, who described Greece as the “New Old World.” And that is exactly what it is: a country that while producing wine since earliest recorded times, never knew how to promote and sell the product (along with so many others) on highly competitive foreign markets, resulting in its absence from them and, as a consequence, its 30

Greek grape varieties – Assyrtiko, Moschofilero, Agiorgitiko and Xinomavro – trip from the lips, albeit somewhat comically, of every alternative and avant-garde sommelier.

exclusion from the world of wine. This may appear puzzling and you may be asking: “But Greeks always exported their wines all over the world, didn’t they?” Well, did they? Let me answer with more questions: Could it be that this “exportation” was actually little more than the “transportation” of wine by Greeks to other Greeks? Could the fact that we restricted the supply of our product to the narrow bounds of the Greek diaspora be another reason for the misunderstanding about our status as a wine-producing country? Whatever it was, it certainly was not exporting in the real sense of the word, since this would entail exposing the product to non-Greeks too. Nevertheless, efforts have recently been made to make up for all this lost time by a handful of very small wineries that in just a few decades have achieved the seemingly impossible: namely, placing Greece firmly on the international wine map and meeting the high standards of global markets. This smattering of winemakers, with their comparatively very small wineries, have invested in the areas that are vitally important to such an endeavor. They put their efforts and money into technology and know-how, both at the level of grape cultivation and winemaking, and applied modern marketing techniques to build on the simple idea that what was needed was a concerted effort to promote the special characteristics and particular qualities of Greek wine. They did not resort to the easy solution – which would have been a terrible mistake – of producing cheap imitations of other countries’ wines. They did not yield to the shortsighted mimicry of “monkey see, monkey

do.” Instead, they capitalized on the distinctiveness and diversity of Greek varieties, taking advantage of the stagnation that had already appeared in the international market as a result of the constant repetition of the same international varieties and flavors. Greek winemakers today have adopted an admirable outward-looking approach based on a simple motto that any buyer in the world can understand: Greek wine is different, it’s good and it’s consistent. Today, Greek grape varieties that had until recently been relegated to the realm of the exotic grace even the most discerning wine lists in the world and those four words – Assyrtiko, Moschofilero, Agiorgitiko and Xinomavro – trip from the lips, albeit somewhat comically, of every alternative and avant-garde sommelier. Though accounting for just 1 percent of global production, Greek wine has become a force to be reckoned with. Greek producers are also well aware that while the road to acclaim on international markets may be long and bumpy, it is the only route to follow, one that inevitably – because of their relatively small size – leads directly to the most demanding niche markets, where it’s either boom or bust.


Yiannis Paraskevopoulos, PhD in Oenology from the University of Bordeaux II, is the co-founder of GAIA Wines.

/ The most ancient native Greek variety to grow in Tyrnavos on the Thessaly Plain, is cultivated by us with dedication and hard work /

the e xpe rts

the dawn of a New Era If you think that “Great Quality Greek Wine” is a non-existent category, you will be surprised.

BY Ko n s ta n t i n o s L a z a r a k i s , m w



et’s face it. For many wine lovers around the world, “Top Quality Greek Wine” may appear as an oxymoron. Back in the 1970s, this could have been true. The vast majority of wine produced in Greece was sold in bulk, often disguised as a poor quality, oxidized retsina. The situation created a bad image for Greek wine that continues to haunt it – even seasoned wine writers around the world would think that little has changed. However, Greek wine production has undergone a sea change since the 1980s and its people are constantly improving it, vintage upon vintage. The story of wine has always been linked to history. Someone could argue that, in order to create fine wine you must have two kinds of aristocracy – one able to afford to produce it and another with the means and desire to buy it. France is a prime example, with affluent landlords and monasteries producing wine to be consumed at court. California is another, more modern illustration of this dynamic, with Napa Valley developing hand in hand with Silicon Valley. Greece has a long and turbulent history, during centuries, if not millennia, of which most people lived in poverty. Wine was always an integral part of everyday life – after all, Greeks were the first to create an enveloping culture for


Pythagoras All things are numbers

this product. The first wine writers, the first sommeliers and even the first laws regarding wine were Greek. Nevertheless, wine was a staple of nutrition, but not an aspiring product able to command high prices and satisfy eclectic tastes. For most of the 20th century, wine was mainly produced in bulk, sold down to a price rather than up to a quality. The established commercial wineries focused on the production of high volume, cheap wine since this is what they could sell. But wine was becoming more and more important as a product. People were moving out of their villages and into the booming cities, so they could not keep on producing their own home-

made wine. Sales in urban areas increased. As a direct consequence, wineries became more structured and the need for qualified professionals grew. As oenology degrees were not available from Greek universities at that time, interested students had to study abroad, in France, Germany, Italy or even the US and Australia. Upon their return, graduates had no option but to start working for the big wineries, such as Boutari, Achaia Clauss, Tsantali, Kourtakis and many others. The die was cast, though. Soon, these young winemakers wanted to do their own thing and make a statement about high quality and low volume. Since bottled wine was becoming more of a luxury

the e xpe rts

More and more young people are falling in love with wine, spending money and time on comprehending it while maintaining a global perspective.

product, a number of wealthy businesspeople, initially not involved in the industry, made substantial investments in vineyards and wineries, as a lifestyle decision more than anything else. This become known as the 1980s revolution of small wine producers and it set Greek wine on a blazing trail. The resulting chain reactions would resemble the chemical reactions in winemaking. The first small wineries were located in many scattered locations, not always in the traditional wine areas around Greece. These ventures were very successful and they increased in size and capacity, to become medium-sized in time. The gap created was swiftly filled by new entries, essentially the next wave of ambitious oenologists or eager investors. The big players had to get their act together in order to make better quality wines at really sharp prices. This explosion on the production end was conveniently coupled with 34

equivalent changes on the consumer end. The restaurant scene in most Greek cities, as well as in a vast number of holiday resorts, became more ambitious and quality-oriented in order to satisfy the tastes of an increasingly discerning clientele. Sommeliers, wine writers, retailers and traders were flourishing. From 1985 to 2008, the sector was more or less in a constant state of euphoria. There was a downside, however. Wine producers, being related to an exciting, thirsty national market, could meet the expense of neglecting exports. Selling to Greeks in Greece was cheaper, faster and easier. Even the labels were, usually, loaded with text in Greek, thus shutting the millions of tourists who flocked to the country out of the quality wine market. Evidence of this was the infatuation of many producers with international varieties like Chardonnay and Merlot. While wines made from these grapes might have had an appeal for Greeks, this was less so for international palates that had been exposed to Chardonnays made all over the world. Then, in 2009, the financial crisis hit. All of a sudden, the matter was not what people would like to buy, but what they had enough money for. The bottled wine market was set to collapse, with people asking for the cheapest wine available, which reignited the demand for wine in bulk. Nevertheless, Greek wine showed an amazing resilience. Producers swiftly developed export strategies, trying to gain the lost share in the local market, using the truly world-class wines in their portfolio. The implementation of these strategies needed top-quality executives and, in line with market demands, wine education prospered. Even within Greece, wine bars became the next trend, offering high quality wines by the glass, making them more accessible to younger consumers. That resilience demonstrates the amazing, world-class quality of people behind Greek wine production. It also explains the fantastic quality of 21st-century Greek wines. There is also the future for Greek

wine and this always comes down to young people. Wine production is an extremely long-term business – when winemakers talk in “quarter terms,” they mean a quarter of a century rather than a quarter of a year. It takes generations to fully understand a vineyard. So, one of the most crucial factors in achieving success in the wine business is passing the torch on to the next generation. And it seems that Greeks know how to do that. The winery owners are attentively preparing their daughters and sons, to make them ready to produce the vinous masterpieces of tomorrow. At the same, more and more young people are falling in love with wine, seeking top-end education, spending money and time on comprehending wine while maintaining a global perspective. The future seems assured. Winemaking is, in many ways, a conversation between a person and a place – but it is the person that dictates most of that conversation. A charismatic, knowledgeable, determined personality will always be able to find a suitable place. A gifted place, silent, immobilized, might seek an appropriate mind for an eternity. The climate, soils and rare grape varieties are pieces of the puzzle that add excitement and complexity. Greece, in more sectors than just wine, has no shortage of either charismatic personalities or gifted places. These elements have finally come into place to produce great Greek wine. The result, I assure you, is nothing short of breathtaking.


Konstantinos Lazarakis, a Master of Wine since 2002, is a wine consultant, journalist and author of The Wines of Greece (Mitchell Beazley Publishers).


GAIA Wines, with two modern wineries in Nemea and Santorini has one simple mission: capturing the best that Greece’s indigenous grape vines have to offer and bringing them to you. Complex, sophisticated and with a long heritage behind them, our fine Greek wines capture the volcanic intensity of Santorini and the rolling green hills of Nemea through the Assyrtiko and Agiorgitiko grape varieties. Our passion for showcasing Greek vines has won over even the most demanding wine aficionados, resulting in GAIA Wines appearing in Wine & Spirits magazine’s top 100 for seven years without interruption. Wherever you may go, a bottle of GAIA wine will always bring you back to our shores.

Gaia Nemea Winery Koutsi, 205 00 Nemea, Greece • Τel. (+30) 27460.220.57 • • @GaiaWines

Gaia Santorini Winery Exo Gonia, 847 00 Santorini, Greece • Tel. (+30) 22860.34.186


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Aeschylus Bronze is the mirror of the form; wine, of the heart.


Greek Wine at a Crossroads The future looks bright for the Greek industry, but major changes are necessary to ensure it expands its share of the world market. BY S t e l l i o s B o u ta r i s



he Greek wine industry has shown tremendous reflexes over the past six years of the crisis. I would dare to say that it has gained a level of confidence it never had and become one of the top stories of the “new” Greece that we all want to live in. Greek wine has managed to maintain and, furthermore, increase its market share over other alcoholic beverages. More importantly, it has started to find its place in wine lists and retail shelves all over the world. Greek wine is fashionable, its makers are gaining VIP status and consumers have happily embraced it as their favorite drink.


In these last few years, many positive practices from the past have returned with vigor. First, Greek wine has improved in quality. Whites made from indigenous varieties such as Assyrtiko, Malagousia, Moschofilero and Savatiano can easily compete with the native Spanish and Italian varieties. Reds made from Xinomavro and Agiorgitiko have become the choice of sommeliers all over the world. Second, the pricing of our wines has become much more rational and competitive. Third, the investment in wineries that started in the mid-1990s has been followed by investment in vineyards. While this develop-

ment has yet to show its full potential, I believe that in the next 10 years it will be a major driver of our business. Fourth, the National Interprofessional Organization of Vine and Wine of Greece (EDOAO) developed and executed a five-year strategic plan that established the guidelines for the development of the industry, especially in the export markets. This was a very solid step, which allowed us to place our cooperation on a firm footing and to fully avail of the European Union funds made available through the new Common Agricultural Policy. Last but not least, Greek winemakers have blossomed. We have started traveling, communicating, working harder, making better wines, talking the same language and, most importantly, working together. All these developments will result in new challenges in the years to come. We have laid the foundation and now we are at a crossroads that will either lead us back to where we were or take us to new heights. We are in a position where we have to analyze the business environment we are operating in and take the necessary actions to shape our future. We must start measuring success in real numbers and start setting attainable goals. We represent about 1 percent of the world’s wine production and only 0.2 percent of world exports.


I would dare to say that the Greek wine industry has gained a level of confidence it never had and become one of the top stories of the “new” Greece that we all want to live in.

If we double these numbers, the effect on our business and on the Greek economy will be enormous. But there are some bigger picture issues that we need to tackle first. The world wine market changing all around us. The competition and pricing are fiercer than ever. New wine-producing countries (England, Turkey, India, etc) are emerging. Consumer habits are changing, with millennials taking the leading role for the first time. Social media has taken over as the main source of wine information and influence and the New World countries (US, Australia, etc) are producing branded wines like never before. Asia is fast becoming a leading market. Overall, the wine world of the 21st century has little to do with that of our parents. We have to take these issues into consideration and build our strategy accordingly. Greek wine laws Wine legislation in Greece has remained unchanged since it was introduced in the 1960s. Its reform is a prerequisite for the development of our industry. While we operate within the EU legal framework, it is our responsibility to take into consideration market developments and winemakers’ needs in order to make the laws governing production an instrument to help, not hinder, the industry. Existing regulations on new vineyard plantings, clonal selection, vine nurseries, protected 38

designation of origin (PDO) and protected geographical indication (PGI), local winemakers’ associations, modern winemaking techniques and agriculture ministry controls are all outdated and inhibit growth. Now is the time to examine these laws and establish the checks and balances that will allow Greek winemaking to organize, control and structure the growth that will naturally come. GREEK WINE 2025 EDOAO’s strategic and marketing plan, in place since 2008, requires revision. Greek wine is emerging from adolescence and a clear and focused path of action is needed. Building the “Greek wine” category and moving out of the “All others” section is a prerequisite for the country’s industry to succeed. Yet,

Greek winemakers need to undertake private initiatives as well, within an organized framework. No generic activity can be “sexy” enough or private activity successful enough if it does not take place within a framework. A new semiprivate, professionally staffed company called “The Wines of Greece” should be established as a marketing subsidiary of the EDOAO in order to plan and execute a strategic plan, called Greek Wine 2025. Most winemaking countries have undertaken similar campaigns and managed to build a serious proposition for the market and consumer. Exceed expectations It would seem that Greek wine has surpassed the main problem it faced in recent years, namely the obstacle of

trade. Even though consumers always loved it, we always had a hard time selling it to the mainstream market. This hurdle seems to have been cleared and we now have the ability to reach the end consumer. But are we going to see repeat sales? Are we going to lead the consumer to choose Greek wine again and again? We have to exceed expectations in all ways and manners. Packaging, communication, quality control, patience, consistency and punctuality are all attributes that we Greeks are not necessarily known for. This has to change. It is much easier to sell-in a wine (to a retailer or restaurant ) than it is to sell-out (to the consumer). We have to focus on the sell-out. There are even more challenges. Will Greece’s highly fragmented wine industry see some consolidation? Big players are a prerequisite in a highly competitive environment. How will the self-made winemakers of the 1990s react? It is one thing to build a business and another to expand it. How will the small vine growers-turned-winemakers behave? This artisanal culture can become a driving force for the industry provided it maintains a passion and patience for quality and avoids the easy path of quick profit. The future looks bright. Since the year 2000, the number of wineries in Greece has doubled to around 800. We are better equipped, more knowledgeable, better educated and more patient. We are operating in an expanding market. We all work together with a common goal. I strongly believe that in the years to come, the Greek wine industry will thrive and succeed. This is our opportunity and our responsibility.


Fifth-generation winemaker Stellios Boutaris is the owner of Ktima (Estate) Kir-Yianni.


HOW THE WEST WAS WON From virtually non-existent in the US market, Greek wines gained recognition in less than a decade. What’s behind their success story? BY Sofia Perper a



he US Wine Market Council released data on the demographics of premium wine drinkers in the country in one of its 2014 surveys. W. Blake Gray, the prominent American wine blogger, went a step further, delving into what premium wine drinkers were actually drinking. Gray began his article by saying: “If you want to identify a high-end wine drinker in the United States…., look for the guy drinking the bottle of Assyrtiko.” He went on to note that these premium wine drinkers were also ahead of the curve, since they were drinking a premium wine while it was still being sold at bargain prices. During the same year, Eric Asimov of the New York Times urged his readers that the time had come to move on from wines like Pinot Grigio (the second most popular white variety in the US) to something different and more interesting; he offered as alternatives the Greek varieties of Assyrtiko, Moschofilero and Roditis. A decade earlier, this kind of talk would have been unheard of, but times have changed. The transformation bewith the frustrating realization that Greek wines were virtually nonexistent in mainstream US wine lists and retail shops. At best, Greece was relegated to the nebulous category of “other wine regions.” I had moved to the US in 2002 and was working with a couple of importers to get the word out on what I


knew had been dramatic changes in Greek winemaking since the 1990s, but not many people were listening, especially local distributors. It soon became obvious that the top wineries of Greece would have to come together and create a promotional campaign to introduce the world-class products that were beginning to come out of their vineyards. During the summer of 2003, I decided to return to Greece and meet with some leading winemakers. We wanted to see if we could put together a group to promote this wine renaissance that we all knew had taken place. A group was formed under the name All About Greek Wine; it remained a private enterprise for the first three years before swelling into a full-blown national campaign, supported by the Greek National Interprofessional Organization of Vine and Wine (EDOAO) and with the help of the Hellenic Foreign Trade Board (HEPO) drawing on both EU and Greek government funding. Over the next few years, EDOAO was able to secure increased funding, which ultimately allowed our efforts to be taken to the next level. Of course, the strength of the campaign has always had as its bedrock the group of passionate Greek winemakers who put their egos aside for the benefit of all. During the first years of the campaign, it became obvious that the only way to create a viable space for Greek wine would be to find a way to differ-

entiate Greece in the US, a market flooded by wines from every region in the world. Fortunately, we were already different because of our indigenous varieties. What’s more, Greece is a fantastic environment for growing those grapes, with a wide range of different terroirs, for making great wines with a true sense of place. Because we lacked the large budgets that other wine regions enjoyed, our initial focus was on getting media and trade to start telling our story. We also understood that educating people about our varieties and our regions would have to be a priority. This became the cornerstone of our efforts. We reached out to the top culinary schools, universities and sommelier organizations across the US and Canada and found they were happy to add Greek wines to their courses. Sommeliers have become, today more than ever, the gatekeepers and trendsetters in the wine market. With

Heraclitus Everything flows


emerging regions like Greece, which have unique yet unknown native varieties, it was important to enlist the sommelier community to help us tell our story directly to consumers. At the same time, we began a media outreach campaign to get the word out about our amazing grape varieties, which were made to complement food instead of overpowering it, as do so many of the trophy wines that grab today’s headlines. We knew it would be important to bring as many people as possible to visit the Greek vineyards, meet the winemakers and experience firsthand the revival that was taking place. These efforts have now helped create a group of lifelong ambassadors, not just for Greek wine, but also for our gastronomy, hospitality, lifestyle and culture. Since most Greek wineries are small, family-owned and with boutique-style production, it was also essential to focus on producing and promoting quality wine that could be sold and marketed in the middle to premium categories. Today, Greek wines are being compared with some of the best in the world, and because Greece is still an emerging region, they represent great value for the quality and uniqueness they possess. The winemakers are committed for the long term, but there is still an enormous amount of work to be done. In recent years, the campaign has expanded into direct marketing to the consumer, while building a database of wine drinkers interested in learning more about Greek wine. Fortunately for us, during the same time that the Greek wine campaign was evolving, media as a whole was moving from print to online. The internet has provided more cost-effective marketing opportunities to reach the masses. In addition, it has given us the ability to target “interested consumers,” accelerating the momentum that we had begun to build. Today, we are getting posts and articles in the media in numbers disproportionately high to our relatively small production. In just the first seven months of 2015, we reached the staggering figure of more than one billion

media impressions. Positive articles about (and references to) Greek wine now appear almost daily, not only in wine and gastronomy outlets but in major financial and lifestyle publications as well. The true measure of success, though, comes from the distribution side. During the last five years, exports to the US have increased in value by 39 percent and those to Canada by almost 55 percent. Ironically, the economic problems that our country has been experiencing in recent years (and which held the potential to be a major setback to our work), have in fact turned out to be a motivating factor for wineries to concentrate even more on exports. Although domestic wine consumption has not decreased during these difficult times, sales for the higher quality wines have suffered at the expense of cheap bulk wine. However, exports have done well. As both Elin McCoy of Bloomberg News and Alexander LaPratt of Forbes recently pointed out, this has been one of the bright spots for the country, and a cause for Greek pride. LaPratt went as far as to say: “Some of the most in-

teresting European wines are coming from Greece and Spain.” Many others agree with this positive outlook; Jon Bonne, former Wine Editor for the San Francisco Chronicle, remarked in his 2016 wine predictions for The Punch that: “Greece, after years of being patted on the head, will rise from its economic muddle to become a serious contender to Spain and Italy.” It is perhaps dangerous to put too much stock in such a prediction, but then I remember that, just over 10 years ago, it was hard to imagine that one day not so far in the future, Greek wine would even be considered in the same breath as such well established wine regions.


Sofia Perpera is an oenologist and director of the Greek Wine Bureau in North America.

Hippocrates Wine is an appropriate article for mankind, both for the healthy body and for the ailing man


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RAPSANI WINE ADVENTURE An experiential discovery beyond standards of a divine wine region in Mt Olympus

I could have spent all day roaming the mountain, taking in the views, waiting for the light for a perfect photo and sipping on the wines. As it was I did loose myself for a few minutes amongst the vines, vibrantly green in their flush of spring youthfulness. Camera around the neck, branded glass in one hand and the bottle of the Rapsani Reserve in the other.

a dv erto r i a l

As Andrew Barrow, travel and wine writer/photographer, best described, “Rapsani Wine Adventure” is an outstanding, experiential discovery of a unique wine region nestled in Mount Olympus, home of the Greek Pantheon. That was the core idea that inspired the Tsantali team in the first place: to take advantage of all those stunning assets that make Rapsani stand out – the wondrous topography, the fascinating story and the intriguing wines – and match them with the feeling of adventure. Indeed, when trying to picture the imposing peaks and the deep gorges of Mount Olympus, one might wonder


where the vines could possibly be. The answer is both simple and fascinating: we are not talking about just one vineyard, but of small plots scattered on the southeastern – sometimes quite steep – slopes at an altitude between 200-800 meters, cloaked by forest, shrub land and riverside. Rapsani, the picturesque home of a long line of vine growers which oversees the cultivations, has given its name to this outstanding wine region, acknowledged as having “Protected Designation Origin” since 1971. The region went through trying times in late 1980s, but it bounced back thanks to the Tsantali family’s passion and huge investment,

More info • • Contact:

which refueled the vine growers’ interest. Today, Tsantali Rapsani is one of the most successful brands of Greece worldwide, standing out for an intriguing viticulture tradition and the exceptional red wines made exclusively by the blend of three indigenous grapes: Xinomavro, Krassato and Stavroto. Paying tribute to this fascinating heritage, the Tsantali team launched in 2013 the “Rapsani Wine Adventure” concept. Convertible 4x4 off road cars are the best “adventurous” means of transportation for a spectacular Mount Olympus ascent that springs the participants into action. Moving onwards and upwards from 200 to 800 meters above sea level, wondrous sites unfold and the story of the region is narrated in the most experiental way possible. Amid the awe-inspiring natural surroundings that host one of the richest habitats in Greece, small vine plots – sometimes right on the edge of cliffs – offer perfect photo opportunities. At the same time, the off-road vehicles get to stop at selected spots, giving the opportunity to participants to observe and understand what makes Rapsani so special. Mingling with the vines at different altitudes, one gets to see the mixed

vines where Xinomavro, Krassato and Stavroto grapes are planted together, the different training systems – from the old bush vines to the younger royats – and the distinct conditions of each parcel. On this gripping mosaic, wine tasting becomes an enduring experience. The tasting room is the vineyard; the table is an old barrel and the jeep’s hood. The absolute focus is on the bond between the outcome and the source, the interplay between the wine and the vineyard. The “adventurers” understand the differences that go beyond the organoleptic characteristics between a Tsantali Rapsani, Rapsani Reserve and Grande Reserve, and dive deeper into the region’s history with the older vintages. Since food and wine are soulmates, the discovery could not end but on the amazing terrace of the old Chapel of Agioi Theodoroi, built around 1700s and dedicated to the vine growers of Rapsani. There, a plateau of cheeses and cold cuts made in the broader region of Thessaly are the perfect companion to Rapsani wines. Nothing pretentious. Just a true sense of place.


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A German’s ode to Greek wine Since making Athens his home over 10 years ago, Markus Stolz founded and set about sharing his newly acquired love with a worldwide audience. 44


y love affair with Greek wines began in the epiphanic year of 2004. I had just moved to Greece, which was caught up in a wave of complete euphoria: not only did the country successfully host the Summer Olympic Games, but the national soccer team also unexpectedly won the UEFA European Championship. The glory continued during the following year, when Greece’s basketball team brought home the FIBA EuroBasket title and Elena Paparizou was crowned champion of the Eurovision Song Contest. I had already been a passionate wine lover since the early 1990s, when a Scotsman introduced me to fine wine while I was living in London. In the following years I attended hundreds of tasting events, participated in courses and seminars held by well-known wine personalities and purchased many cases of wine at auctions. As they were

popular at the time, my focus lay on the French regions of Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne, followed by Californian and German wines, plus the top regions of Italy. I felt convinced that I had a solid foundation in wine knowledge. This feeling was shattered once I started to enter the world of Greek wine. I quickly learned that I had never looked beyond the very center of my gaze: Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling and a few other grape varieties were all I knew. Greek wines opened my eyes and changed my perceptions forever. Greece might be a small country, yet it is home to more than 300 indigenous grape varieties. It is literally


impossible to become bored. There is always something new to try; the unexpected and unfamiliar constantly waiting to be explored. But it was not only the sheer diversity of wines from different varieties that captivated me, there was something hauntingly different about them. Reds often displayed a charming ruggedness, the aromas filled with wild mountain herbs. Some whites were crispy yet rich, salty like the sea with notable acidity, others fresh with a creamy texture and exotic fruit flavors. Rosés burst with vibrancy and showed lush fruit on the palate. On the other hand, the sweet wines – rich and complex but which don’t cloy – revealed a striking freshness. These wines were unlike any others that I knew. Clearly and distinctively Greek, at the same time they were often astoundingly international in style. I became hooked. Just a few years ago, it was very

hard to locate written information on Greek wine in any language other than Greek. There were just a couple of books out there, and it was nearly impossible to find up-to-date content on the internet. I remember how dismayed I was when I was unable to find tables of vintage charts. Whenever I came across articles in foreign publications, they were mostly critical and clichéd. The featured wines were frequently high volume/low cost, often made from international varieties. Meanwhile, I noticed that the quality of Greek wines in general kept improving year after year. Curious about the discrepancy between my own experiences and those of wine writers abroad, towards the end of 2008 I be-

1. Laurens Hartman and his wife Annette van Kampen left their comfortable life in Holland behind and founded Domaine Karanika in Amyntaio. 2. A presentation of 100 percent Xinomavro wines with appellation Naoussa, organized recently by Elloinos in Los Angeles, California. 3. Stellios Boutaris at Ktima Kyr-Yianni. All photos courtesy of Markus Stolz, from his website,



gan to research the export markets. My findings surprised me: about 90 percent of all Greek wine production was consumed locally. The country’s five largest producers dominated the remaining 10 percent that was exported. Clearly, most of the roughly 800 Greek wineries did not export at all. No wonder the foreign press overlooked Greek wines; they simply did not have the chance to try them. In my mind, this presented an opportunity to combine my passion for Greek wines with a solid business opportunity. My plan was to introduce Greek wineries and their products to importers and merchants abroad. In order to create interest and demand, I felt the need to educate a broad audience about Greek wine, which is why I started a website, Elloinos. I then used social media extensively to create con-

Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling and a few other grape varieties were all I knew. Greek wines opened my eyes and changed my perceptions forever.


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tacts with others. I also spent a lot of time visiting wineries all over Greece, always on the lookout for exciting producers. I have done business with importers in the US, UK, Germany and even Panama. The US continues to be my most important market. The last few years have certainly seen a noticeable shift in demand for Greek wines from the export markets. Interest is growing slowly but steadily across the globe. Positive reports on Greek wines are now a regular feature in many publications and there are quite a few websites and blogs that focus on them. Solid information is now easily obtainable, and many international wine personalities are openly embracing wines from Greece. In other words, the perception of Greek wines

age household, they will never just face a starter, salad and main course. The host will prepare possibly a dozen various dishes, not served all together, but two or three at a time. “There will be a structure to the meal, but a loose one – meat will come after seafood and before desserts, richer dishes after simpler or fresher ones – but nothing will come off the table until it is finished or until the table is full. Under these circumstances, the quite static notion of matching food and wine goes out the window. Wine will have to provide refreshment or play counterpoint to the mouthfuls. “In Greece, there is one basic rule: if the wine is enjoyable, the food delicious and everyone has a hearty appetite for food, wine and good friends, then the

One can be fairly certain that the quality of Greek wine will continue to improve drastically over the coming years and decades.

abroad is beginning to change. Several factors can explain this phenomenon: The trend for the overall style of wines continues to drift away from full-bodied, rich, high-alcohol wines towards a lighter, more elegant style that showcases finesse rather than boldness. This change in trend began in the US and spread across the globe. As Master of Wine Konstantinos Lazarakis points out, food and wine go hand in hand in Greece. “Most Greeks would consider discussing wine and food separately as something almost unnatural. It divides two things meant to be together. A Greek will never consume wine without at least a nibble on the side, while having lunch or dinner will require the presence of wine. When people are invited to dinner in the aver46

match is perfect. Wines have to be refreshing, relatively low in alcohol, flavorful but never heavy; they have to be almost discreet on the palate. Greek wines should never be ‘a meal in themselves,’ emphasizing food friendliness above all other aspects.” These characteristics are only now beginning to correspond with the changing demand of consumers globally. Another trend has also only recently emerged. Consumers, especially the younger generation, have developed a curiosity for wines from unfamiliar regions and/or grape varieties. These buyers tend to stay away from the once popular international grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay. They have become bored with them, as they are grown worldwide

and are present on every wine list. They rather wish to enjoy new revelations, experience other aromas, tastes and styles. Again, Greek wines have emerged as a category that satisfies this growing group of wine enthusiasts. The country’s wine industry has also launched serious promotional efforts. For the first time, these campaigns are supported by a large number of wineries, from small labels to large brands. This team effort has produced results. Initiatives abroad include trade tastings in key areas, exhibitions, seminars and presentations, trade luncheons and more. Perhaps even more importantly, influential people from the wine industry, such as journalists, critics, bloggers, buyers, etc, are being invited on press trips to Greece. This allows them to meet with winemakers, visit wine regions, attend lunches with key people from the industry and get a clear picture of the current state of Greek winemaking. In turn, many of them spread the word about Greek wine, becoming de facto ambassadors. Greece is one of the oldest wine-producing countries in the world; vines have been grown here since antiquity. But its modern wine industry is one of the youngest on the planet. Bottled wine only came in vogue in the 1960s. The “small grower revolution” or trend towards boutique wineries started only four decades ago. Work on the effect of different vine clones may have on the quality of the grapes is still in its very early stages. One can be fairly certain that the quality of Greek wine will continue to improve drastically over the coming years and decades. We have only seen the beginning. Greeks may look back with nostalgia to 2004, but Greek wineries have come a long way since and have every reason to remain optimistic.

Viniculturist Dr Haroula Spinthiropoulou, pictured at left, and her husband Panagiotis Georgiadis created the Argatia estate in Rodohori, Naoussa.

discover G REE C E IS



Let Dionysus be your guide on a journey through the history of Greek wine: from antiquity to the present, we meet the figures of mythology associated with the miraculous grape and the visionaries of today who resurrected the country’s vineyards. Illustration: Vintage, 1953, woodcut by Tassos (Alevizos Anastasios). (National Gallery, Alexandros Soutzos Museum. Photo by Stavros Psiroukis).



Bottoms up Through the millennia, wine has been the defining component of sociability for Greeks, an irreplaceable companion to life’s most meaningful moments, both private and public. BY PANTE LIS BOUK AL AS *


ine loses its allure when it becomes an end in itself. That is, when you drink alone, getting drunk because of addiction or to drown your sorrow, wine is bereft of its magic. This is why, for many years, millennia in fact, wine has been closely associated with good friends. Its solitary use entails an absence of measure, since there is no companion or fellow drinker present. There is no one there to share the table’s delicacies with you, or even more importantly to experience how words and feelings from a certain point on, when caught in the throes of exhilaration, can spill out into song. This is why Homer, in response to Hesiod’s query, described a festive gathering of friends as the sweetest balm for the human soul. It matters little that these two paragons of poetry, Homer and Hesiod, never actually met in the time-frame of history. In the space-time dimensions offered to us by literature’s imaginative lens, however, they not only met, but even crossed literary swords. This took place at Chalkis, in Euboea, where the two epicists competed for the first prize in poetry awarded during the funeral games of King Amphidamas. All this can be found in the eminently charming and simultaneously instructive one-of-a-kind narrative titled The Contest of Homer and Hesiod, which goes back to the 5th century BC and was often taught to students of that period and through the ages. In the narrative, Hesiod asks what is most edifying for the hu-

man soul. In response, Homer, he who turned war and errant adventure into story, replied as follows, without hesitation and in a manner that his “opponent” must surely have envied: When mirth reigns throughout the town And feasters about the house, sitting in order Listen to a minstrel; When the tables beside them are laden with bread and meat And a wine bearer draws sweet drink from the mixing-bowl and fills the cups: This I think in my heart to be most delightsome. Even those familiar only with his name, must, out of intuition alone, agree with Homer’s incisive reply if they’re even marginally acquainted with the delights afforded by such a banquet. The feeling is equally rich, no matter the reason for gathering family and friends around the table and, later, around the dance floor: weddings or christenings, Easter, the feast of the Assumption, or a local holiday in the humblest of churches. With one serious caveat pertaining to the intrusion of contemporary technology: video cameras ought to be banned, for they choreograph and therefore falsify our spontaneity; as well as, it goes without saying, the taking of selfies, which interrupts the natural tempo of merry-making.

Almost like Antaeus. He stoops and respectfully touches the ground to receive the necessary strength that will raise him up. The zeibekiko, without any fancy footwork, remains the most contemplative dance.


© Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos G R E E C E IS

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Wine, moreover, makes an excellent companion to songs of sadness; at funerary banquets in the memory of a loved one, whose glass remains empty. There’s an incredibly stirring Klepht folk song, which was first published by Claude Fauriel in Paris between 1824 and 1825, and translated almost immediately into German by the accomplished poet and passionate philhellene Wilhelm Muller. There, the badly wounded Captain Iotis, to console both himself and his men, asks for wine as he lies dying: Oh, help me up my trusted men and prop me up to sit That I may get drunk on sweet wine that you bring to my lip And sing sad songs, oh, songs of woe For what to say before I go? This wound is venom in my side, The lead a bitter way to die. In another folk song – this one concerning love – we find out how the wine lover would prefer to be buried so as to experience eternal delight. If I die for wine, Bury me in the tavern. That I may be stepped upon by the clientele, And the beautiful girl who treated me. In Greece, the art of wine is age-old, and twofold. On the one hand, there is the art of its preparation, which is of the highest standard, with many cities vying for pre-eminence. While on the other, there is the art of consumption, in which wine figures as the defining component of sociability, an irreplaceable companion to life’s meaningful moments, both private and public: celebration and mourning, war and peace. To further deepen and elaborate on the art of consumption, ancient Greek poets and philosophers – including some of the most prominent – studied the social experience of drinking – no doubt over a tipple. They thought up laudatory verses and proposals as to the most effective ratio of water to wine, depending on whether the aim is to prompt discussion or revelry. They devised pithy aphorisms about wine drinking as an effective yet temporary means of escape from this world’s

soul-destroying burdens. And they were well aware of the risks of drinking in excess, which can reveal a person’s deeply hidden inner truth. Homer, Hesiod, and Aeschylus – who, according to hearsay “wrote his tragedies while under the influence,” which is why Sophocles condemned him, even though the latter choked to death, somewhat ironically, on an unripe grape – all three deemed wine and the banquet-symposium worthy of the same respect they bestowed on the theater or the Ekklesia (popular assembly). In this they were by no means alone: for so too did Anacreon, Theognis, Euripides, Aristophanes, as well as Xenophanes of Colophon, Plato, Aristotle, Plutarch, and so many others. The Deipnosophists by Athenaeus, an author from Nafkratis in Egypt who lived around AD 200, is a concise encyclopedia of winemaking laced with dense poetic and philosophical trivia about how we drink, why we drink, and with whom we ought to drink. Indeed, it is at the very crossroads of “Oinos/Wine” that we find the place where ancient Hellenism and Christianity mingled in the most benign, peaceful and fertile of ways. Ancient Greek “paganism” lauded Dionysus for his glorious gifts to the world – vineyards and wine – for they provided a temporary release from life’s cares and the woes of death. It is precisely this point that allowed for the rapid reconciliation with Christianity, whose founder, Jesus Christ, launched his miraculous works at the wedding at Cana by turning water into wine. Later he described himself as the “new vine,” “the true vine,” and, finally, at the Last Supper, he offered up wine as “the new covenant in my blood.” It was this very syncretism that the poet Angelos Sikelianos eulogized by honoring “The Crucified Bacchus” and “Dionyso-Jesus” in his poems. An imperceptible thread of common vocabulary, symbols, and corresponding mindset weaves together – certainly not directly and despite sporadic gaps – the seer Tiresias’ description of Dionysus in Euripides’ Bacchae as he who “gives to mortals the vine that puts an end to grief” with the “unsorrowful wine” brewed by the monk Alypios in Alexandros Papadiamantis’ tale The Black Stumps. The power of wine to soothe a variety of ills is enshrined in our demotic folksongs. First and foremost, of course, it allows one to forget, albeit temporarily, the pain of thwarted love. We see it here in the following distich, still sung throughout Greece:

Violins, clarinet, dance, modest smiles, and two gazes meeting over a glass of wine. Shyness as naturalness.


Š Constantine Manos/Magnum Photos G R E E C E IS


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© Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos

The four-legged guard keeps watch; making sure that no one disturbs his friend, bent over the table by wine-induced melancholy.

I never got drunk, tasted neither raki nor wine, But now I drink them both to drive you from my mind. What is more, it distracts you from the debts that hound you. This is conveyed in a widely known and beautiful ballad, The Return of the Exile. A man returns from abroad, and, completely changed by years spent away from his home, has to offer his wary and suspicious wife persuasive proof of his identity. Instead of telling her about certain marks on her body that only he could possibly know of, he decides to describe her garden: You have an apple tree at the entrance / and a vine in your yard / Laden with rosaki grapes that make a wine as sweet as honey, / When the poor drink of it their debts are driven from their mind / When the janissaries drink from it, / they leave for war without a care. The belief in the power of wine to embolden the warrior comes down to us, once again, from Homer. In the

Odyssey, the father of poetry refers to wine as “manly virtue” to establish precisely how it stokes courage. There is, however, a form of intoxication that eclipses the drunkenness caused by wine: that of two lovers exchanging kisses. Again, we hear this mentioned in a folksong, and more specifically in a Cretan mantinada (sung narrative) memorialized by the prose writer Ioannis Kondylakis: Whoever kisses your red cheek / Will find himself in a fever / No need for wine, or draught of raki. We hear it, too, in the Song of Songs attributed to Solomon. In it, kisses and the embrace of a loved one are celebrated as more intoxicating than wine itself: “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth for your breasts are better than wine.” Eros and wine, Aphrodite and Dionysus. This is the heady farrago of our link to the Ancients, and a forerunner of all today’s cocktails.


Pantelis Boukalas is a poet, author, translator, literary editor and one of the leading commentators on all things Greece in Kathimerini and Kathimerini English Edition. 52

Carpo Knightsbridge



ll your senses lead you to Carpo. Freshly roasted nuts, luscious dried fruits, chocolates and pralines that melt in the mouth, the best honey from Greek producers and freshly ground coffee – all of exceptional quality and carefully selected – converge in a shop where flavors and healthy living coexist harmoniously. Carpo Knightsbridge and Carpo Piccadilly offer the quintessence of nature. Carpo Knightsbridge, the brand new store of the Carpo family, is located in the center of cosmopolitan Knightsbridge. The friendly atmosphere, the spacious lounge, the excellent positioning of goods and the impeccable design introduce all Londoners to a new journey, a five-senses experience. From early in the morning for a takeaway coffee, to late at night to satisfy a chocolate craving, nuts for a movie snack or gourmet products

nestled in handmade baskets, Carpo is the passport to indulgence in the most exquisite gourmet treasures. Only the best of products find their way to Carpo – when in season and qua­lity is guaranteed. Either from Greece or imported from selected countries, the quality of goods is always a given for Carpo along with the principal values on which a family company is built: ethos, excellent customer service, sustainability, credibility, quality. Carpo Knightsbridge, as well as Carpo Piccadilly, the first store abroad of the family-owned Carpo Hellas – one of the fastest growing companies in Greece in processing, packaging and merchandising premium nuts, dried nuts and honey – set a goal: to help Londoners get in tune with their needs and wishes, offering them the best of nature’s gifts.

Carpo London Stores Carpo Knightsbridge 7 Montpelier Str., Unit 4 London, SW7 1EX Tel.: +44020 75842 777 Carpo Piccadilly 16 Piccadilly W1J 0DE London Tel.: +44020 72877233 C a r p o At h e n s S t o r e s Carpo Kolonaki 6 Kanari, Kolonaki, 10671 Athens Tel. (+30) 210.360.5617 Carpo Psychiko 1 Dimitriou Vasileiou, Psychiko, 15451 Athens Tel. (+30) 210.671.2384 Carpo Golden Hall 37Α Kifissias Avenue, Marousi, 15123 Athens Tel. (+30) 210.685.4495 Visit us at: Facebook: Instagram: @carpoworld


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AN INTOXICATING HISTORY From prehistoric times to today’s boutique wineries, we’ve come a long way. BY Markus stolz I L L U S T R A T IO N S K a t e r i n a A l i v i z a t o u & I g n a t i o s M a n a v i s

800 BC ca 4000–3500 BC

Vines likely arrive in Crete from the East via Egypt and Cyprus.

1500 BC

Dionysus The Greek god of wine or an earlier forerunner is worshipped as early as 1500 BC.

Italy and Sicily

700 BC

Greeks introduce vines and winemaking techniques to Italy and Sicily, and later to France and Spain.

Greece is the first country in the world to introduce detailed wine legislation and appellations.

Wine Legislation

ca 4000–3500 BC


Phylloxera The pest of grapevines arrives in Greece and devastates vineyards two decades later. Some notable exceptions are the vineyards of Santorini, parts of Lesvos, and some areas in Amyntaio, as the phylloxera bugs cannot thrive in volcanic or sandy soils.



The successful Greek War of Independence begins. Retreating Ottomans destroy most cultivated lands, delivering another blow to Greek viticulture.

Greece becomes entangled in two Balkan Wars, two World Wars and a Civil War. Winemakers fight on the battlefields rather than tending to their vineyards.

Greek Revolution



1960 s

The wine market is dominated by bulk wine, but the rapidly improving standard of living has a major impact on production: Bottled wine comes into vogue. The same decade sees the first tourist boom and retsina becomes the national drink. Millions of bottles are exported. This era marks the birth of the modern Greek wine industry.

146 AD


Roman Empire


Greece becomes part of the Roman Empire. A slow, but definitive decline of sales and exports begins. The Romans copy much of the Greek wine system and apply it in their homeland. Trade shifts from Greece to Rome.

Wines from Monemvasia, Peloponnese, emerge as the most popular wines of the time; exports rise.


Constantinople falls Greece becomes part of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans begin to tax wine trade heavily, which leads to a devastating decline in commercial production. Wines are only produced by monasteries, as well as for private consumption. 



500 BC

Symposia The rise of regular social events centered on wine. Oenochoos, the sommelier, played an important role at the symposia.

Christianity is now the dominant religion, Constantinople is founded. Hellenic symbols come under attack, with Dionysus being one of the main casualties.

21st Century 1990 s

Many of the boutique wineries founded in the previous two decades grow in size and market share. New growers fill the void in the smallproducer segment. Greek wine as a whole keeps expanding and becomes more complex.

21st Century

The new millennium sees cutting-edge production facilities and an ever expanding level of sophistication. Wineries of all sorts and sizes develop into major businesses, with a clear focus on exports. Another important shift takes place, as many growers now exploit the immense potential of the indigenous grape varieties, giving Greece a major competitive advantage.

1970 s

The decade sees a group of people starting boutique wineries that focus on small, high quality production. Up to this point, large companies and cooperatives had dominated the market. Now, premium priced wine begins to make an impact.

1980 s

Being a small wine producer becomes desirable and profitable. This attracts the attention of prosperous individuals with no previous ties to winemaking, who start to invest by setting up wineries. Consumer demand grows, absorbing this additional supply. An oenology department is founded within the Athens Technical Educational Institute and in 1987 the profession of oenologist is officially recognized by the Greek government.


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Bacchus (1595) by Caravaggio. (Uffizi Gallery, Florence)



God of Wine and Ecstasy Worshipped in temples, theaters, public festivals and private parties, Dionysus brought joy and relief to ancient Greek life. BY John Leonard*


ionysus, the ancient Greek god of wine, often seems a familiar, likable figure, perhaps because wine and its associated rituals are such a characteristic ingredient of our own modern-day existence. Like other deities, Dionysus appears in human form and is credited with divine powers; yet thanks to his love of drinking, dancing, music and uninhibited merry-making with free-spirited friends, he offers an even more evocative reflection of the human condition and represented a favorite figure in ancient Greek religion and art. Dionysus was the son of Zeus, ruler of the Olympian gods, and Semele, a Theban princess and daughter of King Cadmus. After his mother was tricked and killed by Hera (Zeus’ vengeful wife), Dionysus was rescued from Semele’s womb by his father and implanted in his thigh. On his son’s birth, Zeus placed Dionysus in the care of

nymphs who inhabited the mythical mountain Nysa – variously located by mythologists somewhere to the east, perhaps even in distant India. As he matured, Dionysus took up wandering from land to land, accompanied by an entourage that included his tutor, Silenus, satyrs, maenads and the lustful god Pan, a human-like figure with the horns and legs of a goat. Silenus was the leader of the satyrs: hybrid woodland creatures envisioned as men with horses’ ears, tails and sometimes legs. The maenads were “raving” women inspired by Dionysus, who also loved drinking, dancing and attaining a state of ecstasy. Dionysus took as his wife Ariadne, who had aided Theseus in escaping the labyrinth at Knossos before being left by the Athenian hero on a Naxian beach. After Ariadne’s death, Dionysus entered Hades and brought both her and Semele to Mt Olympus to live as immortals. In ancient art,

Thanks to his love of drinking, dancing, music and uninhibited merry-making with free-spirited friends, Dionysus offers an evocative reflection of the human condition.


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© UnUniversal History Archive/UIG / Bridgeman Imagesiversal History Archive/UIG / Bridgeman Images, CORBIS/SMART MAGNA


The Young Bacchus by folk artist Theofilos Hadjimichael from 1931 (Theofilos Museum, Lesvos).

Dionysus is often pictured carrying a thyrsus, a wooden staff entwined with ivy and capped with a pine cone and vine leaves. Dionysus fathered several children with Ariadne, including Oenopion (“wine-drinker”) and Staphylus (“grape-related”), who became an Argonaut, a general and the founder of Peparethos, a colony on Skopelos. He also had a son with Aphrodite, who became a favorite figure in Roman times – Priapus, the well-endowed, ithyphallic god of male procreative power. Religious worship of Dionysus came to Greece from Asia Minor; perhaps, as Homer intimates, via Thrace. Similar prehistoric gods already existed, at least by the second millennium BC, whom Dionysus absorbed. He was considered a latecomer to the Greek pantheon and an exotic, somewhat foreign divinity. His cult entered Attica from the direction of Thebes, first being established at a temple just inside 58

G R E E C E - is . co m

the Attica/Boeotia frontier, at a spot later overlooked by the border fort of Eleftheres. From there, his wooden cult statue (xoanon), according to the traveler Pausanias, was transferred to Athens. Another ancient tradition holds that the wandering Dionysus befriended Icarius, a farmer from the deme of Icaria just north of Mt Penteli, whom he taught to grow grapes. Afterwards, an autumn harvest festival emerged that included feasting, drinking and music – believed by some scholars to have spawned other such rural celebrations and ultimately the City Dionysia in Athens. Thespis, another legendary Icarian, is said to have first brought theatrical performances to Athens, where he was the earliest-known actor to win a prize (534 BC) at the City Dionysia. As the god of wine, Dionysus was a popular figure worshiped regularly in Athens, especially at nightly aristocratic drinking parties, symposia, which

Wine-Drinking Contest of Herakles and Dionysus. Mosaic from Antioch, 3rd c AD. (Princeton University Art Museum)

were all-male occasions for drunken camaraderie, music, hired female entertainment and ultimately orgiastic communal sex. Athenians honored Dionysus in a series of annual festivals, celebrated at three key spots sacred to the god: the “Lenaeum” (location unknown); the sanctuary “In the Marshes” (location unknown); and at his temple on the south slope of the Acropolis, adjacent to the Theater of Dionysus. The main features of these events included processions, sacrifices, feasting, drinking, music, jesting, mockery, the singing of dithyrambs (wild, choral songs or chants) and the performance of tragedies, comedies and ribald satyr plays.


Dionysus Between Satyr and Maenad. Amphora by the Andokides Painter, ca 530 BC. (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)

Interior of a Kylix, attributed to Exekias, depicting Dionysus crossing the sea, with grape vines springing up around the ship’s mast, ca 530 BC. (Staatliche Antikensammlungen, Munich)

The Rural Dionysia (December/ January) were small celebrations held by communities at various sanctuaries outside Athens, to which urban residents would travel on festival days. The larger City Dionysia (March/April) focused mainly on the carrying of Dionysus’ wooden cult image from the Lenaeum to his Acropolis-slopes temple and on a three-day theatrical contest in which new plays were presented. The Lenaea (January/February) also featured a theatrical contest and a lavish public banquet with meat provided at state expense. The Anthesteria (February/March) celebrated the opening and tasting of the maturing wine from the most recent vintage. Also, the wife of the King Archon, a leading state official, was ceremonially wedded to Dionysus at the Lenaeum. Lesser festivals included the Oschophoria (October/November), when vine clippings bearing ripe grapes were carried by noble-born youths (ephebes) in a footrace from Limnae (southern Athens) to coastal Phaleron. The Haloa harvest festival (December) was celebrated al-

most exclusively by Athenian women, but primarily staged at the sanctuary of Demeter at Eleusis. It featured the dedication of first fruits (grapes, grain), accompanied by lusty activities and sex-related symbols and confections. The Theoinia was a local form of Dionysian worship, celebrated with feasts and sacrifices at small shrines. It often involved select families whose ancestors were believed to be direct descendants of Dionysus’ original followers. The Bacchanalia was the Roman-era festival of Dionysus (Bacchus). Two of the most illuminating ancient texts concerning Dionysus are the seventh Homeric Hymn (7th/6th cent. BC) and the Bacchae of Euripides (405 BC). Aristophanes’ comedy The Acharnians (425 BC) offers a humorous glimpse of the Rural Dionysia. On the Homeric Hymn’s telling of Dionysus being captured by pirates and his transformation of them into dolphins, with the exception of their helmsman, Robin Osborne (2014) concludes: “Few recognize Dionysus as a god…and only those who do retain their humanity.”

Bacchus (with Pan) by Michelangelo in 1496 or 1497. (Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence)


John Leonard is an archaeologist, journalist and teacher who has contributed extensively to Greece’s English-language media as a columnist and feature writer since 2007.


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The Mists of Time Neolithic homesteaders were the first to experience a life more like our own, with the satisfaction of a permanent roof over one’s head, a fire in the hearth and a soothing cup of wine on a winter’s evening. BY JOHN LEONARD


© Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford, UK / Bridgeman Images


ome of our most essential pleasures or comforts in life can be traced so far back in human history that they seem to disappear into the mists of time. The cultivation and consumption of grapes and their juice (preferably fermented) is a prime example. Nevertheless, as archaeologists, in collaboration with palaeobotanists, have further extended and refined their reach, we now know that wine was likely first enjoyed and systematically produced during the Neolithic period, some 6,000 to 7,000 years ago. It was during this early era, when people in the Near East, and in the Greek world, first began to leave the nomadic life and settle down (“put down roots”!), that we see the appearance of human-cultivated or reared (ultimately “domesticated”) plants and animals. Neolithic homesteaders were the first to experience a life more like our own, with the satisfaction of a permanent roof over one’s head, a fire in the hearth, a reassuring stock of foodstuffs, a companionable dog to provide security and a soothing cup of wine on a winter’s evening.

Left: Red-figure kylix, depicting Dionysus and Herakles at table, 5th c BC. (National Archaeological Museum, Athens) Right: Attic red-figure cup, decorated with a naked slavegirl holding a wine cup and a ladle, by Oltos, ca 510 BC. (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)


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© Sonia Halliday Photographs / Bridgeman Images - De Agostini Picture Library / G. Dagli Orti / Bridgeman Images

Eastern Origins Grape vines, like other plants now characteristic of Greece and the Mediterranean region, seem originally to have migrated westward from the Middle East. At Hajji Firuz Tepe, in the northern Zagros Mountains of Iran, the 1968 discovery of storage jars, embedded in the kitchen floor of a mudbrick dwelling dated to ca. 5400-5000 BC, revealed the presence of yellowish and reddish salts from tartaric acid – a substance that naturally occurs most significantly in grapes. Other evidence points to Georgia and Armenia, at the eastern end of the Black Sea, as areas of earliest grape cultivation. A full-fledged winery, containing a wine press, fermentation vats, jars, cups and traces of grape seeds and vines (Vitis vinifera), was unearthed in 2007 in the Areni-1 cave complex in Vayots Dzor, Armenia. Terebinth resin also detected there may have been added to the wine as a preservative. Specialist Patrick McGovern comments: “The fact that winemaking was already so well developed in 4000 BC suggests that the technology probably goes back much earlier.” In the Mediterranean, wine residues bearing traces of tartaric acid have also been identified on fragments of distinctive, nipple-based storage jars in the Er62

imi area of southwestern Cyprus. Maria Rosaria Belgiorno, reporting in 2005, describes the Cypriot residues (ca 5500 BC) as “…the earliest examples of Mediterranean winemaking…,” predating by some 1,500 years previous evidence of wine production discovered in Crete and northern Greece. A 1989 excavation in House 1 at Neolithic Dikili Tash, in eastern Macedonia, 1.5km east of ancient Philippi, revealed the pips and skins of a carbonized pile of crushed grapes, dated to ca 4300 BC – the earliest evidence of Aegean winemaking. Two-handled cups on the site are also linked with the drinking of wine. King Nestor’s Banquets The practice of ceremonial and convivial imbibing of wine developed in the Bronze Age Greek world through the fourth, third and second millennia BC, until we find such well-stocked party venues as the Mycenaean-era palace of King Nestor of Pylos, in the southwestern Peloponnese (destroyed ca 1200 BC). There, storerooms contained large wine jars and, in one pantry, smashed on the floor, a total of 2,853 long-stemmed, two-handled wine cups – kylikes – the forerunners of present-day chalices or goblets. In Crete, the Minoans, who likely influenced the oenological culture of

Roman mosaic, from the House of Dionysus, depicting the legend of Dionysus teaching people the art of viticulture and wine production (3rd c AD, Paphos, Cyprus).

THE VIX CRATER A lavish Late Archaic bronze mixing vessel, testament to the Greek wine trade.

Wine represented the first real global, and globalizing, commercial product, which brought together regions, towns, ports and people.

Chalice-shaped krater, depicting sileni squashing grapes, attributed to the painter of Leningrad, 4th c BC. (Museo Provinciale “Sigismondo Castromediano,” Lecce, Italy)

the mainland Mycenaeans, drank wine from horn-shaped rhytons, while the name Oinops (“wine-colored”) appears on Linear B tablets at Knossos. Clearly, conventions concerning the production and sharing of wine had become highly refined by the Mycenaean Late Bronze Age, during which harvest festivals (“the Feast of the Wine”) were established; dark, sweet varieties of the beverage appeared, such as the dessert wine still known in Cyprus and today called Commandaria; and Dionysus – or a similar deity resembling him – likely first emerged as the divine patron of drinking, dancing and ecstatic behavior (see box). The Mycenaeans became consummate traders of wine, inserting themselves into an increasingly international Mediterranean “market” and shipping their goods both eastward, to Cyprus,

Egypt and the Levant, and westward, to Sicily and southern Italy. Already, wine played a key role in economic, religious, social and even medical aspects of everyday Greek life. Wine represented the first real global, and globalizing, commercial product, which brought together regions, towns, ports and people. Followed closely by olive oil, wine acquired a level of economic demand that fostered long-distance contacts and led to the creation of progressively complex infrastructures and grape/wine-related beliefs and traditions. Homer and Wine By the 8th and 7th centuries BC, when the written works of Hesiod and the Homeric bards (“Homer”) began to appear, wine had thoroughly permeated Greek culture and become a

ubiquitous, sometimes central feature – a dietary staple, preferable to water, drunk at any time of day or night, with or without food. Greeks had learned to cut their wine with water; Hesiod advocated a dilution of three parts water to one part wine (25% strength), while Alcaeus of Mytilene (late 7th-6th c BC) called for a stronger mixture of 2:1 (33% strength). To drink in moderation was the norm, comments Zinon Papakonstantinou: “Such drinking was viewed as both liberating and socially responsible and became a widely accepted ideal of upper-class alcoholic consumption in Archaic and Classical Greece.” A favorite epithet in Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey is “wine-dark,” used, for example, in reference to the sea or the color of oxen. “Pramnian” wine, too, is often mentioned – as a general term for


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Golden Cup of Nestor, 16th c BC. (National Archaeological Museum, Athens)

Odysseus cautions that wine can lead even the wisest man to frivolous behavior, such as excessive laughter, dancing, and speaking out of turn.


good dark (red) wines, especially those of Lesbos, Icaria and Smyrna. The existence of many types of wine is implied by Homer’s description of Laertes, Odysseus’ father, whose vineyard is said to include over 50 different grape varieties. A knowledge of sun-dried grapes for sweeter, more intense “raisin” or “straw” wine is also attested, not only by Homer but also Hesiod, who cites the sun-dried “Cypriot Manna” grape, perhaps the precursor of the Commandaria type. At Troy, Agamemnon’s stock of wine, brought over by traders from Lemnos, came from Thrace. The qualities of wine, both good and bad, are illustrated in Homeric epic when Hecabe, Hector’s mother, advises him to offer libations and reinvigorate himself with wine. Odysseus likewise suggests that Greek warriors fortify themselves and bolster their courage by taking their fill of food and wine before battle, while, in ordinary civilian life, agricultural field workers are depicted on Achilles’ shield as receiving a cup of honey-sweet wine at the end of every plowed row. Nevertheless, wine’s powerful effects are also acknowledged when Hector subsequently demurs. Odysseus cautions that wine can lead even the wisest man to frivolous behavior, such as excessive laughter, dancing, and speaking out of turn. When, in disguise, he requests a turn at stringing the great bow at the last dinner with Penelope’s suitors, they perceive him as drunk and remind him of the rude party antics exhibited by the Centaurs at the Lapith wedding – an iconic mythological example of wine-induced, uncivilized, socially unacceptable behavior that later shows up in the decorative southern metopes of the Parthenon. The power of unmixed wine is demonstrated by Odysseus, when he tricks the Cyclops Polyphemus with such reckless imbibing, after which the wily traveler and his men finally escape from the giant’s cave. At other times, wine was employed as an ingredient in mixed potations, such as the archetypal barley-based beverage (kykeon) drunk by Nestor and Machaon at Troy. Homer’s scenes of elite feasting and drinking illuminate the close connection between these activities and military and political power – with the best meat, exquisite wine and seats of special honor at banquets being selectively offered as privileges of elevated social status. Characteristic of such gatherings were finely crafted and decorated banqueting equipment, exemplified by Homer through Nestor’s golden, two-handled drinking cup. Wine and drinking paraphernalia were considered appropriate high-status gifts for foreign guests and other visitors. Odysseus receives a silver mixing bowl and a dozen containers of unmixed sweet wine from a priest of Apollo, while his son Telemachus is presented with a drinking cup and a krater by Sparta’s king Menelaus.


Rites, Prizes & Symposia From Athenian aristocrats to Roman students, wine was a social lubricant, the centerpiece of drinking parties that often ended in fist fights, public carousing and political defiance. BY JOHN LEONARD



ine and its consumption played a regular role in religion during Classical times (5th, 4th c BC), most ostensibly through the cult and festivals of Dionysus. In Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, the Athenian women confirm their agreed conspiracy, to abstain from sex until their menfolk have ended the Peloponnesian War, by swearing a solemn oath over a bowl of Thracian wine. In early comedic contests, the prize for the winning poet was a basket of figs and a jar of wine. Where wine was most lavishly dispensed, however, was at symposia. Peter Bing observes: “The symposium is not just one of the most central but arguably the best attested social institution of ancient Greece.” We learn of these


drinking parties through poetic, historical and philosophical texts, painted scenes on ceramic drinking wares and the archaeological exploration of countless private and public rooms in which they were set. Every Athenian of means had a room in his house specially designed and reserved for male parties. This “andron” (men’s room) was lined with couches, on which the host and his guests would recline on their left elbows, enjoying food, drink, games and conversation, as well as music, dancing and often sex provided by hired female entertainers (hetairai). A favorite game was kottabos, in which revelers flung at each other, and tried to catch, the dregs of their wine. Many vase

Symposium scene, from the interior of a sarcophagus found in the Tomb of the Diver at Paestum, ca 480 BC. (National Archaeological Museum of Paestum, Italy)


painters, according to Bing, depict uninhibited communal sex as the climax to the symposium; the guests themselves are shown as lustful, wine-swilling satyrs, grossly-featured men with horses’ tails and ears – followers of Dionysus, who may best be remembered as prototypical “party-animals.” The andron was also furnished with low tables and a sophisticated array of banqueting equipment, including a footed wine amphora (pelike), water jar (hydria), large, standing mixing jar (krater), smaller mixing vase (stamnos), wine-chiller (psykter), serving pitcher (oinochoe) and various types of drinking vessels (shallow, stemmed kylix; two-handled kantharos; large skyphos). The room’s centerpiece was the krater, adorned with garlands, symbolizing (with its wine) the god Dionysus himself. The most popular wines consumed at symposia came from Chalkidike, Ismaros, Chios, Cos, Lesbos, Mende, Naxos, Peparethos (Skopelos) and Thasos. “Bibline” wine may have been a local imitation of Phoenician wine from Byblos, produced on Thasos. Theophrastus (ca 371 – ca 287 BC) describes various substances commonly added to wine, including perfume, honey, seawater, brine, oil, herbs, resin and spice. The symposium’s host was in charge of the mixing jar: he decided how much wine his guests would drink and how inebriated they would be allowed to get. Eubulus (ca late 370s BC) offers a humorous list of guidelines, spoken as Dionysus’ own words, cautioning how many kraters a moderate host should mix and what effects his guests might expect from overconsumption: Three kraters only do I mix for the temperate – one to Health, which they empty first. The second to Love and Pleasure, the third to Sleep. When this is drunk up, wise guests go home in peace. The fourth krater is mine no longer, but belongs to Insolence; the fifth to Shouting; the sixth to Drunken

Liberties; the seventh to Black Eyes. The eighth is the Court Summoner’s; the ninth belongs to Irritability; and the tenth to Madness, Arms and Death. Although ancient symposia are often associated today with sophisticated philosophical discourse concerning beauty, wisdom or virtuous love, thanks to such literary works as Plato’s Symposium, or that of Xenophon, in reality they were frequently occasions for excessive drinking, leading to licentiousness, mayhem and violence. A later Symposium, penned by Lucian in the 2nd century AD, describes a banquet that descended into a bloody brawl – led by the Cynic philosopher Alcidamas – which left guests with broken bones, smashed teeth and other serious injuries. The stock ancient joke was that the worst-behaved guests at a symposium were the philosophers. As the party ended or became boring, it was usual for guests to depart in groups, riotously roam the streets and enter other symposia uninvited. In many cases, symposia served as regular gatherings for disgruntled aristocrats, increasingly weak in the face of rising democratic power, who drank wine and commiserated together, afterwards taking to the streets to show their drunken defiance of a distasteful authority.

The symposium’s host was in charge of the mixing jar: he decided how much wine his guests would drink and how inebriated they would be allowed to get.

As wine’s economic and social value increased in the ancient Greek and Roman worlds, so did the interest taken in it by scholars, scientists, comedic authors and common wags. Theophrastus, originally a student of Plato, produced a study of vineyard soils and which of these best served specific grape varieties. He also revealed that by reducing their yields, winemakers could achieve greater quality and stronger flavor in their products. Aristotle, ever the sober scientist, was keen to understand the effects of wine consumption, but may have been going too far when (in a now-lost treatise On Drunkenness, cited by Athenaeus) he offered formalized observations on how drinkers fall when under the influence of certain intoxicants: people drunk on barley wine fall only on their backs and lie face up; people affected by all other drinks fall in all directions – to the left, the right, on their faces or on their backs. Drunkenness was a favorite source of humor for writers of comedies in Classical Athens, who included in their plays such stock characters as the female Old Drunkard. By Roman times, another comedic figure had appeared that still rings true today: the blockhead, lackadaisical student, Scholastikos, who knows more about popular songs than his tutors’ teachings and squanders all his parents’ wealth on wine. G R E E C E IS

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Byzantium’s GIFT to the West Imagined as a vineyard, Constantinople, or Byzantium as it was previously known, became instrumental in the dissemination of wine culture. BY I l i a s A n a g n o s ta k i s *


The vine and wine, Dionysian symbols of culture, sybaritic indulgence and authority, were mixed with the biblical concept of power and the spread of the chosen people of Israel.


Harvest scenes in a 4th century mosaic from the Santa Costanza Mausoleum in Rome.

he original Byzantines, inhabitants of the colony of Byzantion, founded by Greek settlers from Megara, are considered to be the foremost oenophiles and inebriates of the ancient world. They loved wine so much that they actually lived in the taverns and let out their homes (together with their wives) to merchants and foreigners passing through the city. Men of business to the core, they were the opposite of warlike. It was said they could not bear the sound of the war trumpet, even in their dreams, as their ears were accustomed to the sound of flutes at drinking parties. On one occasion, when they were at war, their general, Leonides, ordered the wine dealers to set up tents on the city walls; only then did they stop abandoning their posts to go off drinking. Reflective of such accounts, the proverb that “Byzantium conquers all with its wine” was handed down – as a nod to wine appreciation – to the successor city of Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire (323-1453). The Byzantines saw their empire as a vineyard and the rulers as grapevines, but also as kraters of wisdom in which the new krasis was created, the new mix that would eventually give a new name to wine, krasin. The vine and wine, Dionysian symbols of culture, sybaritic indulgence and authority were mixed with the biblical concept of power and the spread of the chosen people of Israel (seen as a grapevine) to the ends of the earth, as well as with that of Christ as the true vine and of his disciples as branches, who went forth to change the world with the word of God. Such symbols were adopted and used in the ecumenical vision and imperial ideology of Byzantium. The

expansion of the empire and intermarriage with foreign princesses also found apt symbolism in the transplanting of vines and in their offshoots. In medieval times, both Constantinople and the empire itself were viewed as a place where wine flowed freely. Northern Europeans gave Constantinople the nickname Winbourg, the City of Wine. And they had good reason to do so. To both the Muslim world, where wine was generally forbidden, and to the peoples of northern Europe, the Christian empire was the preeminent land for the growing of vines and the production and consumption of wine. Between the 5th and 7th centuries, the trade or distribution of wine from Byzantium, to satisfy the needs of the army and local inhabitants alike, had spread to Numidia, Nubia, Ethiopia, the Caucasus, the Crimean hinterland, Ireland and England. The same pattern appeared later (10th-12th centuries) among the newly converted Christians along the Volga and as far as Novgorod and Scandinavia. The Slavs, Varangians and Anglo-Saxons in particular, but also the steppe peoples subsquent to their Christianization, saw Byzantium as a country full of vineyards, a place where they could purchase wine and oil. Indeed, the conversion to Christianity of Bulgarians, Serbs, Russians, Caucasians and many others by Byzantine missionaries inevitably brought them into closer contact with wine on account of the Eucharist – one more important Byzantine contribution to the dissemination of wine culture. Thus, in any center of Christian worship, a vine would necessarily be planted to provide wine for Holy Communion. The contribution of monasteries and the church in general was a catalyst,


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therefore, not only for the dissemination and “Christianizamonastery was systematically engaged in the wine trade tion” of wine culture, but also for the evolution of the beverwith Constantinople and sought special tax treatment. age and the symposia (drinking parties) of the ancient world celebrated Byzantine wines into more morally acceptable forms of wine consumption. Of A number of Byzantine provinces were renowned for their course, the orgiastic Dionysus never disappeared. Despite sweet, aromatic wines: Bithynia, in particular. Sweet wines sermons and condemnations of the oenophilic lifestyle by the made from different varieties were reputed to be produced church, Bacchic rites continued, as did prostitution, with wine there, while physicians referred to their medicinal properties. consumption rife among soldiers and farmers, in ports, at tradMany celebrated wines were also produced in the early Byzaning posts, in fortress-cities, at inns, drinking dens and taverns, tine period in Syria and Palestine, in reconquered Carthage, even in monasteries. There were also many instances of Dionyin Egypt, on the Aegean islands, in the Peloponnese and in sus using his charm to take over the imperial palaces, resulting Italy. One account describes a scene during the reign of Jusin a series of famously drunkard emperors. tin II (565-574) in which the emperor and his wife, Sophia, But emperors were not the only sots; monasteries were look out at the ships in the Bosporus and the Sea of Marmara home to the most iconic drunks of the Byzantine period, (historically Propontis) transporting wine to Constantinople namely monks. The extreme monastic notion of the need to from Gaza, Egypt, Italy, the Peloponnese, Mytilene, Chios and avoid the pleasures of wine, merriment and intoxication, conRhodes. trasted sharply with the reality of In the years that followed inebriate monks and left the the reigns of Justinian I (527supposed ascetics exposed 565) and Justin II – with Avato all manner of mockery, ro-Slavic invasions that especially in the 10th lead to the destrucand 11th centuries. tion of vine crops It was during in the Balkans this period that and Greece, as well wine apprecias Arab incursions ation found new that resulted in the favor – particularly loss of Syria, Palestine, among the elite and Egypt and in a disrupthe upcoming middle tion of Mediteranean trade classes – and also when – Bithynia became the main supthe literary figure (as an anplier of wines to the Byzantine capital. thropological type) of the KrasopaBesides the prevalent inexpensive, sour, teras (wine-bibbing monk) was created, watery wines, reeking of resin, originating from the equivalent of medieval western Europe’s Philippopolis to Attica, there were also “precious,” pater vinosus. It was also during the Byzantine delicate, sweet and fragrant wines from Bithynia, period that a symbolic correspondence between fine wine from Nicaea and flowery Anthosmias from sea and wine and between ship and cup was first Cyzicus. These were old wines from the impesuggested or magnified through use of anrial estates, made from sun-dried grapes. cient literary traditions and notions of This type of imperial Bithynian wine is drowning in wine or the sea, or of the thought to be associated with a new wine harvest as war and love. These were known as Malmsey, or Malvasia (as it themes that were to be embraced by was known in Italy and the Iberian Peninneo-Hellenism in order to give a seal sula, after Monemvasia). First mentioned in of approval to its wine-drinking lifeChalice of the Emperor 1214, it was reportedly offered to and consumed style. In the same period (11th-12th centuRomanos II, (959-963), by the Latin conquerors in front of Hagia Sories) important monasteries on Mount Athos, as possibly from Hagia Sophia. (Treasury of Saint phia, along with wines from Chios and Lesbos. well as the Metropolis of Thessaloniki, owned Mark’s in Venice.) Monemvasian-type wines from the Peloponnese, a large number of vineyards in Halkidiki and Crete and the Aegean islands now came to prethroughout Macedonia. Indeed, the Great Lavra 70


A number of Byzantine provinces were renowned for their sweet, aromatic wines: Bithynia, in particular.

The miraculous transformation of water into wine at the wedding in Cana, depicted in a 14th century mosaic at Chora Church in Istanbul.

WINE & FAITH Oenologist Dimitris Hatzinikolaou on wine as a part of the Orthodox tradition.

vail also in Constantinople at the center of trade rivalry. Along the shores of the Bosporus, the struggle between the Italian maritime republics over free movement of goods in Byzantine ports, especially wine, accompanied by their demands for tax exemptions (12th-14th centuries), meant that all the oenophile Byzantines could hear was war trumpets. But the Byzantines themselves no longer had to set up wine shops on the city walls. They now had protection and commercial power in the form of operating licenses for inns and wine shops, where political games of power were played out, altering the fates of mariners, merchants and empires. Against this background, the provinces around the Sea of Marmara and the Bosporus, with assistance from the 72

wine-growing regions of the Aegean, influenced and steadily shaped Byzantine wine culture for approximately 1,000 years, even during the Ottoman period. Bithynia supplied wine to the Byzantine capital, but also received visitors from the city. In late Byzantine and post-Byzantine times, despite periodic declines in wine-growing, the region continued to produce its acclaimed wines. In the 14th and 15th centuries, wines from Cyzicus and Trigleia (present-day Tirilye), but also from Thrace, the Peloponnese, the Aegean islands and Crete, reached Constantinople or passed through the Bosporus strait to reach the peoples of the Black Sea. Towards the end of the medieval period, when the empire fell first to the Crusaders and then to the Ottoman Turks, there came, shortly before

the New World was discovered, what is undoubtedly Byzantium’s most important contribution to the wine map of new Europe. It was at this time that the chapters concerning vine cultivation and wine-making by Cassianus Bassus in the Geoponica were sent to western Europe to be translated and used by agriculturists. Also transferred were actual vines, wines and, above all, precious know-how on the production of what was the pre-eminent wine during the entire medieval and Renaissance periods – Malvasia. Sweet wines from Cyprus, especially the famous Commandaria – as well as the Malvasia and Athiri wines from Crete, the Aegean islands and the Peloponnese; the wine of Trigleia and Ganos, produced by Greeks of the Sea of Marmara and Thrace; and various other Muscat wines – flooded the European market as far as Scandinavia. The West appreciated, sought out and finally played a major role in establishing both in Europe and around the world a unique wine, Malmsey.

Christ the Vine, from the late 17th century, by Cretan painter Leo Moschos. (Benaki Museum, Athens)


Ilias Anagnostakis is research director at the National Hellenic Research Foundation’s Institute of Historical Research.




Lady of the Vines A rare interview with the woman who has championed Greek wine for over six decades and shaped the foundations for its entry into the new era. BY GIORGOS TSIROS


Greek winemakers need to understand that all they own is geographical designation; it’s a big mistake to display the variety on labels without linking it to the location where it is cultivated.


few hours in her company is the ultimate crash course in the revival of the Greek vineyard, that has been her life’s work. More than 60 years have elapsed since she found herself – doctor’s degree in chemistry in hand – working at the Ministry of Agriculture’s Wine Institute: “I was a city child who knew nothing about the countryside nor had ever seen a vine or tasted wine.” And what was there to taste? Devastated by phylloxera and war, the Greek vineyard was scorched earth; its product discredited, producers left to the mercy of God and bulk merchants, the legislation outdated. Stavroula Kourakou-Dragona threw herself into the battle with all guns blazing. With her scientific background, vision and determination, she took on the narrow-minded establishment and defended Greek interests at European agencies. During her extensive study of the country’s wine regions, she traveled by jeep and mule, spoke to growers in the field or later at the kafenio. She tasted wines from indigenous varieties and recorded the primitive production methods. She mapped the entire winegrape-growing landscape both before

and after World War II. This city kid came to love the rural world. She had experienced its troubles up close and broken bread at its humble table. The chemist realized that the secret to good Greek wine was not to be found only in the wineries and the technology they applied, but at the source, the vineyards. It is to Kourakou-Dragona that Greece owes the system for classifying its vineyards, its updated legislation and the classification of most of its 33 appellations of origin, the most recent being Vinsanto and Greek Malvasias. Without her, it is unlikely we would be speaking of a new era in Greek wine today, and her contribution has been internationally recognized. She was unanimously elected president of the intergovernmental International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV), has been decorated by France, Spain and Italy, was recently awarded by the Academy of Athens and has written dozens of articles and 15 books that have been translated into several languages. The most recent, are Vine and Wine in the Ancient Greek World (2014), which was awarded by the OIV, and Santorini: An Historical Wineland (2015, both Foinikas Publications).

Now aged 88, Kourakou-Dragona is still standing on the ramparts, watching Greek wines earn international distinctions and her vision being vindicated. Of all the titles and honors bestowed on her, she still holds dearest that of “Lady of the Vines”, inspired by the poem of the same title by Yiannis Ritsos, which was how she was presented to the readers of Kathimerini newspaper by editor-in-chief Kyriakos Korovilas at a time when she was representing Greece and addressing its wine economics at decision-making centers in Paris, Brussels and Strasbourg. “I simply feel like a person who deserves to live, who hasn’t led a wasted life,” she once said. “I was fortunate and happy to see the birth in this country, from scratch, of an entire field of research, application, science, industry, commerce and international relations. If I could be born again, I

1. Stavroula Kourakou-Dragona continues to write, sharing her wisdom on wine. 2. Where it all began: As a young chemist at the Wine Institute’s laboratory, in 1953.


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Our foreign guests were amazed at the wealth of the varieties being grown in this small country and at the differences in organoleptic characteristics in different wines from the same variety.

would wish to live the same life all over again – even its difficult times. This full life, which was dedicated to the service of the wine sector.” How would you introduce winemaking Greece to a foreign visitor? In 1978, Greece hosted the OIV general assembly. It was our duty as host to present samples of our production, but back then we had few Greek wines to showcase that were on the market and of some notable quality, with the exception of the internationally renowned sweet wines of Samos. So, I organized a huge tasting for 200 experts with 40 samples that had been produced at the Wine Institute’s experimental winery. As the waiters filled glasses, I projected images on a big screen of the grapes of every variety and its name, as well as vineyard landscapes from the areas where they were cultivated. Our foreign guests got to know about the terrain of the country and cultivation in terraced vineyards that in some parts start at sea level and reach altitudes of 800 meters; they saw small balcony vineyards overlooking the Aegean and learned about the islands’ volcanic soils – and it is a wellknown fact that winegrapes love volcanic earth. They were impressed by how the vines in Santorini are shaped into baskets to protect the grapes from strong winds. Moreover, they were amazed at the wealth of the varieties being grown in this small country and at the differences in organoleptic characteristics in 76

different wines from the same variety when grown at different altitudes and/ or in different terroirs. As time passed, I repeated this process of “initiation” with various groups of foreign visitors until a number of splendid wine-growing holdings were established and bottled wines from native grape varieties appeared on the market. It was no longer necessary to resort to experimental samples. I would use this same method today to introduce people to the world of Greek wines. Some argue that Greece’s native varieties are difficult to pronounce and that this harms their commercial appeal. What’s your view? Consumers don’t have a problem pronouncing the German cultivar Gewurztraminer. Is that easier to say than Xinomavro? Or are Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon easily or correctly pronounced by non-French speakers? I find that our varieties – Robola, Vilana, Assyrtiko, Debina, Mavrodafni, Limnio, etc – are much more manageable for foreigners. I accept the comment only for Agiorgitiko. But this variety is cultivated in the Nemea zone – a short toponym, which, written in capitals, is easy to read in all the Romance and Anglo-Saxon languages. So why shouldn’t Nemea be written on labels as the main indicator and Agiorgitiko as the secondary one? Foreign consumers would soon be familiarized with the notion of toponym first, variety second. This could also the case for other Greek areas, for example: Santorini/Assyrtiko, Naoussa/ Xinomavro, Crete/Kotsifali, Rhodes/ Athiri, etc. All of these places are also known as tourism destinations. This is how to promote wine tourism. After all,

the names of the grape varieties are not protected. In the future, a bar in Santorini may sell a cheap Assyrtiko wine from, say, China or Chile. Greek winemakers need to understand this: all they own is geographical designation; only the name of the wine’s geographical origin is protected. It’s a big mistake to display the variety on labels without linking it to the location where it is cultivated, particularly when the area is known for its archaeological sites, like Nemea, Santorini, Crete, Rhodes etc. In what state was the Greek wine sector when you started your career? Wines from all parts of the Mediterranean, not just Greece, had been considered inferior since the start of the 20th century. They were regarded as a cheap raw material for northern European distillers and vinegar-makers, at best suitable for blends in wines from unripe grapes in order to raise their alcohol content and/or enhance their red color. Naturally, the bulk export market used grapes from low-lying vineyards that cultivated just two or three varieties yielding high-alcohol wines, which is what importers were looking for. And then World War II happened and Greek vineyards continued to decline as the countryside was depopulated. High-altitude, mid-altitude and island vineyards, those that had the greatest potential, were abandoned. Prime winegrapes were lost. When I was appointed to the Wine Institute in 1953, the sector was still in the preindustrial age and Greece, devastated by war, was struggling to heal its wounds. When did the fortunes of Greek wine begin to change? I would say 1970, when the Min-

1. Mexico City, 1981. Presiding over the OIV assembly.

5. Pride and joy: The “Lady of the Vines” dedicated her life to the resurrection of Greek winemaking.

2. Stavroula Kourakou-Dragona, president of the OIV, at a reception in Vienna City Hall during the 1980 assembly. 3. Old vertical hand-operated grape press. From her book Santorini: An Historical Wineland (Foinikas Publications). 4. The best way to enjoy Αgiorgitiko. From her book Nemea: An Historical Wineland (Foinikas Publications).

6. Sitting on a VIP throne in the Theater of Dionysus in Athens, 1964. 7. On Santorini, the subject of KourakouDragona’s latest book, entire hillsides have been arranged in stepped terraces to protect the soil from wind erosion (courtesy of Foinikas Publications).





The product of our small and scattered vineyards will never flood the markets. It is intended, instead, to break the boredom of the monotony of aromas and flavors from the immoderate prevalence of globalized cultivars.

istry of Agriculture classified by law the grape varieties by area according to their quality score, as this emerged from the research of the Wine Institute. Economic incentives were also introduced for the expansion of prime winegrapes in areas with the appropriate soil and climatic conditions, and so vineyards were resurrected when and where the demographic factor allowed their revival. It was then that modern technology was applied in wineries. Marketing also made its first appearance in the Greek wine sector and European regulations dictated a common policy for wine labeling. Appellations of Origin of High Quality (AOHQ) were first granted to Greek labels in 1971. Was this also the time when the old guard of the winemaking world passed on the baton to the younger generation? Yes. And most of these young people had studied viticulture and viniculture abroad. Meanwhile, the sector’s representation at EEC conferences and committees helped advance the right policies on issues pertaining to production, evaluation and the commercial promotion of Greek wines. Additionally, the significant investments in human resources and technical capabilities sensationally improved the quality of the wines, at least on the processing level. This impressive improvement of Greek bottled wines is obviously due 78

to a number of factors, which came together by serendipity and augmented one another, just as co-linear forces are added to give a resultant force far greater than its components. The fact that a recovery was achieved in such a short period of time is proof of the dynamism of the winemaking sector. What are Greece’s advantages on the global wine map? The wealth of its native winegrapes, in combination with the particular characteristics of its ecosystem, to which each variety adapted centuries ago. Quality and uniqueness, not quantity, are our biggest strengths. The product of our small and scattered vineyards will never flood the markets. It is intended, instead, to break the boredom of the monotony of aromas and flavors from the immoderate prevalence of some, few globalized cultivars. Greece also cultivates foreign varieties... That began in the 1970s. Still, the area they cover represents only 10 percent of our vineyards. Does the Greek vineyard have more “hidden treasures” to reveal? Today we have 90 winegrapes being vinified that are unique in the world, but we still have a lot of areas that have not been developed (on mountains and islands), which were renowned in centuries past for their wines. It is thought that these areas may still have grape rootstocks, with a lot of surprises in store. The explosion in quality, however, is expected to come from the already cultivated varieties, once the cloning selection programs are completed, as well as the cultivation of plants that are immune to viruses. Where would a pioneer such as yourself begin today? We have accomplished so much in such a short space of time, yet we all feel that the quality of native varieties is not high enough to establish Greece firmly on the international map as a wine-producing country. We need collective initiatives. One swallow does not make a spring. And this, thankfully, is something our producers are well aware of.

DECODING THE LABELS Appellations of Origin of high Quality (AOHQ)

Some wines in international commerce are known by the geographical names that state their origins. They all come from viticultural zones that are delineated by law, within the specific geographical boundaries of the named areas, and have come to be known as “Apellations of Origin.” They are produced according to specific terms defined for each individual apellation by that country’s laws. Therefore, the legal term AOHQ is in fact a geographical name: Samos, Nemea, Naoussa, Santorini, etc.

Protected Designation of Origin (PDO)

This indication replaced AOHQ as an outcome of bringing greek wine legislation in line with EU. The two indications are equivalent. The characters of these wines express the terroir they come from. The winemaker does not have the right to alter the type of wine according to market demand.

Protected Geographical Indication (PGI)

Wines in the PGI category enjoy more freedom when it comes to varietal composition and processing and, as such, the type of wine expresses processing choices intended for specific markets. These wines do not express the terroir as much as the winemaker’s technical abilities.


GAME CHANGERS Meet the visionaries who spotted and cultivated the potential of native varieties and the Greek terroir to take the country’s wines to the world. BY TA S S O U L A E P TA K I L I



hen Andreas Cambas was born in 1851 in Athens, Greece was struggling to recover from 400 years under the Ottoman yoke: without infrastructure, and with cities and villages decimated, it was centuries behind the rest of Europe. On the fertile land of Attica, farmers mainly grew olive trees, and Andreas was the first to foresee that grapes could once more become a source of wealth, as they were in the past. He bought up several plots in Kantza, in the northeast, and after studying the methods applied by the Europeans, planted his first vines. He was soon producing fine wine and plenty of it. Yet Cambas was not one to rest on his laurels and despite pressure from his family, who thought him a lunatic, he sought to expand. In 1887 he developed a model distillery in Kantza, with a massive Mareste pot still bought in Bordeaux to produce cognac. He had put himself on the path to triumph: two years later and with exports already having started, his cognac was presented at trade fairs in Athens and Paris, winning the top prize. It comes as no surprise that the name Cambas has become synonymous for Greeks with wine and spirits. Cambas’ contribution was also significant in another respect: In the early 20th century he took a significant step for the evolution of Greek winemaking by inviting a group of French experts to identify locations outside of Attica that would be suitable for vine growing. The compass pointed south to the plateaus of Arcadia, where the climate and soil provided the ideal conditions to grow sweet Moschofilero, Asprouda and Mavrouda, all native varieties. And so, a precious seed was planted…

TODAY The Cambas company passed into the hands of Boutari Winery in 1992, but the original founder is still a household name. VISIT

Andreas Cambas the RESTLESS SPIRIT 80


Clauss named his estate Gutland, or Good Land, and took the next step in 1861 by launching into the winemaking business and creating Achaia Clauss.


avarian Gustav Clauss (born in 1825) worked for the German currant export company Fels in the Greek port city of Patras in the mid-19th century. He became so enamored with the Achaia region and with life in its then-cosmopolitan capital that he decided to settle down for good. He bought 6 hectares on the foothills of Mount Panachaiko, built a country home and planted fruit trees and vines. He named his estate Gutland, or Good Land, and took the next step in 1861 by launching into the winemaking business and creating Achaia Clauss, Greece’s oldest commercial wine producer. With large stone buildings nestled in verdant gardens and orchards, a spectacular view over Patras and ornately carved barrels (true works of art), his winery acquired a reputation that soon traveled beyond Greek borders. As for its products? The most famous is the wonderful sweet red that first circulated in 1873 under the name 601 after the number Clauss had given the secret recipe in his handwritten notebook. Soon after he called it Mavrodaphne (also sold as Mavrodafni), in honor of his beloved, a black-eyed Greek beauty called Daphne, who died at a very young age. Clauss himself died in 1908 and many important personages have passed through Achaia Clauss’ Imperial Cellar, thus named after Empress Elisabeth (Sissi) of Austria after her visit: from Scottish biologist Alexander Fleming and Greek statesman Eleftherios Venizelos, to British army commander Bernard Montgomery and shipping empire heir Alexander Onassis. Each of the guests carved their names into barrels and paid their respects to Good Land and the wonderful wines of the Bavarian who had made Greece his second home.

TODAY The company belongs to businessman Nikos Karapanos and continues to produce wine. Some 200,000 visitors are welcomed to the site each year. VISIT

Gustav Clauss a TA L E o f l o v e G R E E C E IS

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Evangelos Tsantalis B U I L D I N G F R O M S C R AT C H


reece’s biggest wine producing company was born thanks to the passion of one man who built a strong brand from scratch: Evangelos Tsantalis. His family came to Greece from Eastern Thrace in 1922 with nothing more to their name than a cart and an ox, and settled in Serres. His father began making wine and ouzo, teaching all five of his children his tradecraft. But Evangelos had a burning ambition for something of his own. He left for Thessaloniki and in 1945 started a small distillery producing ouzo that was soon the talk of the town. The business of 300 square meters soon grew to 5,000 and in 1970 he opened a winery in Naoussa. This “patriarch,” however, is also distinguished for developing the exceptional vineyards of Mount Athos. Evangelos would often visit the renowned monastic community to hunt. In Chromitsa, the glebe of Aghios Panteleimonas Monastery, he happened to come across an abandoned vineyard and, after getting the green light from the monastery’s Russian monks, started cultivating it. The monks called the area “kormilitsa,” after the Russian words for wet nurse, because it fed the monastery. Its vines eventually gave birth to Agioritiko and the red Kormilitsa Gold, which is produced in just a few thousand bottles a year, travels to markets all over the world and costs around 600 euros to acquire.

TODAY Tsantali cultivates 600 hectares of privately owned vineyards, produces 13 million liters of wine and 2.5 million liters of spirits (ouzo and tsipouro), and exports to 60 countries. VISIT

Thanassis Parparoussis THE R I S K -TA K E R


aised in the business of wine and spirits (both his father and uncle were distillers), Thanassis Parparoussis believed in something others thought a pipedream: that Greek wines could go beyond bulk sales and make it onto the global map. He was one of the first Greeks to study oenology at the time, going to Dijon in the 1960s. “The professors there spoke of wines as though they were works of art,” he remarks. “They didn’t hold us in very high regard and insisted that we would never produce great red wines in Greece, just sweet wines. That was when I made a bet…” He returned to Greece, opened a state-of-the-art winery near Patras in 1974 and won the bet. Using the innovative technique of dry vinification used for sweet Mavrodaphne he created Taos, an excellent red. He has passed on his philosophy to his two daughters – Dimitra, an economist, and Erifili, an oenologist – who work by his side. The Parparoussis Winery now has 10 hectares, where respect for nature stands above all else. “Everything in the natural environment is a chain and good wines come from harmonious coexistence,” says Parparoussis.

TODAY The Parparoussis Winery produces 11 labels of wines and spirits, and exports over 60 percent of its production. VISIT



Vangelis Gerovassiliou GOING IT ALONE


he son of a Thessaloniki farmer, Vangelis Gerovassiliou studied oenology in Bordeaux in the mid-1970s, where he got his degree and had the good fortune to work alongside professor Emile Peynaud, guru extraordinaire of the oenological sciences, sampling the wines of all the famous French chateaux. Peynaud went on to recommend the young Greek for a position as oenologist at the historic Porto Carras winery in Halkidiki, where Gerovassiliou was destined to spend the next 22 years of his career (1976-1999). In the meantime, he decided to try his hand at winemaking. On 2.5 privately owned hectares he planted only whites, mainly Malagousia (relatively unknown at the time) and Assyrtiko, as he was a firm believer in indigenous varieties, even though the prevalent trend in Greece was to cultivate Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Construction on his state-of-the-art winery was completed in 1999 and since then Ktima Gerovassiliou has been at the forefront of developments in Greek wine. There is only one recipe for success, he says: “You must first study the earth and the varieties, plant good vineyards and produce high-quality wines, and then – with marketing – create a legend.” Gerovassiliou was also among the first in his field to take action to promote Greece’s wine heritage.

TODAY The privately owned single vineyard of Ktima Gerovassiliou covers an expanse of 56 hectares. It produces 300,000 bottles in 10 labels a year, and exports 35 percent of its yield. VISIT

Paris Sigalas THE dr e a m e r


inemaking is something of a given for the people of Santorini, a part of day-to-day life. But for Paris Sigalas, vines only took root in his life when he began planting them himself. “It was almost metaphysical, as though my intervention changed a piece of land. I admit I felt like a small god,” he says. A mathematician by training who had done a postgrad in France, he became a teacher and split his time between Santorini and Athens. In 1991, he started the Domaine Sigalas winery on the island, using his grandfather’s old canava (or winery) as its headquarters until he moved production to a new plant eight years later. He gave up teaching in 2005 to dedicate himself to winemaking and remains determined to make his biggest dream come true, that is, to win recognition for Mavrotragano, a splendid red variety that was at risk of extinction before he took it under his protective wing. Sigalas was among the first vintners on Santorini to focus on taking the all-important steps: developing a creative bond with the island’s traditions, investing in know-how and quality, and protecting Santorini’s unique wine terroir from the sprawl of rampant tourism development.

TODAY Domaine Sigalas produces 300,000 bottles a year. A new addition to its line is Tsipouro Sigalas, made from Assyrtiko and Mavrotragano pomace. VISIT


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Yiannis Boutaris

George Skouras

T h e HO U S EHO L D N A M E




is grandfather and namesake was one of the first Greek vintners to put wine in a bottle, in 1879 in Naoussa. It was such a success that by the early 20th century the winery had opened a branch in Thessaloniki and added ouzo to its roster. Yiannis Boutaris studied chemistry and oenology, and then, in 1969 at the age of 27, took over the family business. At a time when vine cultivation was being taken seriously only by a handful of farmers, he understood that you couldn’t produce wine unless you focused first on the primary ingredient. “A lot of wineries cropped up that looked only at the packaging, not the content. It’s like opening a restaurant without a chef and sinking all your money into the decor,” he says. He bought a large plot in Naoussa and began planting his own vines. Thanks to his efforts, neglected varieties like Xinomavro, Roditis and Malagousia were able to express their true colors. He was also a pioneer in marketing: his white Lac des Roches was the first Greek wine to be backed by an advertising campaign. Boutaris has served as mayor of Thessaloniki since 2011. So, is he a vintner or a politician? “In 50 years as a winemaker, I have left my mark in the field. If I manage to do this in politics as well, people will say I was multitalented when I die…”

TODAY The Boutari company has been split into two: Kir-Yianni, which is run by Yiannis’ son, Stellios, and Boutari, owned by his brother Constantinos. Both enjoy robust exports. VISIT


eorge Skouras was the first winemaker in Greece to employ the Stelving bottling method (which uses a screw-top) for white wine, at a time when other winemakers wouldn’t dare. He was also the first in the country to sell magnums (with a volume of 1.5 liters), and the first to apply to winemaking the Spanish Solera method. He developed an entirely new school of winemaking by mixing an indigenous variety with a French one (an Agiorgitiko with a Cabernet). Perhaps most importantly, he was among the first to believe that Greek wines could have a bright future on the international scene. His winery in Argos was among those that were instrumental in the rebirth of winemaking in Greece in the 1980s. And Skouras himself was – and continues to be – a reference point for younger generations of winemakers. Skouras left Greece for France in 1980 to study agriculture at the University of Dijon in Burgundy, but changed to winemaking. In 1988, he released the innovative Megas Oenos (which combined Agiorgitiko and Cabernet grapes) and it remains his winery’s flagship wine to this day. “It is my first love,” Skouras says.

TODAY The Skouras Winery produces about 800,000 bottles per year (under 17 labels), more than 50 percent of which are exported. VISIT


Kyriakos Kynigopoulos T h e M a s t e r “ M e c h a nic ”


t Kyriakos Kynigopoulos’ laboratory in Beaune, France, clients come from around the world: 200 French wineries and 80 more from the US, Argentina, Chile, South Africa, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium and Cyprus. Kynigopoulos is considered a master of oenological analysis and his lab handles roughly 30,000 samples per year. Does this mean that the wines that millions of people enjoy across the world are, to a large extent, his handiwork? Kynigopoulos laughs at the suggestion. “Of course not! Winemaking is like Formula One racing. The winemaker is the driver; we just help fine tune the engine.” Kynigopoulos was born in Thessaloniki. His grandfather had a vineyard but, of his 13 grandchildren, only young Kyriakos would follow him into the fields. He was 5 or 6 years old. “From then on, I was hooked,” he says. He studied at the University of Burgundy and was set to return to Greece when a scholarship changed that plan and set him on the path to a bright career. Almost 30 years later, has not forgotten his homeland and works with many Greek wineries as a consultant. How does he view Greek wine? “It is continually making progress. The only problem is that the majority of wines are made to ‘go’ where the consumer wants them. The challenge is to drive the consumer. Some Greek winemakers, fortunately, have started to do just that.”

TODAY Kyriakos Kynigopoulos lives in Beaune in Burgundy. His laboratory collaborates with 280 wineries in North and South America, Europe and South Africa. VISIT

Athanase Fakorellis THE F LY I N G OE N O L O G I S T

W ‘I was like a blank slate and became completely enamored with that world. I enjoyed every little new thing I learned.’


hen Athanase Fakorellis went to France in the 1970s to study pharmacology, a serious illness left him bedridden for the first year. “What are you going to do now?” his friend, acclaimed oenologist Giorgos Vekios, also studying at Bordeaux, asked him. “Do you really want to become a pharmacist, selling medicines from behind a counter like a grocer? You should become an oenologist,” he urged him. “I was like a blank slate and became completely enamored with that world. I enjoyed every little new thing I learned,” says the now distinguished oenologist. Fakorellis got his degree and went on to work with some of the biggest chateaux in the country – in Bordeaux, Cognac, Nantes and Burgundy. Yet he never severed his ties with Greece and made his debut in 1990 as oenologist at Canava Petros Nomikos in Santorini. As his reputation grew, he worked with a slew of Greek wineries, traveled extensively – consulting in Italy, Lebanon, India and China – and worked with influential oenologist Michel Rolland. How does the “flying oenologist,” as he’s known, judge Greek wine? “It has made enormous progress. France has been promoting its grand crus since the mid-19th century, so the fact that some Greek wines have managed to reach that level in just a few decades is remarkable.” His advice to Greek winemakers? “Concentrate on the vineyard, because that’s where it all begins, and on native varieties. No more Merlots; no more blends with international varieties!”

TODAY Fakorellis works with dozens of wineries around the world. He also has two vineyards of his own in France and is registered as an oenology and wine expert at Bordeaux commercial court.

explore GREECE IS



From Crete in the south, Macedonia and Thrace in the north and the islands in the east and west, every part of Greece has its unique terroirs that produce an amazing array of different native varieties. Let’s explore the lands, the wineries and their wines. Illustration: Making the Wine, 2008, glass painting by German painter Antonios von Santorinios-Santorinakis. Bridgeman Images




NORTHERN GREECE Northern Greece is the powerhouse of the country’s winemaking industry, with a history stretching back almost four and a half millennia. It is renowned for the passion of its winemakers, many of whom hail from families that have been in the business for several generations and who have dedicated their efforts to promoting native varieties and marrying them with internationally known grapes that have adapted well to the region’s mesoclimates. The region today enjoys a reputation not just for its large-scale wineries, but also for smaller producers who are making significant inroads with top-notch wines that are fast gaining fans around the world.



The Diaporos vineyard at the Kyr-Yianni estate in Yiannakohori, Naoussa.

1. The vineyard of Domaine Glivanos, a family-owned winery with a 37-year history in Zitsa, Ioannina, northwestern Greece. 2. Tsantali’s Agioritiko vineyard, on the “Holy Mountain” of Athos in Halkidiki.


epresenting almost one-sixth of Greece’s total vine-growing area with 8,130 hectares of vineyards, northern Greece is the country’s wine-producing engine. Extending from Thrace in the east to Epirus in the west, it is distinguished by its climatic and geological diversity. Far-flung Thrace produced the Ismarian wine that intoxicated the Cyclops Polyphemus, while in Eastern Macedonia’s Filippoi vine cultivation can been traced back almost 4,500 years. This is quite a mountainous region, meaning that at high altitudes and near ranges, such as in Kozani and Amyntaio in Macedonia, the climate can be quite chilly. Most vineyards are located at altitudes ranging from 200 to 300 meters, reaching as high as 1,000m in Metsovo in Epirus, and while the quality of the soil varies greatly, it is generally rich in clay and calcium carbonate. So, while diversity may be the defining feature of an area as large as northern Greece, its vineyards share the ability to produce high-quality vintages. There is no shortage of legends and tales about northern Greece’s wine, as its history dates back millennia, with Homer extensively referring to the land



While diversity may be the defining feature of an area as large as northern Greece, its vineyards share the ability to produce high-quality vintages.







of the Cicones, a people in Thrace. The wine of Maron, a priest of Apollo in Ismarus, was renowned for being such a divine drink that you could mix it with 20 times as much water and it would still retain its saccharine qualities. The foundations of modern winemaking were not laid until the 1930s, after a terrible phylloxera epidemic wiped out every single vineyard in Macedonia and Thrace. Statesman Evangelos Averoff-Tositsas was the first to introduce foreign grape varieties in 1958, starting a vineyard on the wild highlands of Metsovo, Epirus, in a spot that came

to be known as Yiniets, after the Vlach word for vineyard. In 1960, shipowner Yiannis Carras saw the potential for developing a large vineyard in Sithonia, in the Halkidiki peninsula. At around the same time Evangelos Tsantalis was discovering the grandeur of the Mount Athos vineyards. In 1981 “Agioritikos” (from Aghion Oros or Holy Mountain) was recognized as the first Regional Wine of Greece. Another key player in the northern Greek wine scene was the Boutari family. With a history stretching back to 1879, it started building its reputation at Naoussa in Imathia (90km from

3. Aging bottles at the Pavlidis Estate. 4. Pioneer Evangelos Averoff seen at his vineyard in Metsovo, northwestern Greece. 5. The cellar at the Katogi Averoff estate. 6. Father John samples wine in the cellar of the Iviron Monastery of Mount Athos.


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Thessaloniki). Vangelis Gerovassiliou also exerted a significant influence on developments, both as an oenologist at the Porto Carras estate as well as at his own wineries, from the mid-1980s on. Northern Greece is now experiencing a new heyday. On the one hand, the appearance of boutique wineries, often family-owned, alongside the big traditional names and, on the other, the quest for harmonious blends between native and foreign varieties have created all the right conditions for the production of higher caliber wines that can compete on a global scale. Working towards this vision, passionate winemakers are also breathing fresh life into the industry. These efforts are focused primarily on producing terroir wines emphasizing the quality of the grape, often through organic farming practices and the limited use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Some vintners are experimenting with biodynamic agriculture, while other trends include fermentations in amphorae, as well as efforts to produce wines with minimum human intervention. The results of these exciting endeavors are extremely promising, as evident in the excellent sparkling wines in the Amyntaio region, made with the traditional Champenoise method, the revival of high-quality retsina and several orange wines – all pointing to the fact that northern Greece remains one of the fundamental pillars of Greek wine. PDO-certified Naoussa – robust, structured and with great aging potential – produces tight wines, full of fruity and complex aromas, while neighboring and colder Amyntaio, with its light, sandy soil, yields more delicate wines that need to be consumed sooner. Other two areas with PDO certification are Goumenissa in Kilkis, Central Macedonia, and, way south, Rapsani at the foot of Lower (Kato) Olympus, where Xinomavro is complemented by other native varieties that soften its character to produce wines with a style that is more direct and, in many cases, quite delicious. A larger ratio of Xinomavro ensures ageworthy wines with stronger 92

tannins that need time to fully reveal their virtues. Zitsa in Ioannina, Epirus, has also been graced with PDO status, producing the lemony Debina as a variety that yields both subtle and fresh sparkling wines. Meanwhile, Plagies Melitona, from the slopes of Mt Meliton in Sithonia in Halkidiki, is the only Greek PDO region where the world-known Cabernet Sauvignon is still the dominant variety and is also used in blends with what is probably Greece’s oldest surviving variety, Limnio. Drama and Kavala may not have PDO appellations, but they are worth mentioning. The former was responsible for giving Greek wine a much-needed boost in the 1990s after significant investments resulted in landmark wines like Amethystos and Magiko Vouno. These two areas were among the first to promote international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc, used mainly in blends: the white varieties in the colder climes of Kavala and the reds in slightly warmer Drama. Other native varieties encountered in northern Greece are Roditis, the popular floral Malagousia, Assyrtiko in fruitier versions than those produced in Santorini and reds such as Vlachiko and Bekari, grown in Epirus. There is also a range of foreign varieties, from Grenache to Tannat.


Yiannis Karakasis, Master of Wine since 2015, is a consultant, educator and cofounder of the dynamic wine blog www.winecommanders. com, dedicated to promoting Greek wine in the international market.

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The father, the son and the Xinomavro: Yiannis and Stellios Boutaris at their estate in Yiannakohori in Naoussa.




1. Selecting the grapes at the Pavlidis Estate in Drama. 2. Bottling at Domaine Biblia Chora in the Pangaion Hills near Kavala.

3. The famous reds of the Xinomavro variety are earning increasingly higher marks. 4. Domaine Costa Lazaridi in Adriani, Drama.






Fresh Xinomavro Herb-rich oven-baked lamb, wild boar

Xinomavro (Ksee no’ ma vro) is northern Greece’s unrivalled variety, found in 2,000 hectares of its vineyards. It is a difficult, whimsical grape that presents an equal challenge to the viticulturist and the winemaker, but has nevertheless produced some of the most exciting wines to emerge from Greece since the 60s. Xinomavro wines are not particularly striking in color; their magic lies in the aromatic complexity of small red fruits and floral tones like rose. Leather, sun-dried tomato and sophisticated truffle notes complement the bouquet, particularly of a mature wine. Strong tannins call out for aging, while it is widely accepted that Xinomavro is capable of yielding high-quality terroir wines. It appears in four PDO-certified areas: in two as a single variety and in the others in blends. It yields wines that appeal to epicures and pair perfectly with rich meats.


Aged Xinomavro Porcini mushroom risotto

Debina Mild cheeses, green salads

Assyrtiko, unbarreled Sauvignon Blanc Small fried fish

Assyrtiko, barrel-aged Sauvignon Blanc Oily fish, pasta with creamy sauces, chicken, pork New-generation retsina Batter-fried cod


Visiting the source NINE OENOTOURISM STOPS B Y A l e x an d ra M an d rakou




Meeting with history

Tours in five languages

Nocturnal harvest

A visit to the historic Katogi Averoff winery can be combined with a stay at its excellent boutique hotel located nearby and/or a meal its restaurant (try the leek and meatballs or the veal with local hylopites pasta), followed by a drink at the wine bar. Climbing up the Pindos range, the vineyards at Yiniets were put on the Greek wine map in 1950 by politician Evangelos Averoff-Tositsas, who planted Greece’s first Cabernet Sauvignon vines and started bottling wine in the cellar of his house. The tour of the winery includes an informative video, as well as the chance to sample the voluptuous Rossiu di Munte Yiniets.

Set in the heart of a 100-hectare, family-owned vineyard, the Alpha Estate, in the beautiful area of Amyntaio in Florina, offers tours in five languages (Greek, English, French, Spanish and Italian) and attracts visitors from around the world. A force in the wine tourism sector, in 2015 it welcomed over 9,500 guests, who explored the facilities and tasted the wines. After all, the Alpha Estate was named Winery of the Year by Wine & Spirits magazine in 2013, in the 10th anniversary edition of the competition. The winery is located near some lovely villages and two lakes (where boat rides are on offer), while it also has an advanced tasting package.

Mountain views, a beautiful vineyard, minimalist interiors and a New World philosophy are the defining features of the Ktima Pavlidis estate, in the northern prefecture of Drama. Famous for its emblematic Thema series, the estate has been producing wines for some 20 years that have starred at international competitions such as the Berliner Wein Trophy, International Wine & Spirit Competition and Vinalies. One of the most fascinating aspects of a visit is the tutorial on the nocturnal grape harvest, a practice faithfully applied here so as to maintain the purity of the grapes’ organoleptic characteristics. Tastings are held in the underground cellar.

ΙNFO 2nd km on the Amyntaio–Aghios Panteleimonas road, tel (+30) 23860.201.11, Open daily 9:00-16:00. Tours, which are conducted by appointment, are free of charge.

ΙNFO Kokinogia, Drama, tel (+30) 25210.583.00, Open daily 10:00-14:00. Tours are free, but there is a fee for the tastings, depending on the wine selections.

ΙNFO Metsovo, tel (+30) 26560.314.90, www., Open daily 10:00-16:00. Tours are free; tastings (by appointment) start at €4 per person, while you can also arrange for food.


On-site wine museum A jewel of a winery, a perfect combination of functionality and good looks, the Ktima Gerovassiliou estate has a lot to teach about Greek and international, known and unknown varieties. Its excellent wine museum showcases objects from the personal collection of Vangelis Gerovassiliou, including rare presses, tools, barrels, bottles and a vast collection of corkscrews. The view from the reception area is enchanting, and visitors can look out onto the vineyard, the sea and Mount Olympus as they enjoy a glass of wine. Educational programs can also be arranged by appointment.

ΙNFO Epanomi, Thessaloniki, tel (+30) 23920.445.67, Open Mon-Tue and Thu-Fri 10:00-16:00, Wed 13:0019:00, Sun 11:00-17:00, closed Saturdays. Tours are conducted every hour and cost €5, including tastings and snacks. Advance booking is required for groups. G R E E C E IS

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Domaine Porto Carras THE WHOLE PACKAGE Overlooking the Toroneos Gulf on the slopes of Mount Meliton on Sithonia, the middle leg of Halkidiki’s three peninsulas, Domaine Porto Carras is Greece’s single largest organic vineyard and one of the largest in Europe following the French winemaking philosophy. Villa Galini is an impressive chateau structure based on Macedonian monastic. The vineyards, which cover 475 hectares, resemble an amphitheater around the modern winery. Visits to the estate can be adapted to individual requirements and may include a tour of the winery, Villa Galini Chateau, walks, picnics among the vines, horse riding, diving etc. Wine tastings, accompanied by cold dishes or lunch, are available. No visit is complete without trying the famous Greek Limnio. And to crown the wine tourism experience, the Porto Carras Grand Resort complex is renowned for its distinctive luxury and warmth.

ΙNFO Sithonia, tel (+30) 2310.253.758, 23750.774.37/770.00, Visits are arranged by appointment.


Biblia Chora

Wine Art

New arrival


MODERN & elegant

The creation of one of the pioneers of Greek wine, Yiannis Boutaris, and now being run by his son Stellios, the Kir-Yianni estate on the foothills of Mount Vermio is poised to open its new winery to the public in May, promising a new, exciting experience. The tour will include a brief history of Xinomavro, a native grape that was salvaged by Boutaris and is now turning heads, a picnic in the vineyard or a meal on the veranda, as well as the possibility to arrange more in-depth tastings. The underground wine cellar is also something to definitely look forward to.

Besides the unique quality wines that it boasts, Biblia Chora represents the culmination of a long friendship and cooperation between two leading Greek oenologists – Vangelis Gerovassiliou and Vassilis Tsaktsarlis. The tasting room, which overlooks the cellars where wines are aged, sum up this vineyard’s philosophy: the marriage of technology and tradition. The vineyard’s 45 organically cultivated hectares are situated on the slopes of Mount Pangeon, where a modern winery welcomes wine lovers to initiate them into its secrets in English, Greek and German.

Overlooking Mount Pangeo, which in antiquity was associated with the cult of wine god Dionysus, lies the village of Mikrohori, home to a modern winery consisting of two sites linked by a tunnel. This impressive underground passage also serves as the wine cellar, with red and white wines maturing in hundreds of French oak barrels. Greek, French and Italian varieties are grown on the estate, while the entire production process is constantly monitored by a central computer system. The tour takes visitors through the production area and cellars, with cheese and sausages offered along the way.

ΙNFO Yiannakohori, Naoussa, tel (+30) 23320.511.00, To reserve a spot on the tour, contact Trip2taste, tel (+30) 210.723.9791. Visits by appointment only. Tours & tastings cost €4-12.

ΙNFO Kokinohori, Kavala, tel (+30) 25920.449.74, Mon-Fri 9:00-14:00. Free tours and tastings, by appointment.

ΙNFO Mikrohori, Drama, tel (+30) 25210.836.26, Open Mon-Fri 8:30-16:30. Visits are arranged by appointment.


WILD BEAUTY The Rapsani Wine Adventure consists of a thrilling ride in an off-road vehicle, with stops at the scattered vineyards to taste the estate’s wines along the way. Each of the vineyards on the foothills of Mount Olympus has its own character depending on the altitude, climate and location. The climb leads to the 18th century Byzantine monastery of Aghios Theodoros, where, overlooking the entire village, you can taste the fruit of earlier wine harvests accompanied by cold dishes. The Rapsani Wine and Vine Museum, located in the village, is also worth visiting. The highest of the vineyards, at 700m, is particularly interesting as it continues to employ the traditional bush-training technique, originally introduced when mechanical equipment was not available.

ΙNFO For more details and reservations, tel (+30) 23990.761.00, Visits are arranged by appointment. 96

Wine Roads of Northern Greece

The Wine Producers Association of the Northern Greece Vineyard has created eight routes connecting the vineyards of Thessaly, Epirus, Macedonia and Thrace. With stops at 41 wineries, gastronomic points of interest, cultural monuments and natural beauty spots, the wine landscape of northern Greece has so much to offer the visitor. Route maps are available for download from

Take your pick from a range of more than 2,000 traditional Greek products, delivered at your door in 16 to 36 hours!

ABOUT SEMELI WINERY Founded in 1979, Semeli is a leading Greek winery and one of the country’s most significant wine-related developments. With deep roots in time-honored traditions and our eyes on the future, we produce wines of exceptional quality offering consumers best value for money.


advertoria l

he Semeli Estate winery is located at a high altitude, amidst the low yielding vineyards of the hilly Koutsi region, one of the most celebrated “crus” of legendary Nemea in the Peloponnese. In this unique grape-growing microclimate crop levels are low, concentration of flavors high, and fruit and natural acids in positive balance. A key process at our vineyard estate is winemaking using gravity. Our gravity-fed winery


was designed to take full advantage of the terrain’s sloping gradient. From pressing to bottling, the entire process uses the weight of the grapes or the downward movement caused by gravity, thus avoiding the need for pumps. This results in nearly zero defects and produces topnotch wines. The Semeli estate is one of the most impressive wine-related developments in Greece, combining stunning natural beauty with

easy access to cultural treasures and historical sites. Our elegantly renovated, multi-purpose reception and tasting hall is an ideal venue for mee­tings, gala dinners, incentive events, product launches, weddings and other celebrations. The winery also has a large outdoor area that is ideal for al fresco banquets or events. For more information about Semeli Winery, please visit:

ABOUT NEMEA & AGIORGITIKO Nemea, a Historic Land Dominated by ragged mountains, surrounded by fertile valleys and blessed with an abundance of water, Nemea is a region with a long history, extraordinary physical beauty and a fair number of hidden secrets. In mythical times, its name was closely linked with Hercules, who performed the first of his 12 labors, the slaying of the Nemean lion, in one of its mountain caves. In the historical period, the region became known for Phlius, a Doric city whose Phliasian wine was famous throughout ancient Greece, and for its sanctuary of Zeus and the Panhellenic Games held there.

Agiorgitiko Variety Today, Nemea is Greece’s most vibrant red wine appellation, relying exclusively on the high quality and attractive Agiorgitiko variety, an indigenous grape named after Agios Georgios, as Nemea was once known. Nemea is referred to by some as “the crown jewel of the new wine industry” and “Greece’s most important appellation,” and its wineries as “among the top names in the country.”

SEMELI WINES Top quality wines such as our classic Agiorgitiko and Moschofilero, as well as our Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Syrah and Merlot blends, have garnered praise from wine connoisseurs and received many international awards.

OUR VARIETIES Great wines come from high-caliber grapes. To make high quality wines, we harness the full potential of some of Greece’s most exciting indigenous grape varieties, including the vibrant and versatile Agiorgitiko, the delicious and grapy Moschofilero, the elegant Roditis and upand-coming Malagousia, whose extraordinary flavor makes it one of the most aromatic Greek cultivars. These varieties are often blended with locally grown Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurztraminer, producing wines with a compelling complexity, depth of flavor, superb balance and delightful finish.

Koutsi, Nemea, Peloponnese, 20 500 • Tel. (+30) 27460.203.60, (+30) 27460.239.60 • •


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Kyros Melas, owner of La Tour Melas in Fthiotida, with his oenologists Εlsa Picard from France and Greece’s Panos Zoumboulis.


The pulse of the country’s wine industry beats fast in its heartland in Central Greece: from Thessaly in the north, Mainland Greece in the center, Attica and the island of Evia in the east, and Aetoloakarnania in the west, this large area is home to one-fourth of the country’s vineyards. Perhaps they are here by divine destiny: according to at least one version of the myth, it was in Central Greece, in the city of Thebes (present-day Thiva), that Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and vine, was born. On the other hand, it might just be a winning combination of climate and land.



ost of the vineyards of Central Greece are located on plains where the weather tends to be hot and dry, although there are quite a few at higher altitudes on hilly land, benefitting from cooler temperatures and breezes. Throughout this area, the soil is mainly clay loam. As a result of the diverse topography shaped by the region’s several mountain ranges, there is a variety of mesoclimates. Known as the breadbasket of Greece thanks to its fertile plain, Thessaly has given us three wine zones with Protected Designation of Origin (PDO): the up-and-coming Rapsani, the lesser-known Mesenikola (reds) in Karditsa, and Anchialos (whites) in Magnesia. At an altitude of 700 meters in Krania on the slopes of Mount Olympus, the region’s highest vineyards are doing excellent work with well-adapted foreign grape varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay in particular. At Tyrnavos in Larissa, Christos Zafeirakis has made strides with the red Limniona variety, a candidate for promising things in the future.

Heading south, we come to the valley of Atalanti in Fthiotida, which has proven fertile ground in past decades for foreign reds from Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, but also for native varieties such as Assyrtiko and Xinomavro. It is here that the Hatzimichalis family wrote one of the brightest chapters in Greece’s winemaking history; today, newer wineries with courage and character are adding their own pages to this ancient book. Meanwhile, in the Valley of the Muses in neighboring Viotia, another grape is attracting interest: Mouchtaro, a red with intense fruity aromas. Located at the southeastern edge of Central Greece and home to the Greek capital, the region of Attica has been making modern wine history since 1882, when patriatch Andreas Cambas established the family winery. His enterprise soon became the first in the country to make use of modern technology and of the know-how of experts in the field, including geologists, chemists and tasters. In 1935, the winery began selling

1. The Wine Museum at Oenotria Land, the Costa Lazaridi estate in Kapandriti, north of Athens. 2. The modern, bioclimatic Papagiannakos winery in Attica. 3. Brothers Stelios, Panagiotis and Nikos Zacharias at the Ktima Mouson winery. 4. Savatiano, a wonderful, once-overlooked winegrape.








5. Apostolos Mountrichas, owner of Avantis Estate in Evia. 6. The vineyards of the Kokotos Estate, north of Athens.


Cava Cambas, Greece’s first aged wine, made exclusively of free-run juice Savatiano that was matured in horizontal position in wax-sealed bottles for eight years before being released on the market. The seat of the Cambas winery, Kantza, even managed to acquire a designation of origin, albeit for a few years. Attica no longer has any PDO zones and its most popular variety, Savatiano, is prolific all over Greece. It is a highyield grape that has adapted extremely well to the mesoclimate of Attica’s Mesogeia Plains, where it has managed to yield good quality vintages, thanks to the calcium-rich soil, from vines that are as much as 60 years old. Retsina has also traditionally played a starring role in Attica and after a rather longish slump, its quality is improving significantly; winemakers are producing wines where the resin is allowed to make only a discreet appearance so as not to overwhelm the fruit. Cheap retsina, on the other hand, re-



7. Family photo of Andreas Cambas and his associates at the historic Attica winery.

8. The vineyards of La Tour Melas surrounded by ancient oak forests overlook the Aegean Sea.


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The five vintners of the Wines of Athens movement, which campaigns for the promotion of Attica’s wines.

THE GREAT GRAPE SAVATIANO With around 10,000 hectares under cultivation, Savatiano (Sa va tya no’) is the most prolific variety in Greece; it is the wine industry’s workhorse. While it was traditionally used to make retsina, it has shown that it can also yield respectable unresinated whites in favorable mesoclimates like that of the Mesogeia Plains. Here, we find vines planted in limestone, which is rare in Greece, bush-trained and not irrigated so as to limit the variety’s productive capacity but safeguard its quality. Savatiano can stand up to drought conditions and yield wines that have a discreet color, and a fruity and aromatic nose full of citrus and peach. In the mouth, it is fresh and never sharp, with medium body and a smooth finish. Some vintages age extremely well; it is a relatively neutral variety, so barrel-maturation lends it aromatic complexity as well as an interesting oily textures.

PAIRINGS Savatiano Fried vegetables like zucchini, chicken or pork roast with potatoes and rosemary Open the door to discover the treasure of the Limniona variety at Domaine Zafeirakis in Tyrnavos.


Roditis Fried fish, mild cheeses

Syrah Barbequed meats Cabernet blend Prime ribs Retsina Ethnic cuisines, light foods, meze and tapas, sushi


mains quite terrible, so it is always wiser to opt for the premium stuff in order to enjoy a truly authentic Greek wine. I am quite confident that if retsina is classified beyond geographical boundaries and is allowed to speak for itself through its style, technique and quality, it will go on to great things once more and give Greek wine a significant push forward in foreign markets. Evia, the second largest island in Greece and sixth largest in the Mediterranean, is located northeast of Attica. Its northern shores are lapped by the Aegean Sea, while its main town, Halkida, is located on its west coast, at the point of closest proximity to the mainland. Thanks to its mild climate and the benefits of sea breezes, Evia’s wine industry favors both native and foreign varieties. Syrah has been especially successful here and has give us some of the finest Greek examples of the variety, with a strong peppery character, great concentration and good aging potential. The island’s Malagousia, Assyrtiko and Sauvignon Blanc varieties are also worth seeking out.


Visiting the source architecture , e x hi b its and tastings . . . I T ’ S A L L H E R E B Y M aria C o v e o u

La Tour Melas

Costa Lazaridi Wine Museum

greece’s own chateau


The history of La Tour Melas (or Melas Tower), began in 2001 when Kyros Melas imported Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot vines from France and planted them in a former olive grove. The guided tours (in English, French and Greek) of the winery and the surrounding area last about an hour and a half. During the wine tastings, which usually take place in the ground floor of the tower, the visitor can experience the estate’s trademark, the red La Tour Melas with its striking bottle.

The Oenotria Land Costa Lazaridi in Attica was the second wine complex to be opened by the Lazaridi group, the first being in Drama. It consists of vineyards, a winery, cellars, halls and a wine museum. A multitude of exhibits and artifacts dating from the 17th century to the present, as well as audiovisual displays, provide the visitor with a comprehensive overview of the history of wine, spirits and vinegar production. Tasting sessions are also available on request.

ΙNFO Achinos, Fthiotida, tel (+30) 694.475.6556/694.285.8839, www. Free tours and tastings, conducted from 8:00-15:00 daily, are available on request.

ΙNFO 2nd km Kapandriti–Kalamos road, Kapandriti, Attica, tel (+30) 22950.522.13, Open Mon-Fri 9:00-17:30, Sat-Sun 11:00-15:00.

Domaine Papagiannakos

Avantis Estate

bioclimatic DESIGN

versatile grapes

The first bioclimatic winery in Greece, Domaine Papagiannakos picked up an architectural prize for its design. Detailed tours (in Greek and English) through the vineyard, winery and cellar teach visitors about the characteristics of the cultivated varieties and the winemaking process, and give them the opportunity to sample the winery’s labels, all of which are available for purchase at the winery shop.

Located an hour from Athens, Avantis Estate is the vision of winemaker Apostolos Mountrichas, whose name is closely linked to the international Syrah red grape variety. Tours (in English and Greek) of the Sauvignon Blanc vineyard and cellar also include the opportunity to taste four of Avantis’ award-winning labels. All the wines, local produce, as well as Lenga Grape Spa cosmetics made from grapes produced on the estate, are available in the shop.

ΙNFO Pousi Kalogeri, Markopoulo, Mesogeas, Attica, tel (+30) 22990.252.06, Open Mon-Fri 8:15-16:00; Sat 9:00-15:30. Wine tasting (from €10 for three labels) and tours (from €5) available on request.

ΙNFO Mytikas, Lilantio, Halkida, Evia, tel (+30) 22210.553.50, www.avantisestate. gr. Free tours and tastings, which take place Sat 11:00-16:00 & Sun 11:0015:00, are available on request. G R E E C E IS

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The cellar of Achaia Clauss, Patras’ historic winery


Nobel Prize-winning poet Odysseas Elytis says that “a late afternoon in the Aegean contains joy and sorrow in such exact doses that in the end only the truth remains.” It is this truth that the visitor encounters in the Peloponnese, which, much like a big island, puts all of its quirks and assets on display with such clarity. Remarkable archaeological sites like Olympia, Epidaurus and Messene, amazing beaches on both the Aegean and Ionian side of the peninsula and an abundance of bounty from the land and sea come together to create an attractive wine destination. Every region in the Peloponnese has its vineyards, from Achaia in the northwest and Argolida in the east, to Arcadia in the hinterland and Messinia in the southwest, with Nemea in Corinthia the undisputed wine-country star.




It is at the lofty heights of 1,000m that Roditis can really unveil its virtues, revealing an intense personality with citrus aromas, mineral tones and pleasant density.


Pruning the vines in Nemea (from the book by Stavroula Kourakou-Dragona Nemea: An Historic Wineland, Foinikas Publications).


he Peloponnese is mountainous, with Taygetus standing above all other ranges at an altitude of 2,405m. As a result of its position in Greece’s south, bordered by sea on all sides and its mountainous landscape, the Peloponnese enjoys a mild Mediterranean climate on its coasts, becoming more continetal further inland. However, there is a broad range of mesoclimates and temperatures, particularly between day and night, can vary considerably in every part of the region. The history of vine cultivation in the Peloponnese is fascinating. It dates back to antiquity and experienced one of its finest moments in the Middle Ages, when Monemvasia put the region on the map with its trade in Malvasia (or Malmsey) wine. Its modern wine


history can be traced to 1861 with the establishment of Achaia Clauss by Bavarian trailblazer Gustav Clauss. He developed the sweet Mavrodaphne (also Mavrodafni), now known around the world. Our wine tour of the Peloponnese starts in Achaia, where there are four Protected Designation of Origin zones: one producing dry wines and three sweet wines. The PDO wines of the port city of Patras are made exclusively from Roditis, the best among them from vineyards situated at about 800m above sea level on the slopes of Mount Aigialeia, with some even at altitudes of 1,000m. It is at such lofty heights that Roditis can really unveil its virtues, revealing an intense personality with citrus aromas and mineral tones, pleasant

density and a refreshing mouthfeel. The area’s sweet wines have a well-justified reputation for their fine quality and include several expensive premium examples, though those with PDO status are Muscat Patra, Muscat Rio-Patras Muscat blanc a petit grains and, of course, Mavrodaphne of Patra. Some Mavrodaphne of Patra wines consist of a small proportion of the lesser Black Corinthian variety, used to make the area’s famed table raisins, but those made only from Mavrodafni grapes display much more complexity and character. The most common production method is similar to that for Port, where neutral grape spirit is added during fermentation and the wine then matured in large oak barrels. Some of the most fascinating wines

The temple of Nemean Zeus, surrounded by vineyards.

1. The tasting hall at Domaine Skouras. 2. The chapel at the Tselepos winery in Arcadia is dedicated to Tryfon, patron saint of vine growers. 3. Winemaker Angelos Rouvalis at the Oinoforos winery in Aigio, northern Peloponnese. 4. Autumnal shades at the vineyards of Mantineia. 5. At the Mercouri Estate, Greece’s oldest family-owned winery, history is brought to life through displays of objects and heirlooms. 6. The centerpiece of the Domaine Spyropoulos winery in Mantineia is the traditional Arcadian stone tower, which stands beside the modern facilities.


Agiorgitiko: Greece’s best known red variety yields lively, aromatic rosés, fresh reds with cherry flavors and smooth textured roundness, as well as spicy, oak-aged, velvety wines.


3 4

5 6


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Erifyli and Dimitra Parparoussis with their father, Thanassis, at the family winery in Patras.

from this line are those aged for years, even decades, in the cellars of Achaia Clauss. Moving clockwise to the prefectures of Corinthia and Argolida, we reach Nemea, one of Greece’s two most important PDO zones, together with Naoussa in northern Greece. At least three of its subzones, classified by their altitude, are largely given over to Agiorgitiko, which yields hedonistic wines, distinguished by their fruity aromas and signature velvety textures, making them particularly attractive to consumers. The finest examples, which are also age-worthy, grow in the poor calcare-

ous soil of the village of Koutsi, at an altitude of between 400 to 600m, while the best vintages are those where the Agiorgitiko has a chance to ripen before the autumn rains. The tablelands of Mantineia in Arcadia, with an average altitude of 650m, and Monemvasia-Malvasia in Laconia are also PDO classified. The former, mentioned by Homer, produces dry PDO whites and elegant sparkling wines from Moschofilero, which stands out for its exotic aromas and high acidity. These are light, elegant wines that are perfect as an aperitif or served with a range of summer dishes.


Myrto Salla, head of the Semeli Winery.

A winemaker in action at the Mercouri Estate.

In Monemvasia, meanwhile, the Tsibidis family has put 20 years of hard work into the revival of the historic Malvasia, bringing it back from the Middle Ages into modern times. The wine is produced from sun-dried grapes, mainly native varieties like Monemvasia and Kydonitsa, and aged in oak barrels to bring forth exciting wines, full of the rich aroma of apricot marmalade, caramel and roasted nuts. Last but not least, both Messinia and Ilia are looking at a bright future. In Korakochori in the latter, in particular, the Mercouri Estate has paved the way for the successful marriage of native Greek varieties like Mavrodafni with foreign ones such as Refosco from neighboring Italy. It is also one of the most beautiful estates in Greece that is open to the public. The Peloponnese is building distinct signature brands and raising the quality bar as part of a broader effort to promote not just its culture and history, but also its vineyards, a beautiful canvas composed of dozens of promising producers.

Small stainless steel tanks connected to temperature control and pneumatic systems, at the Tetramythos winery.





Moschofilero & Agiorgitiko

Fresh Nemea Cold cuts, rustic sausages, pasta with tomato sauce

Two grapes represent the Peloponnese more than any other: the rose-colored Moschofilero (Mos ko fee’ le ro) and the red Agiorgitiko (Ah yor yee’ ti ko). The former shows us its classic colors on the mountains of Mantineia, where a PDO of the same name is grown at an altitude of 650m. The quiet and sparkling Moschofilero whites are distinguished by rose and citrus aromas as well as a crispy acidity that gives them additional freshness. As a variety, this is one of the very late ripeners so the harvest tends to take place in late October. As it is not a white variety, it often produces white wines that are slightly rosé in color. Agiorgitiko, meanwhile, is the most-cultivated red variety in Greece, accounting for approximately 3,000 hectares. It ripens in late September, yielding delightful and sensuous wines of different styles. In the broader Nemea area, styles extend from soft rosés, with discreet red fruits, cherry and cinnamon tones, to more complex, fuller wines with a density of structure that can age up to ten years. The several available examples of sparkling and sweet wines are testament to this grape’s versatility. The villages of Koutsi and Asprokambos in Nemea are deemed to produce some of the finest Agiorgitiko wines in the region, though interesting work is being done in other areas of the locality like Ancient Nemea, Petri and Gymno, among others.

Aged Nemea Wild boar with plums, coq au vin, mature yellow cheeses Roditis, Robola Small fried fish, mild cheeses


Mantineia Goat’s cheeses, green salads, red mullet Monemvasia, Malvasia Creamy cakes, salty cheeses Mavrodaphne of Patra Blue, San Michali and Parmesan cheeses, brownies with pecans

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Visiting the source R E W A R D I N G E X P E R I E N C E S AT L E G E N A D R Y e s tate s






Raising the standards


Honoring family traditions

The Mercouri Estate survived a devastating epidemic and bankruptcy in the late 19th century to pass into the hands of the fourth generation. Covering 16 hectares today, it is considered among the most beautiful wineries in Greece. The vineyard still has a small parcel of its original Italian Refosco, but has also been enriched with more than 15 native and foreign varieties. Tours take visitors around the vineyard, the production facilities, the cellar and the on-site museum.

One of the fastest-growing wineproducing units in Greece, Semeli is credited with raising the standards of Greek winemaking. Impressive in size, design and architecture, the winery is located on a beautiful spot at an altitude of 600m and affords stunning views of Nemea’s vineyards. The estate has eight guesthouses offering overnight accommodation and a dining room where the chef can prepare special meals.

An amazing location, state-of-theart processing and bottling facilities and a well-designed tour: a visit to Domaine Skouras is a joy for any serious oenophile. A pioneer, George Skouras, is the man behind Megas Oenos, the first Greek wine to bring together a native variety (Agiorgitiko) to a foreign one (Cabernet Sauvignon) in the same bottle. Tour highlights include the aging room, known as the “cellar of a thousand barrels.”

ΙNFO Koutsi, Nemea, Corinthia, tel (+30) 27460.203.60-1, www. Open Mon-Fri 10:0014:00, Sat-Sun 10:00-15:00. For groups of 10 or more, tours are by appointment only. Prices start at €6 per person.

ΙNFO 10th km of the Argos–Sterna road, Malandreni, Argos, tel (+30) 27510.236.88, www. Open Mon-Fri 8:0015:00, Sat 10:30-18:00. The tour (groups must book) is free of charge, but there is a fee for the tastings.

The austere stone tower that rises majestically above the modern winery tells us a lot about how the Spiropoulos family has been producing its wines since the late 1980s: by marrying tradition with technology. The original vines were planted in 1860 and today are cultivated using organic methods. Visitors can have a stroll through the vineyard, tour the facilities and taste some of the signature labels (the Mantinia Estate and Nemea Estate).

ΙNFO Korakochori, Ilia, tel (+30)


26210.416.01, Open Mon-Sat 9:00-15:00. Tours are conducted for groups of six or more, by appointment. The price of the tour and tasting starts at €10 per person.

ΙNFO 15th km of the Tripoli–Artemisio road, tel (+30) 27960.614.00, www. Open TueSat 9:00-15:00. Tours are conducted by appointment only.

FOCUS Mercouri Estate: The oldest familyowned winery in Greece.



Experimental techniques

In the heart of Arcadia

In a well-designed facility that instantly inspires a sense of familiarity, wine aficionados have the rare opportunity to see three young people – Aristides and Stathis Spanos, and Panagiotis Papagiannopoulos – approach traditional winemaking from a contemporary perspective. The Tetramythos team is constantly experimenting with new methods and techniques. Another big plus is that you can spend the night at the adjacent guesthouse (€50-80/night).

With the stunning Arcadian mountains in the background and right at the heart of the family-owned vineyard, the Tselepos Winery has been producing award-winning wines since 1992 and exports half of its production. The visit includes a walk to the vineyard and the estate’s restored watermill, as well as a tour of the production facility and the cellars where the wines are aged. The opportunity to taste the Mantinia, Nemea and sparkling Amalia Brut labels is not one to be missed.

ΙNFO 8th km on the Pounta–Kalavryta road, Ano Diakopto, tel (+30) 26910.975.00, Open daily 9:00-16:00. Tours and regular tasting are free of charge and there is a fee for special tastings.

ΙNFO 14th km of the Tripoli–Kastri highway, Rizes, Arcadia,


tel (+30) 27105.444.40, Open Mon-Fri 8:0016:00, Sat 9:00-15:00. Tours, arranged by appointment, are free of charge, but there is a fee for tastings.

B Y M ar i a K o ra c h a i


Navarino Vineyards Ta k e a f r o nt- r o w s e at at t h e g r a p e h a r v e s t


his is the perfect setting for wine aficionados to learn all the secrets of the wine harvest. Set in the idyllic Peloponnese countryside, Navarino Vineyards is an organic winery in the village of Mouzaki in Trifylia, its 55 hectares extending over western hillsides some 500m to 600m above sea level. Launched in collaboration with the award-winning resort of Costa Navarino, it produces wines that benefit from a unique climate and capture all the characteristics of Messinian soil. Εvery autumn, the tranquil, neat rows of organic vines are buzzing with anticipation as the year’s effort finally bears fruit, an experience in which Costa Navarino guests are invited to participate. The grape harvest in the Greek countryside has always been a time for much celebration. For centuries, women, men and even young children have come together to gather and

press the grapes at the family vineyard. After hand-picking the grapes, guests are invited to join in the fun of the old-fashioned method of grape stomping – just take off your shoes and roll up your trousers. Tours at the vineyard are crowned off with a winetasting of the acclaimed Navarino Vineyards labels and snacks under the direction of an experienced sommelier. You will also hear about the history of the Messinian wine country and the cultivation of native grape varieties as well as their distinctive characteristics, which are drawn from the microclimate of the area. With its long, hazy sunny days and warm temperatures, autumn is the ideal time to discover the region’s rich culinary heritage, its authentic characteristics and delicious flavors, all embodied in the winery’s delightful products, such as its white and red 1827 and Kotyle.

Info N a v a r i n o D u n e s , Messinia, 280km from Athens • Tel. (+30) 27230.950.00 • The grape harvest is held from September 1-30.

The right elevation and humidity levels form the ideal environment for growing grapes that are distinguished for their excellence.


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THE IONIAN ISLANDS The star of Ionian winemaking is without doubt Cephalonia, which excels in Robola (Ro bo’ la), a native variety not to be confused with Italy’s Ribolla Gialla. Slightly flowery and moderately fruity, Robola wines have nerve and mineral tones. It has some of the style of Assyrtiko, though with less intensity and complexity, and less body. It is cultivated mainly in the valley after which it is named, at an altitude of 350-800m, in poor calcareous soils – so poor in fact that Robola was called “wine of stone” (Vino di Sasso) by the Italians. Robola Valley, cooled by the winds from the unique ecosystem of Mount Ainos, has a distinctive mesoclimate and yields modern wines with finesse from vines that are very old, as phylloxera is a relative stranger that has appeared only recently and caused limited damage. On the slopes of Ainos there are still many aged, own-rooted vines that yield amazing fruit. Together with the PDO Robola Cephalonia, the island also produces two more PDO wines, Mavrodafni and Muscat, both sweet. The dry vinifications of Mavrodafni are of particular interest as they yield intensely complex herbal wines, with aromatic character, mild tannins and acidity. Among the white varieties produced, Vostilidi and Zakynthino are especially promising.

Snapshots of Robola production at the Gentilini Winery of Petros Markantonatos and the Robola Cooperative of Cephalonia.


Gentilini passion & knowledge This winery is all about indigenous varieties – mainly Cephalonian Robola and Mavrodafni – and its fascinating tours, ending in the estate’s beautiful herb garden, convey the owners’ passion and knowledge of organic winemaking. This exciting wine experience is delivered directly by owner Marianna Cosmetatos, who together with her husband, Petros Markantonatos, breathed new life into the family business by constantly experimenting with new things. The atmosphere is relaxing and welcoming, while visitors can taste wines that are in the process of fermentation or aging in the tank or barrel.


Minies, Cephalonia, tel 26710.416.18, Open May-September, daily 10:30-14:30 and 17:30-20:30. Simple tastings are free of charge; the tasting and tour package is priced from €5 per person.



Good things come to those who wait. In the case of Canava Roussos, the reward speaks for itself. Uniquely vibrant, high quality wines from local Santorinian grape varieties, patiently aged to perfection. Canava Roussos, the oldest on Santorini, was founded in 1836 to capture all the character and complexity of the Assyrtiko, Athiri, Aidani, Mandilaria and Mavrathiro grape varieties that grow in our volcanic soils. Decades of experience have passed from generation to generation so that, with consistency, continuity and absolute respect, expression is given to the island’s art of winemaking. Now in our 180th year, we invite you to discover why in Santorini, we measure our wine history in millennia, not decades.

Canava Roussos •

Mesa Gonia, Santorini, Greece Tel. (+30) 22860.31.349 • •


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© Photo from Santorini, an Historical Vineyard, courtesy Foinikas Publications

In the summertime, most of Santorini’s grapes ripen in the vine “basket’s” embrace, protected from the wind and blasting sand.


SANTORINI Already world-famous for its breathtaking caldera views and sunsets, its architecture, local products and cuisine, amazing hotels and still-beating volcanic heart, Santorini has also built a strong brand name in the international wine market. Its aged vines, some as old as 400, unharmed by phylloxera louse which couldn’t survive in the volcanic soil, trained in the shape of a basket (or kouloura) to protect them from strong winds and preserve precious humidity, produce four classic varieties: the white Assyrtiko, Athiri and Aidani, and the red Mandilaria. Other than a producer of excellent wines, Santorini is also an exemplary oenotourism destination, with wineries that offer everything from tailor-made experiences to group tours and tastings. To tell its tale, we have selected excerpts from the preeminent book on the island’s wine, Santorini: An Historical Wineland, by Stavroula Kourakou-Dragona.

© Benaki Museum / Photo Archive

Vine Harvest on Santorini (1933-39) by Nelly’s.


advise all who visit Santorini to go up Profitis Ilias mountain, particularly in the season when the vines are verdant, in order to enjoy this unique spectacle that delights the eyes and the soul,” wrote Abbe Pegues, prior of the Lazarist monastery in Santorini, who lived on the island for many years in the early nineteenth century. And he continued: “From the peak of this mountain in the south of Santorini, which is the island’s highest point, one’s gaze falls enchanted over a seemingly enormous expanse of vines, covering almost the entire isle, and roams over three delightful plains, bounded by smooth hillsides or blocked by steep mountains, half cultivated, half fallow ... In summer they compose a splendid picture, as the green of the vines creates a pleasing contrast with the yellow of the scattered fields of ripened grain ... Santorini offers an astonishing array of contrasts: there are the mountains, volcanic and rugged, half arable and


half fiery rocks, some beautiful and others terrible; there are the deep ravines that break up the plains and the fertile slopes, those densely planted with vines; there is the proximity of the sea, which embraces the island from every side, as if it were a huge plain ... This, after so many major disasters, is the enthralling spectacle offered by the remnants of mutilated ancient Kalliste. From these we can easily imagine how beautiful the island was as a single whole, before the disasters that shattered it and rent it apart from all sides.” The disasters Abbe Pegues mentioned were caused by the volcanic

eruption around 1630 BC that buried the thriving prehistoric city of Akrotiri and created the caldera. In this prehistoric phase of the island, there are many indications of vine-growing and winemaking. As we learn from Christos Doumas, excavator of Akrotiri, “not only have pieces of charcoal from vine wood been found in the excavations at Akrotiri, but also grape pips, dispersed among the ruins of the settlement. Moreover, bunches of grapes feature as decorative motifs in the vase-painting of the period. Evidence of winemaking and wine trading are certain kinds of storage jars (pithoi) with a spigot near

‘Not only have pieces of charcoal from vine wood been found in the excavations at Akrotiri, but also grape pips, dispersed among the ruins of the settlement.’


the base of their narrow base. Some three centuries after this tremendous disaster, the island was resettled. Wherever the new inhabitants came from, they had to survive on a treeless, waterless and wind-swept island with very little rainfall and hard compact soil that, when it was dug, became like sand, and was whipped up in swirls by the winds, as in the desert. In all eras, the islanders of Santorini have learned to live with nature, which has forced them to find solutions in order to cope with their needs, and to respond to it in a unique way, because the conditions they had to deal with were unique. So, they cultivated those plants that could survive in the island’s arid and hot conditions, including, of course, vines. They arranged whole hillsides in stepped terraces, building dry-stone walls with black-lava cobbles, which in summertime are crowned with the green shoots of the vine and keep warm their juicy fruits. A combination of vol-

canic gloom and Dionysiac hope; the polar opposites of an island unique in the world.

A vineyard uninfected by phylloxera In the Santorini ecosystem, no extraneous agent intervenes between plant and soil, as it the case in regions blighted by phylloxera, where the vineyards were destroyed by this pest and were replanted with resistant American rootstock grafted with local cultivars. As the Santorini vineyard is uninfected, the local vines sink their roots directly into the island’s soil, which enables the renewal of the old vines with layings or cuttings, just as was done in antiquity. So the vineyard of Santorini is one of the very few traditional vineyards with such credentials.

The impressive canava at Hatzidakis Winery.

The fact that phylloxera vastatrix did not appear on Santorini is due to the protective role of the island’s soils in defending the plants it hosts. Sandy soils prevent the development of the phylloxera insect and the soils of the island’s vineyards are sandy with a very low clay content. It is in this volcanic ground that the vines are rooted and it is thanks to this that the Santorini vineyard remains self-rooted and phylloxera-free. Visitors to Santorini in early spring, before the vines have awoken, or in late autumn, when their leaves have fallen, are struck by the “baskets” they see scattered over the bare earth. Whoever inspects them closely is surprised to see that these are deeply rooted in the soil. They are the ampelies, products of the patient toil and long experience




of the islander’s vine-growers. In summer the baskets are luxuriant green, as the annual shoots of the ampelies grow upwards. Within their embrace, inside each basket, the grapes ripen, protected from the blasts of sand borne by the strong Etesian winds, which would blind the buds before bud-break and harm the fully ripened, fine-skinned berries.

1. White dry wine of the Assyrtiko variety. 2. Foreign experts Steve Olson, John Szabo and Bisso Atanassov, visiting Santorini’s vineyards 3. View from the terrace of SantoWines, the most popular oenotourism center on the island. 3. Canava Nomikos, one of the oldest on Santorini.


© Vaggelis Zavos, New Wines of Greece, Santowines


Superior quality wine Considerable information exists on the vines and the preindustrial wines of Santorini in foreign travel literature from 1644 to 1854. In these centuries the grapes were squeezed by foot in caves called canavas, as the traditional cellars were called in the island dialect, the wine stored in old wooden barrels and transported in sheepskin bags by pack animals. A milestone for wine production on the island came in 1971, when the toponym of Santorini was recognized as a “Protected Appellation of Origin” for white wines made in a way defined in law mainly with Assyrtiko. From that point, modern wineries were constructed or existing canavas were upgraded with appropriate technology. Thus, Santorini entered the 21st

century with modern wine legislation, state-of-the-art wineries, an organized trade in bottled wine and the prospect of intensifying viticulture on a scientific basis. Preindustrial winemaking on Santorini now belongs unequivocally to the sphere of tradition.

* Santorini: An Historical Wineland was published in 2015 by Foinikas Publications.

FIND OUT MORE Santorini and its wines.


The Santorini cultivar

The grape of the Asyrtiko cultivar of Santorini.


“There are more than 60 grape varieties on Santorini,” Abbe Pegues wrote in 1842, “but for the production of the ordinary wine and santo wine almost only one is used, the Assyrtiko, because it is the most prolific and the best.” Assyrtiko remains the dominant cultivar on the island, accounting for about 75 percent of the total terroir. It’s considered among the choicest white grape varieties in the entire viticultural “population,” because its important range of chemical composition allows the production of high-quality wines of various types (white fresh and highgrade aged, sweet and semisweet, sparkling and wines that mature under a film of saccharomycetes) depending on the degree of technological maturity at which the grapes will be harvested. It’s about a notable, multi-dynamic grape variety. But where did this blessed grape variety that has survived thanks to its resistance to powdery and downy mildew, two diseases of the vine that came from America and destroyed many European vineyards more than a century ago originate? Who brought the first cuttings of this plant, which has adapted so well to this difficult ecological environment and produces such high-quality wines with a special and distinctive character in terms of taste and aroma? No source has given an answer to these questions. However critical these questions are for historians dealing with the vegetal colonization and the routes followed by Dionysus’ sacred plant, one thing is certain: Assyrtiko has been enlivening the island’s volcanic earth with its greenery for hundreds of years continuously. Thanks to Assyrtiko, the most remarkable white grape variety in the whole of the Mediterranean basin, the Santorinians down the centuries have remained on their isle. W I N E | F I R S T E D I T IO N 2 0 1 6



© Vaggelis Zavos


Sipping Santorini’s history From stomping on grapes to modern wine tastings, local wineries offer modern experiences with nostalgic twists. BY n ata s h a b l at s i o u


ne August in the mid-1960s, Kostas Ioakeimidis, Santorini’s first tour operator, headed down to Kamari beach carrying a hunk of cheese wrapped in paper and two loaves of bread. His job was to acquaint tourists who had come to the island for its dramatic caldera and stunning beaches with another unsung source of richness: its vineyards. With a group in tow, he walked through the vineyards to visit the traditional winery belonging to the Roussos family, a subterranean canava (a network of cellars built into natural caves) that has been passed from generation to generation since 1836. It was not long before Roussos himself began loading up groups in his pickup truck (one of the first on the island), in part out of hospitality, and in part for them to help crush his grapes in merry stomping sessions. Thus a win-win arrangement was born, with Roussos benefiting from the addition-


al farm hands (or feet to be precise), which were in short supply on the island, and the tourists enjoying a novel experience that frequently developed into an impromptu party. Half a century has since passed, during which the island developed into a global tourist destination with 2 million visitors per year. Santorini wines have been analyzed and bottled, the old canavas have been modernized and new, state-of-the-art wineries have been created to showcase the oenological wonders of the island. In the early 1990s and with the utmost respect for the island’s environment, the Boutari brothers created an impressive, modern winery with a capacity of 2,000 tons, in a domed building painted the traditional white. Inside, impressive displays and exhibitions were designed to showcase the island’s history, thus making it the first winery in Greece to offer a comprehensive wine tourism ex-

perience. Other wineries on the island soon followed their innovative example, and today offer modern wine-tasting sessions where visitors can sample local products and learn about the island’s history and the unique terroir of its vineyards. But what sets Santorini’s wine tourism apart is that this modernization did not come at the expense of much of the charm of the pre-modern era. Many grape cultivators still personally sculpt the kouloures (the traditional nest-like baskets formed from the vines which serve to protect the grapes as they ripen) before picking the fruit. During the vedema, or grape harvesting period, celebratory feasts are frequently held by many families, while on October 22, the feast day of Saint Averkios (or Abercius), the patron saint of wine-producers, sundry winemakers still gather at small chapels in the countryside to share the fruits of the latest harvest.






saint eirhnh

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Spending time on Santorini without taking a guided wine tour, or visiting at least a couple of its excellent wineries on your own, should be... prohibited by law. Choose from a selection of exciting options to learn the history, explore the unique terroir and, of course, taste the wines from the local varieties. Note that wineries are generally open to the public from April through October – it is advisable to make a call behorehand.




The view from Venetsanos winery.

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INFO Organized wine tours, in groups of 6-10 people, are available in English and roughly cost €75-130 per person, depending on the package. To get started, contact Santorini Wine Trails (www.santoniwinetrails. gr), Santorini Wine Adventure ( and Santorini Wine Tour (


1. Detail of the historic canava of the Emmanuel Argyros family, reopened by Avantis wines. 2. The main hall of the recently refurbished Venetsanos winery, the islands’ first facility to embrace the modern age some 70 years ago. 3. Wine tasting at Gavalas Wines. 4. Visiting the Sigalas estate.


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Producers of the Archipelago The arid land and hot climate is no obstacle for winemakers on other islands of the Aegean. B Y Y IANNIS K A R A K ASIS , M W

dessert wines pale in comparison. In the southern Aegean, and specifically in the central Cyclades island cluster, Paros is an important winemaker with two PDO designations: Paros and Malvasia Paros. PDO Paros is also the only one allowed by Greek legislation to mix red and white varieties to produce a red. The Monemvasia variety plays a key role in Malvasia wines, which are an attempt at the revival of the historic Malmsey. The composition must be at least 85 percent Monemvasia and the rest Assyrtiko. The last two PDO zones in the Aegean islands belong to Rhodes, in the Dodecanese cluster. Rhodes is famous for its sparkling wines, with the whites based on Athiri and the dry reds on Mandilaria. PDO Muscat of Rhodes is a dessert wine that is fast gaining more fans. That these four islands are currently in the limelight does not mean that interesting things are not underway elsewhere in the archipelago. Notable inroads are, in fact, also being made in Tinos with Assyrtiko and Mavrotragano, in Chios, Kos and also in Lesvos, where the volcanic soil favors the native Chidiriotiko variety.





he Aegean Sea comprises more than 200 islands – roughly one-tenth of which are populated – and has a total of around 4,500 hectares of vineyards. In the north, the winemaking leaders are Limnos and Samos, both globally renowned for their dessert wines. The former boasts the sweet PDO Lemnos and Lemnos Muscat (made from the Muscat of Alexandria variety), while the latter has earned PDO status exclusively for its Muscat blanc a petits grains. Even though Samos was not quite as well known in antiquity as, say, Icaria, with its famed Pramnian wine, is has succeeded in building a reputation for its sweet vintages. The island’s wine-growing zone is among the most beautiful in Greece, with terraced vineyards climbing almost 1,000m up the slopes of Mount Ambelos (literally, grape vine). All the island’s growers hand their crop over to the local cooperative, the island’s exclusive producer. It makes a range of different wines, from budget-friendly labels with excellent value for money, to incredible sweet wines that come in only a few dated bottles, such as the scintillating 1975 and 1980 Nectar that make most other

1. The harvest at the Vavoula family’s vineyard, on Leipsoi island, Dodecannese.

ISLAND - HOPPING 11+1 small wineries in the Cyclades. 126

2. An oenologist at work, from Samos’ Union of Vinicultural Cooperatives.

Vineyard on Sifnos in the Cyclades.


CRETE A decade or two ago, the notion of good quality Cretan wine would have sounded like a joke. Of course, Greece’s largest island is one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world – the discovery of a 4th millennium BC grape press during an archaeological dig south of Iraklio confirmed that. However, during the modern era, the quality of the island’s wines seemed firmly rooted in mediocrity until recently, when a new generation of producers started turning things around.



The Boutari vineyard lies in the region of Archanes, 4km from the archaeological site of Knossos, and is built on the Fantaxometoho estate, which translates from Greek as “field of ghosts” – the former owner had spread a rumor that the place was haunted in order to scare off marauding pirates.



1. At about 5,000 years old, the Minoan winepress in Vathypetro is considered the oldest ever found. 2. Vidiano is one of the hidden treasures of Greek vineyards, with an as yet limited production but excellent potential. 3. The harvest at Mediterra in Iraklio, widely considered among the most dynamic wineries in Greece today.


rete is gradually starting to put itself on the modern wine map thanks to the efforts of a number of young vintners who left the island to study their craft and later returned to take over family businesses, producing wines that are contemporary, focused and packed with flavor. In the demanding world of wine, however, this improvement is not enough to mend a reputation so badly marred by the sacrifice, over decades, of quality for quantity in bulk production. For this, winemakers need to start building brands that are considered “unique” or “interesting,” two qualities that Crete can offer in abundance, thanks largely to the diversity of its terrain and a wealth of excellent native grape varieties. The grapes are of paramount importance. Cretan wine producers need to look back to their island’s storied past, to traditions that stem all the way

back to that Bronze Age Minoan civilization and to put serious effort into repopulating Crete’s vineyards with age-old varieties. The good news is that they have been doing just that, throwing themselves into the challenge with passion. The Boutari family, which opened its state-of-the-art Cretan winery in 2004 after planting its first vines on the island in 1990, is responsible for salvaging long-lost varieties like Moschato Spinas. This grape, a rare clone of the Muscat variety, trades the easy rosetones of Muscat for more body and produces both an accommodating table wine as well as complex wines, including Skalani. The diva among Crete’s grapes is without doubt the white Vidiano, for decades found only in small quantities, hidden between other varieties in the vineyards of Rethymno. Full of apricot and peach aromas, round and rich in

Full of apricot and peach aromas, round and rich in the mouth, Vidiano is a Cretan gem that is fascinating in all its manifestations.




Viticulturist and oenologist Andreas Dourakis, creator of the eponymous winery in the mountainous of Alikambos, with his family.



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Cup bearers: Detail from the Minoan Procession Fresco, Knossos.



Under the right conditions Thrapsathiri can do more than offer high yields; it produces exciting wines, exotic and full-bodied.

the mouth, it is a Cretan gem that is fascinating in all its manifestations. Today, Vidiano is making magic in Iraklio and Hania, giving us wines that remind us of the famed Viognier variety. “Vidiano can handle poor soil and plenty of sun, but it needs a strong hand to contain production,” says Nikos Douloufakis, a winemaker in Iraklio who has associated his name with this variety by producing excellent tankand barrel-aged versions. Difficult grapes, such as Vidiano, were understandably less welcome in the industry. For decades, most of Crete’s winemakers chose volume over quality, forming large cooperatives to cater to the bulk market and ignoring more demanding varieties in favor of ones with higher yields. However, this was not the case at Lyrarakis Winery, in Alagni, Iraklio. “The Plyto variety has very firm grapes and takes a lot of hard work to 132

grow on the vine, while Dafni takes a long time to ripen and is therefore vulnerable to autumn rains,” says Manolis Lyrarakis, describing the two white varieties that his family salvaged and elevated to some prominence. “My father cultivated them secretly for years.” Today, the young winemaker uses Plyto grapes to produce light, nervy wines, and Dafni to make well-balanced vintages with pronounced bay-leaf aromas. Over on the lower slopes of the snow-capped White Mountains, or Lefka Ori, the untamed terrain and chilly temperatures are not the only obstacles for Kostis Galanis of the Manousakis Winery, the winery responsible for starting the Cretan wine revolution of foreign varieties, mainly from Southern France. “The hares seem to enjoy our grapes just as much as oenophiles,” laments Galanis, commenting on man’s constant battle to tame nature. The vagaries of nature is certainly one of the defining characteristics

1. Seli Ambelou in the Lasithi plateau. The most remarkable complex of windmills in Crete has been preserved here. 2. Nikos Douloufakis, a third-generation winemaker, checks on his beloved grapevines in Dafnes, outside Iraklio. 3. Oenologist Emmanuela Paterianaki is one of the four women of the family who run the eponymous winery in Peza, outside Iraklio.


of Lasithi, where the farmers of Sitia struggle to cultivate the wild terrain of the eastern coast, while along the coast to the west five-star resorts with whitesand beaches and crystalline bathing waters spring up at Elounda Bay. The people of Sitia have a reputation for being outside-the-box thinkers. Giannis Economou is no exception, surprising the wine world not only with both dry and sweet reds made from the ancient Liatiko grape, but also with his unusual production schedules for those wines. “I want consumers to enjoy my wines at their most harmonious. That’s why I launched the 2006 first, then the 2000 and now the 2009.” With an oe-

The cellar at Lyrarakis winery in Alagni, awarded a Certificate of Excellence by Tripadvisor in 2015.

Oenologist Maria Tamiolakis has led the family winery into a new era.

Bottling at the Douloufakis winery. 3

nology degree from Alba and with cellar experience in Germany and at Bordeaux’s Chateau Margaux, Economou relies on ungrafted vines and extremely low yields to create wines that resemble Burgundies, gaining fans around the world with every new release. Crete’s special gifts, however, do not end with just these grapes. There’s also Thrapsathiri, for example; it may be named after a Greek term for productivity, but under the right conditions it can do more than offer high yields; it produces exciting wines, exotic and full-bodied. Then there’s Kotsifali, a peppery and fruity grape variety that gives juicy rosés but is also capable of

softening even the harshest wines. This is why it is often blended with tough varieties like Mandilari, another local grape and probably the orneriest of the lot though its vitality is rewarding. It’s not all about the natives, though. When it comes to foreign varieties, those that appear to be adapting best to the hot climate of Crete are famous reds like Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache, but the unrivaled star of the immigrants is Syrah, which feels right at home here and is yielding excellent, full-bodied wines, either alone or in blends with indigenous reds. Crete’s significant wine accomplishments are really putting it on the map:

with an increasing number of wineries opening their doors to the public, the island is developing some interesting wine routes. Add to this the distinction of four distinct quality-wine appellations (PDOs) and the expanding vision of its winemakers, and it is hardly surprising that Crete is one of the most exciting wine-producing regions in Greece today.


VISIT THE SOURCE Check out the Cretan wineries that offer an authentic experience to visitors. •

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“Show them to the Sun...” Most of the famed wines of Greek antiquity were sweet. The technique applied has survived for centuries, producing excellent results. BY S tav r o u l a Ko u r a ko u - D r a g o n a



he ancient Greek poet Hesiod, in his didactic poem Works and Days written at the end of the 8th century BC, at some point advises his brother Perses how to prepare the grapes in order to make sweet wine: “When Orion and Sirius have come to the middle of the sky and the rosy-fingered Dawn can see Arcturus, then, Perses, cut and bring home all the grapes. Show them to the sun for ten days and ten nights and then in the shade for five and on the sixth day put into the jars the gifts of Dionysus, generous in joys.” This excerpt is the first from which we learn that in Greek antiquity sweet wines were produced from grapes that were laid out in the sun so that part of the water contained in the berries could evaporate and their juice would be concentrated. They were then

crushed and the must was collected in jars and left to ferment. However, the must from grapes semi-dried in the sun was very thick because of its high sugar content, as we know today, which is why fermentation took several months and stopped when the cold winter weather set in, without all the sugar having fermented. So the wine remained sweet. In fact, most of the famed wines of Greek antiquity were sweet. This technique has survived for centuries to the present day. The wines produced today in Greece from grapes semi-raisined in the sun are called liasta, the wines of the sun. They are of course made using modern technological methods. The production of another type of sweet wine, fortified wine, is based on the fact that the yeasts that turn the must into wine are living organisms with a lesser or greater tolerance to

alcohol. Consequently, if during fermentation the winemaker adds enough alcohol, it will prevent the yeasts from multiplying and remaining active, resulting in a sweet wine that owes its sweet taste to those sugars in the must which did not ferment, and it will contain alcohol not only from the fermentation of the sugars but also from the aforesaid addition. Naturally, sweet wines of this type could not be made in ancient and Byzantine times. They began to be produced in western Europe when the distillation of raw materials became widespread, particularly – at first – in monasteries where the various elixirs were made. In Greece today, both these methods are used to produce many splendid semi-sweet and sweet wines. I shall limit myself to a brief presentation of certain wines in the Protected Designation of Origin category. G R E E C E IS

1. Santorini. Grapes are spread out in the sun to dry. The white grapes will give Vinsanto, the island’s traditional sweet wine. 2. Samos. Most of the vineyards on the island are planted on painstakingly built dry-stone terraces at up to 800m.

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MALVASIA In the Peloponnese, on the southeast shore of the Parnon mountain range, stands the Byzantine fortified town of Monemvasia, built in the 8th century on a towering rock separated from the mainland. According to written sources, the wine produced across the narrow stretch of water in the Laconian hinterland was exported for at least five centuries (11th-15th). Monemvasian, Venetian and Genoese ships loaded the wine in the harbor of Monemvasia, the fortress town at the foot of Malevos – as Parnon was known at the time – from which the Frankish name for the town, Mal(e)vasia, derived. And because in sea trade a commodity would often bear the name of the port in which it was loaded, the wine became known in foreign markets as Monemvasia or Malvasia, depending on the nationality of the traders. This sweet wine was made from a number of grape varieties, including a predominant one whose name has been lost. However, when the Venetians took vine cuttings for their vineyards on Crete, which they had ruled since the 13th century, they naturally called it Malvasia, after the name of the port of shipment. In many travelers’ books, there are references to the cultivation of Malvasia also on the Cyclades is-

lands, where it survives to this day with the Greek name Monemvasia. In the town of Monemvasia, there was a community of Venetian merchants who sent sweet Malvasia to Venice via Crete. But after the Ottoman Turks occupied the Peloponnese, Malvasia was produced and exported only from Crete, thanks to the commercial activities of the Venetians. However, the grapes of the Malvasia variety cultivated on Crete represented only a small percentage of the native varieties grown on the island, from which the sweet wines were made and for which Crete had been famous since ancient times. For this reason, during the centuries when the Venetian-Cretan wine trade was at its height, the Malvasia wine of Crete was a blend of several varieties. What is undisputed is that the celebrated Malvasia (Malmsey) wine was produced for eight centuries in the geographical triangle of Monemvasia – Crete – Cyclades. Which is why the wines of the sun produced today in these regions are the only Greek wines that are permitted to be traded under the name of Malvasia, accompanied by one of the four geographical names that have been given PDO status: Monemvasia, Candia, Sitia and Paros.

SAMOS The island has been known since earliest times for its “Muscat with small berries,” which is the official name of the white cultivar from which the muscat wines of Samos are produced. Three different types of liqueur wines are produced (Vin doux, Grand Cru, Anthemis) along with one liastos, the Nectar. The “new” wines have all the aromatic richness of muscat grapes, while those which undergo long aging acquire the character of rancio wines.

1. Monemvasia – Malvasia in a map from 1680 drawn by Frederick de Witt.

4. Stomping the grapes in Samos before winemaking was industrialized in Greece.

2. The grape of Malvasia, Monemvasia’s unique variety.

5. Impressive wood barrels on display at the Samos Wine Museum. The biggest holds 80 tons of wine.

3. The name of Vinsanto, the type of sweet wine produced in Santorini, has been legally certified.


6. Μap of Santorini with the name Santo Erini written on the north part of the island. By Tommaso Porcacchi, Venice, 1576.

The “new” wines of Samos have all the aromatic richness of muscat grapes, while those which undergo long aging acquire the character of rancio wines.

VINSANTO On Santorini, there is a liastos wine that is made predominantly from the Assyrtiko variety, a notable multi-dynamic winegrape. According to maps and books by travelers, this type of wine was being produced on the island from as early as the 16th century and went by the name of Vin Santo. According to Abbe Pegues, prior of the Monastery of the Lazarists on Santorini (1824-1837): “The vin Santo is even better when it has aged. Then it is like a balsam which one feels in the mouth and the stomach. It can be served at the table of kings and given distinction in their toasts.” This name, carried to this day by some dessert wines of northern Italy, is a vestige of Frankish rule on Santorini and the involvement of the Venetians and the French in the trade of the island’s wines. In the framework of EU legislation, this indication is permitted to be written on the labels of Italian wines accompanied obligatorily by a geographical name (e.g. vino santo di Gambellara). Thus, the indication Santo, from a geographical appellation, has degenerated into a generic designation of the type of wine, but the Greek Vinsanto is a PDO: Vin[de] Santo[rini]. This view was accepted after negotiations, ratified by the relevant EU regulations and reflected by the labels of the contemporary Santorinian Vinsanto.

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Retsina is Back! This exclusively Greek wine with its unique flavor has survived for millennia and is now ready to reclaim its place in our hearts. BY ME ROPI PAPADOPOULOU



he custom of adding resin to wine dates back to ancient times; it is hardly surprising that the vine would, at some point, meet the neighboring pine, particularly in Central Greece, where the two grow in such close proximity. And while the discovery of wine itself has been attributed to a random event – a happy accident, if you will – the use of pine resin was quite possibly man’s first calculated intervention in the magical transformation that turns mere grape juice into precious wine. How did this come about? Thanks to both its antiseptic and preservative qualities, thick resin from the Aleppo pine tree was first used to seal wine casks. It was also utilized to seal porous clay amphorae in ancient times, helping to ensure safer transportation and storage for the contents. Over the centuries, winemakers began to notice that the pine resin imbued the wine with a distinctive flavor and its use as a sealant became even more widespread. Later still, we find evidence of resin being mixed directly into the wine to


improve its taste. Some vintners, it appears, even added whole pinecones to the clay jugs. Falling from grace During the 19th century, the addition of pine resin was augmented by the use of pine casks to hold wine. A particular marriage of flavors was achieved by storing or aging wine: it developed a peppery taste, a carbonic mouthfeel and a grainy aftertaste. After this type of cask disappeared from winemaking, pine resin itself remained in use, but now it became a means of masking the flaws of substandard wines. In fact, it was this use of resin as a concealing agent of sorts that eventually gave retsina its bad reputation, a notoriety from which it is only now starting to recover.

Some of the “new age” retsinas that signal the remarkable quality shift of Greece’s humblest wine are seen here in Japanese “company.”


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Promising present Eventually, high-quality unresinated Greek wine did manage to win over the public, but retsina, which, thanks to its unique flavor, could have been a leading ambassador for Greek wines, was left behind. This abandonment was a cruel fate for the humble but long-lived retsina. This is particularly true when one considers that it is only thanks to the ability of the resin in retsina to mask inferior taste characteristics that Greeks remained wine drinkers at all, when in fact they could have turned to other alcoholic beverages. Lately, however, things have improved; there has been a revival of this very special wine, with a number of visionary producers investing in its “Greekness.” They are hoping to put retsina back on the path to success, both in Greece and abroad. They have taken on this rather cantankerous wine, experimented with it and performed a daring but successful leap of faith. They have achieved harmony between the varied fruity tones of the grape and joined it with the distinctive yet discreet flavor of pine resin, underlined with hints of 140

1. The vineyards of the Papagiannakos Winery. 2. Retsina has gone from simple taverna tumblers to elegant stemmed glassware. 3. At the family winery in Kalohori, Thessaloniki, oenologist Eleni Kechri, with her father Stelios, spearhead the rebirth of retsina.

mastic gum, rosemary and sage, the slight bitterness of the pine needle and a peppery finish. Good-quality retsina features a balsamic quality imbued into the wine by the pine resin which nonetheless allows the grape aromas to come through. An almost indiscernible bitterness gives it a refreshing finish, as though the wine were aerated, making it the perfect companion for the heavier or more complex traditional Greek dishes. A number of excellent retsinas have emerged in the market, satisfying contemporary demand for sophistication while still maintaining their own traditional character. These retsinas are also making inroads at distinguished competitions, forums where it would have been inconceivable to send a retsina just a few years ago. Historically, the main production regions have been Attica, Viotia and the island of Evia; in recent years, Macedonia, the Peloponnese and the island of Rhodes have all been making strides in production as well. The more common white retsina is most often made using Savatiano grapes, as they are robust enough both to stand up to the resin and to participate in the wine’s complex flavor structure. In recent years, the Assyrtiko and Xinomavro varieties have also been used in white and rosé retsinas respectively. When making retsina, the grapes are processed in the usual manner, but a small amount of resin (always taken from the Aleppo pine) is added at the start of fermentation and then removed once it has released its flavors. The best resin is still sourced from pine trees in the Attica region, although Evia, Ilia and Corinthia are now emerging as significant producers.

4. In the state-of-the-art bottling facilities of the Papagiannakos Winery. 5. The best resin is still sourced from pine trees in the Attica region, with Evia, Ilia and Corinthia also emerging as significant producers. 6. In recent years, the Xinomavro grape variety has been used in rosé retsina production.

Winemakers have taken on this rather cantankerous wine, experimented and performed a daring but successful leap of faith.


Food pairing

Retsina is the perfect wine to serve with all kinds of Greek meze and entrees, from spit-roasted lamb or offal-stuffed kokoretsi, to fried whitebait, grilled sardines or fish fillets cooked in a fresh tomato sauce. It also pairs well with pasta dishes, particularly those with strong Mediterranean flavors such as pesto sauce. Retsina has an alcohol content of 12 to 12.5 percent and is best served chilled at 10°C. Despite the taverna tradition of serving retsina in small tumblers, it is in fact better to avoid serving it in a stemless glass, as the body heat from the drinker’s hand will quickly warm the wine, and retsina simply doesn’t taste as good if it’s not cold.

7 TO taste Check out our selection of “new age” retsinas here.


Meanwhile, as 20th century Greeks left the countryside for the cities and started to travel more extensively, they developed a taste for fruity, unresinated wines, which they deemed more sophisticated. Retsina, long associated with the “common-folk” culture of tavernas – where it was mainly sold and consumed – was no longer considered acceptable at the dining tables of the country’s aspiring Western-minded bourgeoisie. This, in turn, caused a downward spiral, not only for retsina but for the Greek wine industry as a whole. With few exceptions, retsina became a terrible wine – rough, harsh, lacking in flavor and character – that was served only at tourist traps. In the minds of both foreign and domestic consumers, all Greek wine became associated with bad retsina, and early efforts to produce good-quality unresinated wine were unable to overcome this obstacle of public perception.








experience GREECE IS



What is THE Greek wine to go with souvlaki? Or grilled fish? What Greek varieties pair best with Italian, French or Chinese cuisine? And which are the top restaurants and bars in Greece to taste the wealth of local labels? Just turn the page‌ Illustration: The Waiter, 2003-04, acrylic on canvas by David Kirk. (Bridgeman Images)



Best Friends A well-selected bottle can transform any classic Greek dish into a foodie’s delight. BY N i ko l e ta M a k r i o n i t o u F OO D S T Y L I N G TI N A W E B B P H O T OS G EOR G E D RAKO P OULO S

Souvlaki This is the epitome of Greek street food: a grilled flatbread (pita) wrapped around a juicy kebab – finely chopped spit-roasted pork or chunks of pork or chicken grilled on a skewer – with a dollop of yogurt and garlic sauce (tzatziki), and a few slices of fresh tomato. Greeks usually get a souvlaki to go and rarely accompany it with wine, as beer is the more popular option. However, sommelier Nikolas Giannopoulos believes that “a modern retsina, of medium aromatic strength – elegant, herbal and spicy – will subdue the grease in the dish and interact with the pungent flavors of the onion and garlic to lead to a refreshing and playful aftertaste, in perfect harmony.” 144

TIPS BY • Maria Dimou Sommelier and PR manager at Katogi & Strofilia vineyards • Athanase Fakorellis Consultant Oenologist • Nikolas Giannopoulos, AIWS Named Best Sommelier of Greece in 2011, 2012 and 2014, and managing director of Oenophorum Luxury Hospitality Services • CHRYSSA GIATRA Oenologist, wine consultant • Yiannis Kaimenakis Sommelier • Maria Katsouli Head sommelier and olive oil expert • Ted Lelekas Vice-president of the International Federation of Wine and Spirit Journalists and Writers (FIJEV) • George Loukas Sommelier, founder of the Genius in Gastronomy seminar and consultancy firm • Nikos Loukakis Wine and food consultant • Marianna Makrigianni Oenologist, AIWS of the Wine & Spirit Professional Center (WSPC) in Athens • Sofia Perpera Director of the Greek Wine Bureau in North America • Manos Zournatzis Chef, co-owner of Cookoovaya restaurant in Athens


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Greek Horiatiki Salad One of the most popular salads in the world, it is made with sweet summer tomatoes, olives, sliced onion and cucumber, and may be enriched with other delights like capers, arugula (or rocket), oregano, purslane, etc – always with high-quality, extra-virgin olive oil and a generous slab of feta cheese. As it is based on tomato, bitter-sweet rosés are considered a perfect match, and so too are fragrant whites. Maria Katsouli recommends “Assyrtiko or Malagousia, in a single-variety or blended wine, where the herbal aromas of the varieties create a dance of flavors with the components of the salad.” For Yiannis Kaimenakis, it would be equally interesting to try “a fresh rosé with accentuated acidity from any native variety.”


Spinach pie Spinach pie is an all-rounder for Greeks, served at formal dinners, regular family meals, for breakfast or as a snack on the go. In this dish, crispy filo pastry, lightly greased with olive oil and sometimes topped with a sprinkling of sesame seeds, embraces a rich filling of spinach, dill, beaten eggs, spring onion and – usually

– feta cheese. To bring out the filling’s creamy texture and elevate the flavors, choose aromatic and oily whites. “Wines with refreshing acidity and a bold aromatic character with notes of flowers and spices, like Moschofilero or a Roditis blend, are just the thing for spinach pie,” says Maria Dimou. G R E E C E IS

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MousSaka A majestic comfort food and staunch favorite for a family Sunday lunch, moussaka is “constructed” with layers of fried or roasted sliced eggplant or zucchini and potato, covered in minced beef sauce and then topped with a thick blanket of white sauce. It is richer and heavier than pastitsio, in which the vegetables are replaced with bucatini pasta. “Such complex dishes 148

prefer wines that play a back-up role, with very mild tannins and pleasant fruits, like a fresh Agiorgitiko. If you’re looking for something more obscure and interesting, try a mature Limnio with round, soft tannins,” says chef Manos Zournatzis. “Moussaka demands a red, with a charming flavor imprint and a dynamic character, like a young Xinomavro,” adds Maria Dimou.


Spit-roasted lamb Lamb and goat are both flavorsome meats and particular favorites with Greeks, who usually serve them on special occasions, either baked in the oven with potatoes, in a fricassee stew with wild greens, or as grilled ribs. But the most popular preparation, reserved for festive feasts and particularly Easter, is on the spit. Generously salted and rubbed with garlic,

oregano and lemon, the entire animal is attached to a long metal spit and slow-roasted over a charcoal fire to acquire a crispy skin and juicy, richly flavored meat. “Xinomavro is a classic choice, as its acidity and fruity notes counterbalance the richness of the meat. Alternatively, I would recommend a Limniona,� says oenologist Marianna Makrigianni. G R E E C E IS


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Charcoal-grilled fish Fresh fish is the star of Greek cuisine: a first-rate ingredient showcased in its pristine simplicity with just a simple sauce of high-quality olive oil, fresh lemon juice, rock salt and, occasionally, a measured sprinkling of dried oregano. The general rule when it comes to fish is to avoid overly fragrant whites that will mask its flavor. When it is grilled, moreover, you want the body lent by barrel-aging, while acidity is also more than welcome. George Loukas recommends “an Assyrtiko that has 150

spent some time in a barrel, preferably not from the Santorini area, so that the variety’s characteristic acidity and only slightly fruity notes are allowed to come forth and pair with the briny qualities of the juicy flesh. Save the unbarreled Santorini Assyrtiko for grilled sardines, roe dip and other such dishes with more intensity.” Nikos Loukakis agrees, adding that “big fish want whites that are full in body and alcohol content, and with the discreet presence of the barrel, such as Crete’s Vidiano.”


The Georgiadis Brothers Winery began life in the 1940s as a soft drinks company supplying the Thessaloniki region. In 1998, they took the step of branching out into wine with the Georgiadis brand of wine and retsina. Over the years, people got to know and love the original barrel retsina, Gold Retsina Georgiadis, bottled in a characteristic carafe which maintains its original aroma and quality. They began producing their Ampelicious wine in 2008; their Ampelicious retsina has won medals in the 2014 and 2015 International Wine and Spirits Competition.

Georgiadis Brothers Winery •

24th km Thessaloniki–Moudania highway, Thessaloniki, Greece Tel. (+30) 23920.918.67 • •


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Feta Graviera

Kopanisti Anthotyro


Feta may be Greece’s trademark, but the country produces an array of fine cheeses whose complex flavors can be brought out by the right wine. Here’s our snap guide! BY N i ko l e ta M a k r i o n i t o u

Arachova Formaela

Sifnos Aged Manoura



Mytilini Ladotyri


Katiki Domokou


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Mature, light-yellow graviera comes in a vast variety of tastes and textures, and is produced mainly from a mixture of goat and sheep milk, with the exception of the Cycladic islands that make a milder version using cow’s milk. Depending on how long it has been aged, it can be soft and buttery or hard and tangy, like the San Michali variety produced on the island of Syros. The saltier varieties, usually harder as well, are known as kefalograviera and used mainly grated on pasta. All of the varieties are used in cooking, but graviera’s place of honor is alone at the table. A fresh graviera goes better with robust whites with balanced acidity, while the mature, tangier varieties pair beautifully with full-bodied reds. Robola is ideal with its discreet fruity tones, but so is a Vidiano or even a modern retsina paired with a hard, savory graviera.

This hard cheese is quite salty and spicy, with some versions used grated over pasta or for fried saganaki. If serving it raw, choose slightly tangy wines like Xinomavro, Agiorgitiko or Mavrotragano, though a full-bodied sweet wine like Malagousia or Muscat could give it an interesting twist. If served as a saganki go for a retsina or an aromatic, oily white made from Vidiano. A rosé with strong notes of fruit, like Agiorgitiko, complements the ‘dry’ characteristics of the cheese with its ‘juicy’ fruity elements, while at the same time bringing out its saltiness thanks to its acidity.

Feta A global emblem of Greece, feta is made of sheep milk and aged in brine, in wooden barrels or tins. Depending on where it’s produced, it comes in an array of distinctive flavors and textures, from soft to almost cream-like, and from hard and tangy, to crumbly and salty. Whatever its profile, it is a capricious cheese that doesn’t like to have its thunder stolen by wine. The best way to enjoy a good feta is as a snack, dressed in fresh virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of fresh oregano. It is perfect in traditional Greek salad, pies and on the side of oil-rich vegetable casseroles. Τhe characteristic salty and somewhat tart sharp flavor of feta pairs with a fresh, fragrant white wine with balanced acidity like Moschofilero, in keeping with one of the basic tenets: combining savory with sharp.

Kopanisti Greece’s tangiest and curmudgeonly cheese is made in the Cycladic islands using either cow milk or a mixture of sheep’s and goat’s. It is pallet-numbingly spicy, yellow and creamy, similar to blue cheese. It is eaten only as a table cheese and goes well with sweet tomatoes, which help mellow its aggressive flavor. Few wines can stand up to it, but sweetness is a must. Sweet and even fortified wines can make a perfect partner. A Samos vin de liqueur from the local Muscat variety would be an excellent choice.

Anthotyro A mild, low-fat cheese, anthotyro is made either of sheep or goat milk. Most varieties are unsalted and snow-white, with a solid yet soft texture, smooth milky flavor and mild acidity. In many parts of Greece it is salted and aged to produce some very interesting results. Fresh anthotyro is best friends with fruit and white, dry aromatic wines like Debina, Muscat and Malagousia, even in their sweeter versions. A dryer anthotyro demands spicier, fuller wines like Roditis, Vidiano and Robola. The mild flavor and strong presence of milk in the cheese can be harmoniously combined with dry, white Muscat or even a sweet Muscat of Alexandria. Its flowery aromas and mature grape tones bring out the cheese’s flavor elements. 154

Metsovone This is an unrivalled smoked cheese produced in Metsovo, a town in the Pindos mountains in Epirus. Made with sheep and cow milk, it goes through a complex smoking process that endows it an intense yet pleasant flavor that balances well with its buttery character and subtle roasted-nut aromas. It is served mainly as a table cheese, but also fried to increase its flavor impact. It goes with a Vlachiko, a local variety grown in the area, but also pairs beautifully with white wines with strong acidity. Enjoy it with a discreet Debina, a full-bodied Savatiano or a rich Vidiano.


Arachova Formaela

Sifnos Aged Manoura

This semi-hard sheep milk cheese, mildly salty and very milky, is usually grilled or fried. Hailing from the Mount Parnassos village of Arachova, it is considered one the best cheeses for crispy fried saganaki, normally served with a drizzle of fresh lemon juice, which gives it an edge and cuts through the oiliness. Pairs well with a full-bodied aromatic white with good acidity. The slightly salty flavor, in combination with its buttery feel, whether raw or cooked, demands a white wine with pronounced acidity and a relatively rich taste, such as those made with Roditis or Assyrtiko.

Aged manoura is an exciting, spicy cheese that is produced mainly on the island of Sifnos – though also in other parts of Greece – with sheep and goat milk and then matured in wine sediment to give its characteristic purple outer layer and distinctive wine flavor. It is an excellent cheese to eat alone with a glass of sharp red or even sweet wine. One excellent choice is a sweet Samos Muscat, aged in barrels for at least five years. Because of its sweetness, full body, mature character and complex aromas, it strikes a perfect balance with this sophisticated cheese, offering a full aftertaste and acting in a complimentary manner. A Santorini Vinsanto would also make a wonderful match.

Mytilini Ladotyri This is a very special cheese that is aged in olive oil to give it a rich, spicy flavor. It is made of sheep and goat milk, has a full flavor with intense aromas, and makes the perfect meze. It requires a wine of intense personality, nerve and body. From the whites, an Assyrtiko or a retsina, or from the reds, a mature Xinomavro or a light Limnio, would be appropriate. Sommelier Yiannis Kaimenakis suggests “something equally rich, such as a white Nychteri from Santorini, which would cut through the greasy feel on our pallet. Alternatively, try a light red like a Liatiko from Dafnes, which would give the cheese room to showcase its rich flavor.”

Kaseri This semi-hard yellow sheep’s milk cheese, with its mild, buttery and full-bodied flavor, is one of the most popular in Greece and is used widely in cooking because it melts beautifully. Its aged versions, meanwhile, are nothing short of a revelation: peppery, nutty and with a very strong, rich flavor. Fresh versions are more flexible in terms of wine pairing, but the mature kinds favor full, well-matured reds. Its perfect match is a mild or a spicy red from Agiorgitiko, but it also goes well with a strong white like Roditis.

Katiki Domokou

Manouri Full-fat and lightly salted, this alabaster-white cheese is so rich it tastes almost like butter. Produced mainly in the Thessaly and Macedonia regions, using a combination of goat and sheep milk, it is usually served as a table cheese, drizzled with honey and nuts, but can also be cooked to bring out its wonderful buttery aroma. Full-bodied, though not oily, whites are the best choice, with balanced acidity and a relatively intense bouquet, such as Moschofilero or Malagousia. Pairing it with sweet Muscats with bold acid tones also offers a pleasant surprise. When it is served on the side of oil-rich vegetable casseroles, it goes best with Robola, but also fresh Xinomavro wines. Cooked manouri goes beautifully with a vigorous Assyrtiko, while if it is served raw with honey, nuts or fruit, it pairs very well with a sweet Muscat of Alexandria.

Greece produces a number of spreadable cheeses other than the extremely popular Katiki from Domokos in central Greece, and some of these enjoy Protected Designation of Origin status, such as Pichtogalo from Hania, Anevato, Galotyri and Xygalo from Sitia. Besides their creamy, rich texture, they also share refreshing acidity. Try the fresher varieties with well-balanced whites like Assyrtiko, Monemvasia and Moschofilero, and the saltier ones with a milder wine, such as dry Muscat or Savatiano. Katiki is a refreshing cheese and a very good match for equally vibrant white wines with attractive aromas like Malagousia or Athiri. G R E E C E IS

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there’s always room for a greek Italian

Santorini white 156


Savatiano or Roditis white


Moschofilero white


Vidiano white

Malagousia white


Santorini Vareli or Nychteri

Surprise your taste buds with an offbeat selection to lend any meal a distinctly different flavor. BY N i ko l e ta M a k r i o n i t o u


Xinomavro rosé


Agiorgitiko rosé


Limnio rosé


dry Mavrodafni G R E E C E IS

Agiorgitiko red •


Xinomavro red

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food & wine

Italian With discreet aromas of red fruits and spices, the red Agiorgitiko grape variety produces expressive rosés and velvety reds. Both can be elegant accompaniments to a host of wine-friendly Italian comfort food dishes, famed for their rare balance of richness and finesse. At the same time, for fans of pizza and Neapolitan-style tomato-based sauces, a rosé made from the Xinomavro variety, with its notes of tomato, spice and a characteristic acidity, is recommended for an interesting harmony.

French Richness, elegance and masterful techniques define many French dishes, such as the legendary beef bourguignon, which would make an excellent match with a Xinomavro. A delicious plate of fruits de mer is complemented well by the acidity of a Santorini white, while the intense sauces, garlic and butter typical of dishes from the south of France render food-oriented Cretan reds the perfect match. And as for the infamous ratatouille, a dish not dissimilar to Greece’s own briam, try pairing it with a white that has marked acidity such as an Assyrtiko or perhaps a fresh Agiorgitiko red, or even a spicy lightred blend of Kotsifali and Mandilaria grapes. That said, the preferred choice of Sofia Perpera would be a Agiorgitiko, Xinomavro or Limniona rosé.

Chine se A Vidiano wine, awash with the aromas of exotic fruits on the nose and palate, is a perfect accompaniment to the spiciness and liveliness of Chinese cooking with its many contradictory flavors and playful balances. The rich body of a Vidiano can withstand sweet-and-sour flavors producing a harmonious end result. Also, a light and aromatic Moschofilero white would pair well with many Chinese dishes thanks to its well-balanced sharpness.

american As a true melting pot, the United States has a multinational and multicultural cuisine, with myriad interesting dishes. However, the quintessential American food is the hearty, multi-layered burger, with a thick, juicy beef patty, a slice of oily cheddar, a piece of smoked bacon, sweet-sour dill pickle and the wonderful mayo, ketchup, mustard trio. With hundreds of variations spanning all 50 states, choosing a wine to go with your burger can sometimes pose a problem. Maria Dimou recommends a velvety Agiorgitiko with soft tannins for a classic cheeseburger, a demi-sec Xinomavro rosé to add lightness to the meal if the burger contains sweet and spicy elements (caramelized onions, Emmental cheese or jalapeno peppers), or a fragrant Malagousia for a chicken or turkey burger.

Spanish Elaborate and sophisticated, Spanish cuisine has an equal affinity for the produce of both the land and sea, often combining them in the same dish. A classic example is paella; rich and aromatic, blending many different flavors and ingredients. It is a dish that pairs well with an Agiorgitiko or Limnio rosé thanks to their sophisticated tannins, or with a fresh, light Xinomavro from Amyntaio which will have the desired acidity and oiliness. Then there are the diverse tapas which share a similar philosophy with Greek meze and, as such, are best paired with wines that can accommodate high levels of variety, such as a Vareli or Nychteri from Santorini, or a fruity Assyrtiko from elsewhere.


food & wine

Indian Indian cuisine, with its curries and tandoori dishes may on the surface appear less than wine-friendly, but rosés made from Agiorgitiko grapes with their fruitiness and ideally a hint of sweetness (barely offdry) will offset the spiciness and pair well, says Marianna Makrigianni. Equally good choices for earthy and heavily spiced Indian dishes are wines made from the Vidiano variety, which have fruity and intense aromas, acidity, plenty of body and some sweetness.

Thai According to sommelier Nikolas Giannopoulos, a fresh Moschofilero from Mantineia – a region in Arcadia that produces elegant, aromatic and light white wines with prominent fruity and flowery notes (in particular hints of citrus and fresh rosés) – is the perfect choice to counterbalance the highly aromatic dishes of Thai cuisine. Characterized by intense flavors and high levels of spiciness, it is considered among Asia’s most refined cuisines and calls for elegant wines.

Lebane se

Me xican

The many contradictory flavors, rich aromas, spicy gestures and frequent use of pulses, lamb, herbs and lemon make rosés the perfect “middle-ground” for pairing Lebanese dishes. Particularly good are the rosés produced from the Xinomavro variety in the Naoussa and Amyntaio regions, which have a cool acidity and fruity aromas. Also suitable are richly expressive reds such as a dry Mavrodafni or a Mavrotragano, or even Savatiano or Roditis whites for cold, spicy dishes.

Reds that are rich in fruits, low in tannins and alcohol, and refreshingly acid can provide the desired balance when paired with exuberant Mexican dishes. A good choice is a fresh Agiorgitiko from Nemea as it is capable of complementing the many fusion elements of Mexican cooking. Another choice would be Xinomavro, whose acidity and freshness will pair well with a hot and spicy gastronomic fiesta.

A Vidiano, with its aromas of exotic fruits, is a perfect accompaniment to Chinese cooking’s many contradictory flavors and playful balances.

Japane se While the simple and clean elements of Japanese cuisine may make the process of choosing a wine appear straightforward, that simplicity can be confounded by the presence of one or more intensely flavored accompaniments, such as the soy sauce, wasabi and pickled ginger that are served with sushi. Particularly where raw fish features prominently, such as in sushi, sashimi and nigiri dishes, a Malagousia white makes for a perfect pairing as it will complement the sushi’s natural umami with fruity and herbal notes.


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Wine & Dine

SATISFYING THE SENSES Our top picks of restaurants and wine bars from all around Greece. BY N E N A D I M I T R I O U , N I KO L E T TA M A K R YO N I T O U , S O T I R I S G E O R G I O U



*Reservations are generally recommended. Island restaurants may be closed off-season, so call in advance to check.

Wine & Dine


Athens Restaurants Abovo Chef Michalis Nournoglou presens a lunch menu that is pared down to light yet elegant dishes like intricate open sandwiches and tortellini with foie gras, followed by sophisticated dinner choices aimed at gourmands. There are also two corresponding wine lists: simpler whites and reds for lunch and, for dinner, more sophisticated labels, together with a “secret” list of high-quality offerings, provided on request. All of the major Greek varieties are represented, with the lists featuring wines that highlight the complexity of the dishes (55 labels, €20-250). • 18 Tsakalof, Kolonaki • Tel. (+30) 210.338.8838

Abreuvoir A historic French restaurant that has been operating in the city for 50 years,

Abreuvoir’s wine list is a rare collection built up over the decades. While Greek wines feature, French offerings dominate, with the list including some rare vintages (€20-10,000). The owners, who are also wine connoisseurs, have picked up some true gems that are worthy accompaniments to the finest of meals. Exemplary service and dinner by candlelight are key features, as is the somewhat 1980s-era menu. • 51 Xenokratous, Kolonaki • Tel. (+30) 210.722.9106

Aleria This restaurant is testament to the passion of its oenophile owner, who invests primarily in wines with character as opposed to more commercial labels. The staff is also able to suggest appropriate wines to complement the exquisite

food prepared by chef Gikas Xenakis. More than 120 labels are on offer (€24120), of which about 14 are available by the glass. Special events are also frequently held in order to celebrate a new wine, acquisition or discovery. • 57 Megalou Alexandrou, Kerameikos • Tel. (+30) 210.522.2633

Athiri Creative Greek cooking from low-key chef Alexander Kardasis. The flavors do most of the talking, with dishes humbly presented without elaborate constructions and textures. The menu is relatively limited, following the seasonality of ingredients which are mostly sourced from small-scale producers. The wine list changes monthly and features exclusively Greek wines and G R E E C E IS

all the major domestic grape varieties (priced from €13 to €50 per bottle). Of the 40 on offer, five are available by the glass. • 15 Plateon, Kerameikos • Tel. (+30) 210.346.2983

Botrini’s Michelin-starred chef Ettore Botrini and his team produce creative dishes inspired by traditional Greek cooking – particularly from his native Corfu. Shades of white predominate in the dining area and diners are also afforded a view of the inner workings of the kitchens. The walk-in wine cellar has a wide range of offerings from Greek and international wineries (110 labels, €233,200). A sommelier is also on hand to offer advice on food/wine pairings. • 24B Vassileos Georgiou, Halandri • Tel. (+30) 210.685.7323-4

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Athens’ most popular restaurant has a carefully assembled wine list (200 labels, up to €120), with both mainstream wines and lesser-known varieties resurrected from small, forgotten vineyards. Geographic groupings are an asset for oenophiles seeking more familiarity with the characteristics of a typical Assyrtiko from Santorini compared to one from Corinthia or the wider Peloponnese. Also very respectable and well-priced is the house wine, which is bottled by Girlemi in central Greece. The food is of high quality; inspired by traditional cooking, the chefs have effectively created a new Greek cuisine. • 2A Hatziyianni Mexi, Hilton • Tel. (+30) 210.723.5005

Thanks to sophisticated techniques and elaborate presentation, the food of 28-year-old chef Alexandros Tsiotinis is truly impressive. The wine list includes 70 labels, just over half of which are from Greek wineries (€24-250), while five are available by the glass and are excellent accompaniments to the multifaceted menu. Reservations are a must. • 27 Dioharous, Kaisariani • Tel. (+30) 210.722.8812

Funky Gourmet Funky Gourmet features dishes that are playful, cutting-edge and deconstructed, created by two young chefs who have been awarded with two Michelin stars for their efforts. The wine list extends to more than 130 labels, from Greece



and abroad (€27-770 euros). Of those, 18 are available by the glass, but, as they are priced somewhat on the high end, a bottle makes more sense. • 13 Paramythias & Salaminos, Kerameikos • Tel. (+30) 210.524.2727

F+W by Olivier Campanha Chef Olivier Campanha’s hideaway is the perfect setting to combine food and wine. Highly recommended are the two tasting menus, which provide a comprehensive experience at €47 for four glasses of wine, or €95 for six. Aside from the tasting menus, the à la carte menu offers complex dishes that combine molecular gastronomy, French cuisine and the ingredients of Mediterranean cooking. The wine list offers 110 labels (€20-200),




featuring both Greek and international wines. • 49 Xenokratous, Kolonaki • Tel. (+30) 210.721.1146

GB Roof Garden/ Tudor Hall Asterios Kostoudis heads the kitchen at the GB Roof Garden and Alexandros Koskinas that at Tudor Hall, with both overseen by executive chef Sotiris Evangelou. These two sophisticated restaurants feature perhaps one of the most comprehensive wine lists available in Greece, with sommelier Vangelis Psofidis having assembled an inventory that includes some of the most important labels from around the world. Of the 585 available, 200 are produced in Greece. You can choose either a bottle or a glass from one of 40 different wines via the


electronic menu at your table (bottles start at €30) • 1 Vassileos Georgiou, Hotel Grande Bretagne, Syntagma Square • Tel. (+30) 210.333.0000 Gefseis me Onomasia


Housed in a villa, this restaurant resembles a French chateau with its own bar, cellar and a shady garden, which is open during the warmer months. Classic Mediterranean dishes, tasty if somewhat retro, are on offer. The father and son owners are both trained oenologists with decades of experience between them and have created a wine list with 200 labels (€13-1,900). Most are Greek, although there are also selections from France, Argentina and Chile. • 317 Kifissias Av, Kifissia • Tel. (+30) 210.800.1402

Hytra The twice Michelin-starred Hytra is normally located on the 6th floor of the Onassis Cultural Center, but in the summer it moves up to the rooftop – the perfect setting for a romantic dinner. Dishes inspired by traditional Greek cuisine feature quality country produce. There are tasting menus of eight and 14 dishes with appropriate wine pairings by the glass, although the latter can also be substituted by well excuted cocktails. The vegetarian menu is another plus. The wine list includes 95 labels (€26-180), most of them Greek. • 107 Syngrou Av, Kallithea • Tel. (+30) 210.331.6767

Matsuhisa Athens Chef Vasilis Papatheodorou combines Peruvian ingredients with Asian

Funky Gourmet

recipes and sushi prepared to the exacting requirements of Nobu Matsuhisa. The menu also includes Papatheodorou’s own signature dishes, created with Greek ingredients and an international philosophy. The wine list (120 labels, €30-2,800) includes chiefly Greek labels. Sommelier Marianna Lanara’s suggestions cover both harmonious as well as contradictory food-wine pairings for the more daring palates. • 40 Apollonos, Vouliagmeni • Tel. (+30) 210.890.2000

Premiere In the luxurious InterContinental hotel, JeanCharles creates high-quality dishes that are classic, urban and Mediterranean in character. The space is ideal for working dinners

and meetings. The wine list features some 300 labels (€28-1,750 euros), the majority of which are Greek, and with 22 available by the glass. There are also two tasting menus with four and five dishes, respectively, each of which is served with appropriately pairings by the glass. • 89-93 Syngrou Avenue, Kallithea • Tel. (+30) 210.920.6000

Scala Vinoteca Occupying a tasteful space designed by ΚokkinouKourkoulas Architects, Scala Vinoteca features one of the most interesting wine lists in the city. It is updated frequently and features 100 Greek and imported labels, the majority of which are available by the glass. The menu, focused on Mediterranean flavors, is supervised by the charismatic


Matsuhisa Athens


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although the emphasis remains on reds. For bythe-glass drinking, there are always at least a dozen varieties to choose from. • 11 Vrasida, Hilton area • Tel. (+30) 210.723.2002



chef Dimitris Kontopoulos. • 50 Sina & Anagnostopoulou, Kolonaki • Tel. (+30) 210.361.0041

Spondi One of Greece’s finest restaurants with multiple distinctions and two Michelin stars, Spondi serves French cuisine in a luxurious setting featuring iconic “art de la table” and, of course, impeccable service. This is fine dining at every level. The wine list resembles a sampler of the global wine map, with more than 300 labels, including champagnes and sparkling wines from every major wine-producing region, divided into Old World and New World wines (although Greek reds and whites predominate). The lower-cost menu starts at €69, with wines priced from €34-1,700. • 5 Pyrronos, Pangrati • Tel. (+30) 210.752.0658

Varoulko Eclectic seafood dishes are created by distinguished chef Lefteris Lazarou and served with a view of the sea. The wine list (160 labels, €16-520) includes mainly Greek wines with fewer international offerings from international wineries; roughly 32 are available by the glass. While the Greek whites occupy pole position, 164

sommelier Aleksandros Aggelopoulos also suggests soft and fruity reds, which can highlight the chef’s bold food, or even richer reds that pair well with tomato sauces, spices and the chorizo used in some of the dishes. • 52 Akti Koumoundourou, Mikrolimano, Piraeus • Tel. (+30) 210.522.8400

Vasilenas Urban and artistic, Vasilenas’s cuisine may have changed over the years but has never lost its high quality. The space has a charming atmosphere and was recently renovated, but it is the food that steals the show. Chef Adam Kontovas prepares novel dishes with character and depth. Fish has always been his strongest suit, but meat lovers are also well catered for. The wine list includes 70 labels, the majority of which are Greek. Additionally there are two tasting menus paired with four glasses of wine, one local and three from other countries. Even the desserts have been paired with wines: the bougatsa (cream-filled pastry) is matched with a dessert wine from the Pieria Eratini winery and the chocolate dessert with the aromatic and rich Vinsanto from Santorini. • 72 Aitolikou, Piraeus • Tel. (+30) 210.461.2457

Vezene This boutique restaurant focuses on meat-based dishes inspired by American street food, the techniques of French cuisine and the philosophy of sharing. Particular attention is given to the breed of the animal, its country of origin and the flavor profiles of different cuts. The raw offerings are quite special; try the wild goat tartar and juicy over-sized steaks which are matured for 30 days. The wine is also given the appropriate care, with the list frequently updated,

Since 1939, when it first opened as a prominent cafe patisserie, Zonar’s has always been a classic. Recently renovated, it is a symbol of urban luxury and a favorite haunt of politicians, businesspeople, merchants and artists. Esthetically it is a faithful replica of its former glory if not a better version. Classical music fills the air and guests are served professionally and with discretion. The food consists of finely presented urban Greek cuisine, while there are also international and Mediterranean dishes to chose from. Sommelier Angelos Antoniou has built up a wine list comprising 154 labels from Greece and abroad (€225,660 euros), 38 of which are available by the glass. Halfbottles are also available, while 13 labels come in magnums and Jeroboams. Reservations are recommended and dessert is not to be missed. • 9 Voukourestiou, Syntagma • Tel. (+30) 210.325.1430 scala vinoteca

Wine & Dine

Athens Wine Bars By the Glass Located in a small stoa in the city center, near the National Garden, By the Glass, one of Athens’s first wine bars, has done much to acquaint consumers with branded Greek wines. Here you can try 60 wines by the glass, but another 150 old, expensive and rare wines are available through the Coravin system. Their collection of exceptional vintages is reason alone for a visit. The food is also very respectable, with bistro-style offerings, Mediterranean flavors and exceptional fresh ingredients. • 3 Souri, Stoa Ralli • Tel. (+30) 210.323.2560

Cinque This small wine bar in the Psyrri neighborhood in Athens’ historic center offers 30 labels representing almost every wine-producing region in the country. Choose among the five different wine flights for a comparative tasting session, each of which is accompanied by a taste of Greek cooking. Prices range

from €3-5.40 per glass and €12-26 per bottle. •15 Agatharchou, Psyrri • Tel. (+30) 697.721.2792

Corks & Forks This lively wine bar on Piraeus’s seafront tends to attract a younger crowd and the staff have created the perfect atmosphere for wine-sampling. The wine list includes 90 labels, mainly from smaller Greek producers, while 20 of those are available by the glass. The menu features some great dishes to accompany the wine, from Mediterranean to international choices. Try a burger with a Cretan red or a pasta dish paired with an aromatic white. • Akti Themistokleous & 1 Pargas, Piraeus • Tel. (+30) 215.515.9792

Heteroclito With its Gallic character, Heteroclito is reminiscent of a Parisian bistro from times gone by. However, the wine list is exclusively Greek, with the menu featuring platters of Greek cheeses and cold

cuts. You can choose from 18 wines of the Xinomavro variety and another 18 from Assyrtiko. Almost every week an event is organized to showcase a winery, region or variety. Given its popularity, finding somewhere to sit can be a struggle. • Fokionos 2 & Petraki, Monstiraki • Tel. (+30) 210.323.9406

Kiki de Grece This beautiful bistro, on a pedestrian street on the fringes of Plaka, serves clever finger foods and simple, wine-friendly delicacies, accompanied by more than 30 labels (starting at €14), also served by the glass, with varied selections from the Greek vineyard. Tastings are often organized by Greek wineries and every Wednesday (18:00-20:00) they serve an aperitif (€6) with free nibbles from the buffet. • Ipitou 4, Syntagma • Tel. (+30) 210.321.1279

Monk That this is a wine bar is not immediately obvious until you open its amazing wine


list. A total of 115 labels are featured, all handpicked by sommelier Vassilis Papadopoulos. Detailed geographical information is given for each wine as well as a breakdown of the characteristics of each variety. That, together with the fact that all the wines on the list can be sampled by the glass, makes a visit an educational experience. The bar also serves wine cocktails as well as all manner of other spirits. • 4 Karori, Monastiraki • Tel. (+30) 210.321.1117

Oinoscent Oinoscent has the lively hubbub of a popular bar, but is also distinctly wine-oriented with a very knowledgeable staff. Each week about 50 bottles are available by the glass, but the nearby cellar has 700 labels available for purchase at retail prices (as opposed to dinner service rates), with only an additional €8 corkage fee. • 44 Voulis, Syntagma • Tel. (+30) 210.322.9374




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Wine Up

Tha Se Kano Vasilissa Predominately a wine and whisky bar where food is relegated to a supporting role, Tha Se Kano Vasilissa has only six tables and a small menu. The owner’s love of wine is evident, with the list offering a selection of 160 wines, with 24 local labels. It is split into four basic sections: low-cost, by-the-glass offerings (€2.50-6); wines costing less than €55 a bottle; and finally the old and rare selection, which includes wines ranging from €45 to €2,000 euros. • 13 Verias & 64 Iera Odos, Votanikos • Tel. (+30) 210.345.9299

Vein Stylish and modern, this inplace, particularly for Sunday brunch, has a reputation for good food with robust dishes. The wine list includes 150 labels, of which roughly half are Greek. There are 40 wines available by the glass, but the bar also has the Coravin system, effectively allowing any wine to be served by the glass (bottles range from €18 to €440). • 3 Markou Botsari, Glyfada • Tel. (+30) 215.515.9777 166

Vinarte Characterized by modern design elements, Italianinspired cooking and finger food with Greek and Spanish influences, this wine bistro has an impressive walkin cellar that is updated regularly (at least 150 labels, many of which are older vintages, costing €18-400) with all wines available to buy at store prices to take home. Try the four-glass tasting flights and make use of the Coravin system to taste a few rare gems. Tuesdays are “free” if you BYOW, with a corkage fee of €8. • 18 Maragou, Glyfada • Tel. (+30) 210.894.1511

Vintage Old-school decor elements keep the classic urban Athenian esthetic alive. The wine list includes 350-odd labels from Greek and international wineries, of which 270 are available by the glass thanks to the Coravin system. You can also opt for a half-glass to sample an even fuller range. The wine is accompanied by choice Greek produce and Mediterranean dishes. • 66 Mitropoleos, Monastiraki • Tel. (+30) 213.029.6570


Wine Not Dim lighting and wine bottles provide the decor in Wine Not, while the wine list is updated every three months to feature the sommelier’s latest discoveries (at least 100 labels, ranging from €18.50 to €78). Particularly worth exploring are the Cretan wines, as well as the collection of aged tsipouro and other Greek spirits. The bar food includes Italian and Greek cheeses, cold meats and a few well-crafted cold dishes. • 12 Kalogrezas, Halandri • Tel. (+30) 216.700.2945

Wine Up Located northwest of central Athens in the district of Petroupoli, Wine Up is a

dedicated wine bar where one can find wines, sparkling wines and a variety of distillations. The owners’ philosophy is to support mainly small wineries, so a visit here is an opportunity to try more off-beat selections from different parts of the country. The wine list features 200 exclusively Greek labels with an emphasis on natural or organic wines, of which a quarter is available by the glass. Another pro is the very reasonable prices, with the cost of a bottle ranging from €15 to €70 and a glass from €3 to €20, while dishes cost no more than €7. Purchases can also be made in the wine shop. • 86 Eleftheriou Venizelou, Petroupoli • Tel. (+30) 693.260.8280

Wine & Dine



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Wine & Dine


Thessaloniki Alfredo’s Grand Dining Award-winning Mediterranean and international haute cuisine is served in the luxurious setting of a five-star hotel, but there are also set menus at excellent prices: eight dishes with five glasses of perfectly paired wines. The list is more than complete, with 370 labels available from Greek and international wineries, ranging in price from €20 to 3,500 per

bottle. The cigar bar is definitely a big plus. • Hyatt Regency Casino, Airport area • Tel. (+30) 2310.491.234

B. The restaurant of the Museum of Byzantine Culture offers Mediterranean flavors heavily influenced by the local cuisine, with local produce prepared using a variety of Italian and French techniques. When the weather is good, the garden is the perfect



setting for a fine meal. The wine list features exclusively Greek wines, with 45 labels, chiefly from Florina, Naoussa, Drama and the wider Macedonia region (€16-45 per bottle). • 23rd Septemvriou • Tel. (+30) 2310.869.695

Clochard One of the city’s classics, it enjoys a steady clientele that has remained loyal for years. The dining area has an understated elegance, while

the kitchen exhibits a proper approach to Mediterranean and Greek cuisine. A respectable wine list features 165 labels, of which 85 percent are domestic varieties (€16-160). Perfect for working lunches. • 4 Proxenou Koromila, city center • Tel. (+30) 2310.239.805

Duck Located outside the city center, Duck is a small restaurant with a constantly

Wine & Dine

changing menu and a table is often quite hard to come by. Four stews are prepared and six cuts of meat are on the grill menu every day, together with whatever fish the supplier has to offer. More than 70 labels are available on the wine list (€14-50), of which 80 percent are Greek. These are selected according to quality as well as on the basis of the locations of the vineyards and the varieties used so as to offer a crosssection of Greek winemaking. • 3 Halkis, Pylaia • Tel. (+30) 2315.519.333

Local One of the most popular hangouts in the center of town, Local serves Mediterranean cuisine in a tasteful setting with a menu that changes seasonally. The wine list features 70 predominantly Greek labels (€16-65), with an emphasis on new winemakers. Nine whites and eight reds are available by the glass. • 17 Paleon Patron Germanou • Tel. (+30) 2310.223.307

Rest of Greece

Mavri Thalassa This restaurant is widely respected for the quality of its fresh ingredients and offers a variety of seafood meze, fresh fish and shellfish. The wine list presents 80 labels, the majority of which are Greek reds and whites (€16-240). There are also a number of magnum, as well as threeliter bottles. Ten wines are available by the glass, providing the perfect pairing for every dish. • 3 Nikolaou Plastira, Kalamaria • Tel. (+30) 2310.932.542

Sinatra Described as an espresso wine bar, Sinatra swiftly became a reference point for Thessaloniki upon opening its doors. Set in a modern space at a great location, its wine list comprises 80 labels from all around Greece, with an emphasis on indigenous varieties. Twenty labels are served by the glass, with snack options too. • 20 Mitropoleos & Komninon • Tel. (+30) 2310.223.739

Milos Armenaki In the most beautiful village of the island, Pollonia, right next to the sea you can enjoy fresh seafood and excellent lobster, and accompany your meal with wine labels exclusively from Greek vineyards. The list changes every year and is personally curated by the owner and sommelier, who will knowledgeably guide you to the right choice. The wine list contains 50 labels and the prices range from €7.5-46 euros per bottle. • Tel. (+30) 22870.41.061

Yialos In picturesque Pollonia, Yialos presents modern Greek cuisine and is famous for its seafood, while also offering some pasta and meat options. The wine list focuses on Greek vineyards and contains interesting options,

from sparkling to dessert wines. It includes 70 labels (€14-76/bottle). • Tel. (+30) 22870.412.08

Mykonos Bill & Coo Chef Athinagoras Kostakos oversees this chic restaurant on the poolside in the hotel of the same name. Together with his staff, he forages for the natural produce of Mykonos, gathering wild greens and herbs which are supplemented with vegetables from the restaurant’s own garden. These humble ingredients are elevated to haute cuisine with fusion flourishes. The wine list (107 labels, €25-1,600) is up-to-date, if somewhat mainstream. • Bill & Coo Hotel, Megali Ammos, Mykonos town • Tel. (+30) 22890.262.92-3



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Sale e Pepe Few restaurants in Greece have become so closely identified with wine. Owner Ivan Ottaviani was one of the first sommeliers in the country and his restaurant has for the past two decades featured one of the best wine lists in the country – a list that has been awarded multiple times by Wine Spectator and which features numerous Greek selections. Many selections are also available by the glass. Do not hesitate to leave yourself in Ivan’s hands for him to pick the perfect complement to your meal. • Lakka, Mykonos town • Tel. (+30) 22890.242.07

Santorini Assyrtico Located in a quiet courtyard that shuts out the hustle and bustle of the main town of Fira, Assyrtico may not have a view of the caldera, but what it does have is an exceptional cellar. Greek and Mediterranean dishes are served here, accompanied chiefly by the eponymous Santorini wine. You will find roughly 80 labels, of which 10 are also served by the glass (€22-60 per bottle). Professional table service is another plus. • Fira • Tel. (+30) 22860.224.63

the ideal place to discover the treasures of Santorini’s vineyards. It is open all year round, but it is best if you call first to make sure it’s not booked for a private event. • Imerovigli • Tel. (+30) 22860.236.70

Koukoumavlos Nikos Pouliasis is the talented chef and wine expert behind the diverse and creative dishes on offer at this multi award-winning restaurant. A chic and luxurious venue, Koukoumavlos provides positively breathtaking views. The wine list features a significant proportion of local labels, among a few international offerings. • Fira • Tel. (+30) 22860.238.07

Selene This is the scene of miracles that highlight the incredible flavors of the local droughtresistant vegetables, the


small-scale meat production and wild-caught fish. Much care has been given to the wine, with 200 Greek labels, 10 of which are served by the glass. Try a selection of local Assyrtiko wines of different vintages and produced by different winemakers to uncover the great depth of the island’s flagship variety. • Pyrgos • Tel. (+30) 22860.222.49

SYROS Allou Yialou Located in one of the island’s small fishing villages, Allou Yialou offers exceptional seafood mezes, choice land-based delicacies and all-round delicious food. Some dishes have a more creative slant while others are classic comfort food offerings, all produced with care by self-taught cook Lina

Fournistaki. The dishes are accompanied by choice Greek wines (100 labels, €14-120, together with a few off-menu recent discoveries), with the cellar managed by Yiannis, Lina’s husband and business partner. • Kini Beach • Tel. (+30) 22810.711.96

Ambela Run by Michalis Papadimitriou and Zoe Kollia, Ambela offers delicious Cycladic dishes seasoned with herbs from the owners’ garden. Comfort food predominates, with creativity largely restricted to presentation rather the content of the highly authentic recipes. While the wine list is limited (24 labels, €14-38), it is a story unto itself and real value for money, featuring abundant Cycladic flourishes as well as unexpected surprises from all around Greece. • Ambela Beach • Tel. (+30) 22810.451.10


HELIOTOPOS WINE BAR Either in the atmospheric cave-like interior or on the terrace with the spectacular view, the hotel’s wine bar is 170



TINOS Itan Ena Mikro Karavi Antonis Psaltis, a young and talented chef, serves creative Cycladic dishes in a garden that is both beautiful and cozy. Dishes such as black tagliatelle with calamari, fishroe dip with aromatic dill oil and rice pudding with vanilla and Greek coffee, highlight the quality of the cooking. The wine list (30 labels, €16-45) is distinctly Aegean in character, as is the excellent selection of cheeses from around the Cyclades. Tastings can be arranged by appointment. • Trion Ierarchon, Tinos town • Tel. (+30) 22830.228.18

Thalassaki This minimal and elegant restaurant literally hangs over the sea. Antonia Zarpa’s creative, locally inspired


cooking combines aromas from her own vegetable garden with ingredients that are all sourced exclusively from Tinos and its waters. The wine list (40 labels, €20-120), compiled by Aris Tatsis, Antonia’s husband and restaurant co-owner, is emphatically pro-local. • Ysternion Bay • Tel. (+30) 22830.313.66

CENTRAL GREECE Gastrodromio en Olympo At the age of 35, Andreas Gavris decided to devote himself to his true passion: gastronomy. A selftaught cook, he created Gastrodromio which effectively put Litohoro on the map for many a epicure, thanks to his creative dishes and amazing wine list which features roughly 500 labels

from around Greece and the world (€10-€1,200). Over 25 of them are available by the glass. • 36 Aghiou Nikolaou, Litochoro • Tel. (+30) 23520.213.00

Grappa On offer are 150 labels, chiefly from Greece, together with 20 that are frequently rotated and available by the glass. This all-day wine bar is particularly generous with side dishes, as every glass comes with free finger food, such as tapas, smoked salmon canapés, Greek cheeses, etc. Other pluses include the lush garden and good prices (bottles from €18-35 euros; single glass €5-7). • 1 Kontaratou, Volos • Tel. (+30) 24210.303.70

Klimax With its industrial decor and fresh approach, Klimax has done much to better acquaint both locals and visitors to the city of Larissa with the world of wine. The tastefully designed space is matched by excellent wines on a list that is constantly updated to ensure wine remains at the center of the experience, rather than be treated as a simple accompaniment. The menu is small but features quality offerings. • 2 Ifaistou & Venizelou, Larissa • Tel. (+30) 24102.511.08



Decked out in wood and stone, Plagios is an attractive restaurant with a sizeable wine cellar, featuring 150 labels that are exclusively Greek, 25 of which are available by G R E E C E IS

the glass, while there are also magnums for big groups. The cooking is purely Greek/ Mediterranean and prices are reasonable. The rpcie of bottles ranges from €17.50390 euros and a glass from €5-7 euros. • 8 Kontaratou, Volos • Tel. (+30) 24210.219.00

CRETE Avli Avli is located in the heart of the old town of Rethymno, in an attractive complex of three Venetian buildings that also operate as a hotel. The restaurant showcases local cuisine, using exclusively local produce. The wine list is one of the most extensive on the island, with 460 labels from around Greece, but particularly focused on Cretan wineries. • 22 Xanthoulidou & Radamanthyos, Rethymno • Tel. (+30) 28310.582.50/ 28310.262.13

Calypso & Wine cellar A restaurant with an emphasis on French gourmet cuisine, Calypso, at the Elounda Peninsula resort, is considered among the best in Greece. Influenced by the philosophy of water, the decor is so that the customer is in visual contact with the sea from wherever he or she is sitting. The wine list includes around 800 labels from the world over, with the most expensive bottle costing €3,500. • Elounda Bay, Lasithi • Tel. (+30) 2841.068.000

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Dionysos While the menu is inspired by traditional Cretan and Mediterranean cuisine made from local ingredients, the preparation method is French. Apart from an enticing tasting menu and numerous vegetarian options a la carte, the restaurant boasts an extensive wine cellar, which may be visited for wine tasting, food and wine pairings and cooking classes. It includes more than 1,000 labels from Greek and international vineyards, with around 90 choices available by the glass. The sommelier is always on hand to guide guests in making the best choice. • Elounda Beach Hotel & Villas (open Apr-Oct), Elounda, Lasithi • Tel. (+30) 28410.630.00

Karyatis Diners can choose from 160 labels (€12.50-2,500 per bottle) from around the world at Karyatis, which delights in finding “gem-wines,” 172


according to the owner. Bordeaux, Tuscany, Latin America and much of Crete are all represented, luring wine lovers of all kinds. For by-the-glass drinking, there are only five labels on offer (€6-12.50), but it is worth sharing a bottle with friends. The cooking is mainly Italian but the menu has been enriched with the addition of a new sushi bar. Another plus are the magnums and rare vintages. • 12 Katechaki, Old Harbor, Hania • Tel. (+30) 28210.556.00

Peskesi A one-of-a-kind restaurant that offers the full Cretan experience from the first hello to the final kerasma – a drink or sweet on the house. The dishes draw on Crete’s rich culinary history, with most ingredients sourced from no more than a few kilometers away. The same applies for the wine, with 60 labels (€14-3,000) that highlight the rebirth of ancient Cretan

vineyards. Another plus is the high quality of service. • 6-8 Kapetan Haralambi, Irakleio • Tel. (+30) 2810.288.887

Tamam It can be hard to get a table in the summer at Tamam, top of the list for many visitors to Hania. Clean tastes predominate in its deeply traditional dishes, some of which are complemented by hints of Asia Minor. About 50 Cretan and Greek wines are available as well as a handful from abroad. Six labels are also served by the glass, and the pricing is very reasonable, with bottles in the €13-100 range. Wine tastings are held frequently to showcase the output of particular wineries. • 49 Zambeliou, Hania • Tel. (+30) 28210.960.80

IONIAN ISLANDS Kiani Akti Located at the water’s edge, Kiani Akti receives

daily quality fresh fish and seafood deliveries thanks to the care taken by Andronikos Lazaratos, owner and exceptional host. The wine list offers a rich selection of both local and internationally sourced wines. Food-wise, a particular specialty is the famous linguine with razor clams and garlic, while meat lovers should try the local lamb pie. • Metaxa Ioannou, Metelas, Argostoli, Cephalonia • Tel. (+30) 26710.266.80

Etrusco One of the top restaurants in Greece, Etrusco, run by Etrusco and Ettore Botrini, is housed in a charming villa surrounded by gardens. The output is the epitome of high gastronomy, featuring exciting dishes such as smoked beef carpaccio, smoked shrimp and cherry risotto, Corfiot bourdeto (a spicy dish made with various types of rockfish) and other game changers that draw on

Wine & Dine

local ingredients. The wine list is not infinite (170 labels, €35-1,600), but more than meets the challenge posed by the demanding menu. • Kato Korakiana, Corfu • Tel. (+30) 26610.933.42

NOTHERN GREECE Kontosoros Tucked away in a small village, chef Nikos Kontosoros’ talent is undeniable, producing dishes that draw inspiration from the rustic local food culture as well as European influences. His cellar (210 labels, €12-2,000) is particularly impressive, as it not only contains an exhaustive crosssection from local wineries but also features wines from the length and breadth of Greece. The experience is rounded out by Riedel wine glasses, crystal decanters and the local natural sparkling water that is perfect for

cleansing one’s palate between different wines. • Xino Nero, Florina • Tel. (+30) 23860.812.56

The Squirrel, Danai Beach Chef Vasilis Mouratides would certainly have picked up a Michelin star by now if the Michelin Guide did not restrict itself to only rating restaurants in the capital. The wine list is one of the best and biggest in the country, featuring a staggering 1,600 labels from domestic and international wineries, including exceptionally rare 50-60 year-old vintages. • Danai Beach, Sithonia, Halkidiki • Tel. (+30) 23750.204.00-2

Thomas A rare gem in the world of Greek dining, located almost in the middle of nowhere, Thomas is certainly not the sort of restaurant one expects to find in a small village in

Western Macedonia. The interior is reminiscent of a 19th-century aristocratic villa, while the grounds feature a beautiful garden. But the main draw is the cooking, which is of very high quality – both when it comes to local specialties and creative Greek gastronomic dishes. The wine list is exceptional: very Greek and very reasonably priced. • 14th kilometer on the Amyntaio–Kastoria road, Florina • Tel. (+30) 23860.310.80/312.06

PELOPONNESE Bodegas The interior design involving bicycle wheels is the first thing to grab one’s attention. The wine is exclusively Greek, consisting of 140 labels, 25 of which are available by the glass. In addition there is a private collection in the cellar, where the most dedicated oenophiles can


choose among a selection of hard-to-come by vintages. Other highlights include the open kitchen, where you can see the chefs preparing their Mediterranean-style dishes with gourmet flourishes. The price of bottles ranges from €16 to €140 and glasses from €4 to €14.50. The cellar collection comes at a cost, from €50-300. • 147 Riga Fereou, Patras • Tel. (+30) 26102.211.13

Costa Navarino The wine collection at Costa Navarino includes 260 labels from 15 countries. However, the emphasis is on Greek vineyards, which are represented through a wide selection of varieties and geographical locations, featuring 120 labels from 80 wineries, selected for their balance between aroma and flavor. The master wine list is available in the suites and villas of Costa Navarino hotels, while each restaurant has a rich range selected on the basis of style, culture and cuisine. In each restaurant, a wine ambassador, trained by the head sommelier, will help you make your choice. Wine lovers should visit the wine cellars of the Italian restaurant Da Luigi and of Pero, the main restaurant of the Romanos, a Luxury Collections Resort. • Messinia • Tel. (+30) 2723.095.000

3Sixty One of the Nafplio’s hotspots, 3Sixty is a cafe and restaurant by day, serving highly respectable international cuisine, and a bar pumping out music by night. The intriguing culinary output of the kitchen is complemented by an exceptional, underground glass wine cellar that is both visually impressive and offers a wide selection of lesserknown wines from the local area and the Peloponnese. • 1 Koletti & Papanikolaou, Nafplio • Tel. (+30) 27520.280.68 G R E E C E IS

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NOW AT A TABLE NEAR YOU From New York to London and Melbourne to Berlin, the list of fine restaurants and wine bars offering excellent selections from the Greek vineyard gets longer by the day. Follow our QR code and visit our website for our regularly updated selections, and experience the exciting world of Greek wine close to home – that is, until the next time you get a chance to visit the country itself. - A L E X A N D R A T Z A V E L L A

1. A deli and restaurant, Ergon offers authentic tastes of Greece and has one of the biggest Greek wine lists in London.


2. Molyvos, one of the top Greek restaurants in New York, presents a selection of more than 560 labels from different parts.

3. Opso, an “ancient Greek word for a delectable morsel of food, a delicacy,” offers almost 50 wine choices.

Named after the northeastern Aegean Island, Thasos is a brand new, ultra-modern Greek restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, boasting more than 40 labels from all the major grape varieties.




INDEX Selected Greek food & wine hotspots in four continents.



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GREECE IS | WINE | 2016  

That’s our field of glory, the market segment in which we can shine by offering excellent, lovingly made wines with great value for money, f...