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greece is experience culture, gastronomy & more

WINE

FIRST EDITION

ISSN: 2459-041X

2017 ISSUE

6- 26

28-44

45-114

115-141

W E LCO M E

D I S CO V E R

E X P LO R E

EXPERIENCE

Thanks to its native varieties and passionate winemakers, Greece has become the talk of the wine world; but what makes the country so special?

The intoxicating history of viniculture in Greece ­– where wine is an intrinsic part of the psyche and lifestyle – stretches back across six millennia.

A multitude of terroirs, microclimates and grape varieties are only starting to show their full potential. Let’s travel the country from end to end to get a taste.

Ideal pairings with Greek signature dishes and popular international cuisines, great wine restaurants and bars, and the bottles you should take home.


WELCOME

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© VANGELIS ZAVOS

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Mr.Vertigo wine shop

The genie’s out of the bottle g r e e k w i n e s a r e e a r n i n g t h e m s e l v e s a n i n t e r n at i o n a l r e p u tat i o n

BY GIORGOS TSIROS e d i to r- I N - C H I E F, G R E EC E I S

Think of Greece’s contemporary wine landscape as an Aladdin’s Cave, full of unique varieties, inspirational stories, colorful characters who vinify with know-how and passion and, above all, exceptional wines that have earned a rightful place in the global market. And unlike in another tale from the Arabian Nights involving a certain Ali Baba, there is no magic phrase to unlock this wondrous place. Three simple steps will suffice. First, forget… everything you know about the period when Greek wine was served in jugs at the local taverna, the oxidized or bland wines of dubious origin and the poor retsina. In recent decades, winemaking has enjoyed a revival in wineries and vineyards across the country. A new generation of winemakers has returned from some of the best schools in the world, armed not only with the scientific knowledge but also the meraki (a uniquely Greek concept used to describe something done from the heart with undivided attention and artistry) to develop the potential of native grapes and produce excellent wines. Second, dare. It doesn’t matter if the varieties sound all Greek to you or you find it difficult to pronounce them. Each one underscores the great wealth of terroirs and microcli-

mates, carries with it centuries of development, and adds its own intriguing brushstroke to a landscape dominated by international heavyweights. Aidani, Malagousia, Roditis, Sideritis, Mandilaria, Avgoustiatis, Vostilidi, Tsaousi, Moschatela and so many others, will expand your wine vocabulary and open up your palate to a new tasting experience. And if you have the good fortune to visit Greece, another pleasant surprise awaits: the prices. It is quite astonishing how many outstanding wines are available at a retail price of just 5-10 euros. Third, have faith. It doesn’t have to be in foreign experts, who in recent years have written numerous lengthy features in praise of Greek wines. It doesn’t have to be in Wine Spectator’s highly acclaimed Matt Kramer, who in his current list of “25 Ways to Leave Your Wine Love” ranks Greek wine third, noting that that “the ‘new’ Greek whites and reds are a revelation.” It doesn’t even have to be in style bibles such as Vogue, which included Greece in its list of “6 Under-the-Radar Wine Regions You Should Be Drinking From Now.” Simply trust your nose and mouth. You will be amazed.

For more information visit www.newwinesofgreece.com, the official site of the National Inter-Professional Organization of Vine and Wine

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CONTENTS Greece Is - WINE, 2017 Issue, First Edition 6. In Brief. The new era of Greek wine. 16. Praise. Renowned wine experts

EXPLORE 46. Northern Greece. Exciting terroirs,

EXPERIENCE 116. The Greek Way. Delicious classics

salute the efforts of Greek winemakers.

grapes with attitude.

of local cuisine, paired with native

22. The Only Road to Follow. It’s all

56. Central Greece. A mosaic of

varieties.

about quality, character and consistency.

varieties and terroirs.

26. The American Challenge.

64. Peloponnese. Agiorgitiko and

118. Wine and Cheese. Best friends! 122. Tandoori, Meet Agiorgitiko.

Uncorking a market with huge potential.

Moschofilero country.

There’s an ideal Greek wine for every

28. The Art of Drinking. Through the

74. Ionian Islands. The realm of

popular international cuisine.

millennia, wine has been the defining

Robola.

126. Satisfying the Senses. Our

component of sociability for Greeks.

76. Santorini. An historic wineland;

favorite wine restaurants and bars.

34. Timeline. An intoxicating history

Assyrtiko’s astonishing rise.

135. The Experts’ Choice. Renowned

at a glance.

90. Aegean Islands. Gems of the

wine professionals recommend Greek

36. Dionysus. The Greek god of wine

archipelago.

wines they love.

and ecstasy.

143. Place Your Orders. Well-stocked

40. The Mists of Time. Wine in ancient

94. Crete. The rising star. 104. Sweet Wines. Show them to

Greece.

the sun...

108. Retsina. Back with a vengeance. 112. Sparkling Wines. Bubbles everywhere!

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wine shops.


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94 greece is - wine 2017 issue, first edition

Published by: Exerevnitis - Explorer SA, Ethnarchou Makariou & 2 Falireos St, Athens, 18547, Greece ISSN: 2459-041X Editor-in-chief: Giorgos Tsiros (editor@greece-is.com) Commercial director: Natasha Bouterakou (sales@greece-is.com) Creative director: Thodoris Lalangas / www.youandi.gr Creative consultant: Costas Coutayar Deputy editor: Natasha Blatsiou Art director: Ria Staveri Editorial consultants: Dimitris Tsoumplekas, Vassilis Minakakis Translations/Editing: Don Domonkos, John Leonard, Damian Mac Con Uladh, Vassiliki Prestidge, Danae Seemann Stephen Stafford, Christine Sturmey Proof-reading: Don Domonkos, Omaira Gill, John Leonard, Christine Sturmey Photo editors: Maria Konstantopoulou, Marika Tsouderou Pagination: Asimina Mitrothanasi Photoshop: Christos Maritsas, Michalis Tzannetakis, Stelios Vazourakis Advertising: Mariliza Kalesi (mkalesi@kathimerini.gr) Advertising department: Tel. (+30) 210.480.82.27 Head of public relations: Lefki Vardikou GREECE IS - WINE is a yearly publication, distributed free of charge. Contact us: welcome@greece-is.com

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

ON THE C OVER Illustration: Katerina Alivizatou

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The Lyrarakis Estate vineyards in Irakleio, Crete

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© YANNIS FAIS

A Νew Εra |

IN BRIEF

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Forget everything you ever thought you knew about Greek wine, because the revival is here to stay. B Y K O N S T A N T I N O S L A Z A R A K I S , MW

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Convincing experts of the quality of Greek wine is no easy task. “What has changed from the awful oxidized retsina of the 1960s?” they will ask. I would like to give an answer that addresses the essentials of the question, not the issue of reputation. There is little doubt that achieving quality is a relatively easy task today. The science of oenology and vine cultivation has, together with the new technologies for winemaking, become easy to master, hiding no secrets, as long as you take a genuine interest and approach the task with love. In the past 35 years, Greek winemakers have been investing seriously in both their vineyards and their processing units; from the 1980s onwards, they have been staffing their businesses with experts trained at the world’s finest educational institutions. The results of this commitment have been impressive – as attested by the acceptance of Greek wines by wine writers of an international caliber. In the world’s most demanding markets, such as New York or London, the wines of Santorini, Amyntaio and Drama are now considered classics – Greek wine is quality stuff. And if you don’t believe me, I invite you to try a glass and...

TRUST YOUR PALATE 8

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IN BRIEF

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© GEORGE VDOKAKIS

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IN BRIEF

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WINE MEETS FOOD

Š AKIS ORFANIDIS

In many countries, wine is not accompanied by food. This means that it is designed not to have a particularly distinctive flavor, as intense aromas can be jarring on the palate. In Greece, however, almost all of our meals include wine (with the exception of breakfast, though begrudgingly) and we never drink wine without having something to nibble on. This has led us, through centuries of tasting and testing, to produce wines that not only pair well with our own foods, but with all cuisines. A good-quality retsina (yes, believe me, there is a lot of this around now) can make a lovely match with sushi, while a good Rapsani can give the finest French wine a run for its money when paired with meat-based dishes. And because we not only love wine but have a lasting bond with it, we prefer wines that allow you to keep drinking, not those that wow you with the first sip but restrict you to a single glass. Our wines are designed to make you ask for more; the greatest proof of quality for a Greek is an empty bottle.

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IN BRIEF

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KEEPS YOUR

TASTE

BUDS BUSY

As its name suggests, Vitis Vinifera is the plant that gives us the grapes to make wine. The longer it is cultivated, the more indigenous varieties it yields. The plants have the ability to reproduce naturally over time and, in turn, growers are allowed the luxury of exploring and assessing these varieties. As a result, Greece, a country where vine-growing dates back millennia, has a staggering number of native grapes. So far, we have discovered more than 200 varieties, most of which are endemic, meaning they can only be found here. Each of these can give oneof-a-kind wines – both in terms of reputation and flavor. Compare, for example, a Mavrodaphne with a Kotsifali or a Roditis with a Vilana. And with each year that passes, new varieties are being discovered at some forgotten, aging vineyard. Up until a decade ago, grapes like Vidiano, Kydonitsa and Fokiano were unheard of. But there is only one way to discover the lofty heights that Greek wines and varieties can reach – and it is a very pleasant one indeed: just keep tasting and drinking. It will certainly keep you well entertained for decades to come.

PERFECT CLIMATE 12

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Most visitors to Greece spend their days in an enchanting resort soaking up the sun and the heat, cooling off into the sea and falling in love with the place. But when it comes to wine, the experts will jump in to argue that heat simply does not do for fine wines, and thus will write off Greek wine in one fell swoop. Big mistake! To begin with, most of Greece is hills and mountains, and there are a lot more areas with a chilly and wet climate than foreigners imagine. In places like Amyntaio, Mantineia and Naoussa, the climatic conditions are quite different to what visitors experience on their vacations. Moreover, centuries of experience have allowed the grape growers of each region to discover the local varieties that yield high-quality wines, even in areas with extreme weather conditions.

© SHUTTERSTOCK

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IN BRIEF

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The PDO wines of Greece: natural treasures in red and white

Α ΜATTER OF CHARACTER   Wine has been an intrinsic part of Greek culture for centuries, long before anyone looked upon it as a promising commodity. For Greeks, winemaking is not seen as just another job. It is often a necessity, as unyielding earth in many parts of the country allows little else to grow. Another important factor is topography, which has resulted in vineyards being scattered. The majority of vine growers cultivate less than half a hectare and only a few dozen wineries produce more than 10,000 cases a year – small fry compared to 14

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other countries. But at the end of the day, most Greek winemakers are artisanal producers, with small facilities that allow them to become engaged in every step of the process. A small vineyard and winery allows producers to spend time understanding the peculiarities of the landscape, to cajole every variety into bringing out its most noteworthy characteristics, and to express their own character in their wines. And while Greeks may have many shortcomings, a lack of character is certainly not one of them.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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

© Illustration: Karlopoulos & Associates, Sources: Ministry of Agriculture, WSPC Wine & Spirit Professional Consultants, New Wines of Greece

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PRAISE

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“Among the most exciting wine countries”

© ILLUSTRATION: FILIPPOS AVRAMIDES

BY ERIC ASIMOV*

As a cradle of ancient winemaking, Greece has the storied history to entice anybody curious about wine. Yet most Americans know little about modern Greek wines beyond an unfortunate association with retsina, which is almost universally regarded with distaste. Nonetheless, educated American wine consumers understand that Greece today is among the most exciting wine countries in the world, full of unexplored territory, little-known grapes, and delicious wines that, because they are largely undiscovered, remain great values. Assyrtiko, the gorgeous white grape primarily of Santorini, has already achieved a good reputation for its dry, minerally wines that fall somewhere on the flavor-and-texture spectrum between Muscadet and Chablis. But a host of other white grapes await wider discovery, whether the modestly known like Moschofilero and Roditis, or the almost completely unknown, like Malagousia. Thank goodness for these indigenous grapes, and for the vision of Greek growers and producers to protect them. Otherwise, perhaps, we would have seen in the last 15 years a sea of Greek Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs, which might have sold well if they had been cheap enough, but which would have bored all but the least discerning consumers. Instead, those who love wine the most have the exhilarating prospect of discovery ahead of them. Reds pose a bit more of a challenge for Americans. Grapes like Xinomavro, Agiorgitiko, Mandilaria, Mavrotragano and Limniona are truly uncharted territory. Yet when made with freshness and a minimum of artifice, uncloaked in the generic flavors of oak barrels, they can be wonderful. I will always remember the delight and astonishment I felt the first time I drank Domaine Zafeirakis’ transcendent Limniona. Familiarity with these wines will be only the beginning. Getting to know the intricacies of Greek appellations, the nuances of terroir 16

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and the characteristics of different producers will provide great pleasure over the next few decades. So will the experience of drinking properly aged Greek wines, rather than those that are simply fresh and delicious. As for retsina, it was my great joy to drink a Gaia Ritinitis Nobilis in San Francisco last year, and to discover how beautifully the wine meshed with smoky, charred lamb. It was one of my most memorable wines of 2016.

* Eric Asimov is the Chief Wine Critic of The New York Times


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“A VAST LANDSCAPE OF HISTORY AND STYLES OF WINE” B Y J ames T i d w e l l *

Greece is a country that enchants with its history and geography and impresses with its culture and modernism. This unique combination is displayed best in the Greek wine industry where indigenous grapes and traditional places combine with polished winemaking to produce a variety of styles that any modern wine drinker can admire. The spirit of experimentation and creativity while respecting history and styles leads to a range of wines from sparkling orange wine from Zitsa to traditional age-worthy reds from Macedonia. No other country offers such a vast landscape of history and styles of wine.

* James Tidwell is a Master Sommelier and Certified Wine Educator, co-founder of TEXSOM

“The Hellenic vineyard has no identity crisis: its indigenous grape varieties testify to a rich and ancient viticultural history, of which the Greeks are particularly proud.” Le F i g aro V i n “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.” TA R A Q . T H O M A S Executive Editor, Wine&Spirit


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PRAISE

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HIGH QUALITY, COMPETITIVELY PRICED

© ILLUSTRATION: FILIPPOS AVRAMIDES

B Y S u sa n K ostr z e w a *

Greek wine, a multi-millennia-old endeavor, is truly coming into its own today in the American and worldwide market and has seen an astounding rise in international exposure over the last five years. Though in some degree thanks to a demand in the modern wine market for mineral-driven, indigenous and unique wine styles, this blossoming has also been the result of increased innovation, education and a more global perspective on behalf of Greek winemakers and wine industry influentials. The product has improved to a level that has made it world-class, able to compete on any world stage. Food and food culture has also driven the popularity and interest in Greek wine. These are wines made for the best flavors and dishes in the world, beyond the bounty of Greek regional cuisine with which they pair so beautifully. As consumers’ desire for terroir-driven food and wine, and regional flavors, increases, Greek wines are perfectly poised to fill that gap with styles, flavors and stories that could be from nowhere else. Another hallmark of modern Greek wine: price-to-quality ratio. Greek wine is suitably and competitively priced, delivering very high quality and unique personality at prices that encourage experimentation. In the past, consumers who were intimidated by a variety or region not known before were loathe to dig deep into their wallets for wines that felt risky; prices of Greek wine today encourage experimenting. Just tasting Greek wine has proven to be the hook, and wine drinkers rarely turn back. Emerging regions are often pressured to produce wine that is immediately familiar or easy for the international consumer; Greece has wisely held its ground in promoting its own delicious indigenous varieties, from Assytriko to Xinomavro to Moschofilero and beyond. But it hasn’t been unrealistic in understanding that a gap exists which must be bridged, resulting in clever (and elegant) indigenous/international varietal blends that showcase distinctive Greek flavors in a context that is familiar for beginning Greek wine drinkers. The hope is that those beginners will evolve into tasting the world-class single varietals Greece is offering, and it looks like the approach is working. Homer once said that “Dionysus [Bacchus] opens the gate of the heart.” For wine lovers, Greek wine is poised to become the ultimate oenophile’s romance.

* Susan Kostrzewa, is the Executive Editor of Wine Enthusiast Magazine.

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“A perfect communion of past and present, Assyrtiko is poised to take its place among the great whites of the world.” S u sa n K ostr z e w a Wine Enthusiast


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PRAISE

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QUALITY & CONSISTEnCY 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... J u l ia H ar d i n g , M a s t e r o f W i n e

I’ll Be Your Mirror A P o e m by M arti n M a d ri g a l e *

“Xinomavro is the next cult grape. Give them a try and don’t stop with just one producer or style. There is a lot of diversity on tap.”

New York City Sommelier seeks truth It’s out there in wine You just have to look closely France? Of course Italy? Certainly Greece? 100% You belong You deserve a corner seat at the world wine table Don’t pay attention to Bordeaux or Napa or Barolo Forget those places That’s not who you are Or who you want to be Burgundy didn’t birth Assyrtiko They don’t grow Liatiko in Oregon You’ve taught us about Amphora, Appellation Controllee, Aglianico, Aleatico, Greco, Malvasia, Moscato Vinsanto But you need to SHOUT IT LOUD Chardonnay from Peloponnese? Thanks, but no thanks But they like to drink it in Germany? Who cares The future is yours Because you have what everyone wants Ancestral grapes grown on hillsides since before the Parthenon And if you don’t see this Then I’ll be your mirror Reflect what you are In case you don’t know As a sommelier That’s the least I can do

M ark S q u ires www . r o b e r t p a r k e r . c o m * Michael Madrigale is the Head Sommelier at Bar Boulud, Épicerie Boulud & Boulud Sud.

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PRAISE

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Home: The Final Frontier

Ask serious wine professionals about Greece these days and the responses are remarkably similar. They’ll relate their shocking first encounter with contemporary Greek wine, which has led to lifelong love and fascination, or reflect on the paradoxical “newness” of Greek wines, which, despite 4,500 years of history, have only recently slipped B Y J oh n S z a b o , M S * into mainstream drinkers’ consciousness. They’ll acknowledge Greece’s tremendous wealth of indigenous varieties, some 300 odd, which provide a near-endless potential repertoire of unique flavors to offer jaded international consumers; they’ll also praise the Greek wine industry’s decision to follow the long, hard road of promoting these unknown treasures, rather than the easier but short-sighted one of pushing indistinguishable, internationally-styled wines. These points are all entirely true. If you’re in the shrinking minority for whom Greek wines remain unfamiliar, or tainted by previous experience, I urge you to taste these wines again as for the first time, with open mind and heart. You won’t be disappointed. But the question currently facing the industry, now that Greek wines have already earned considerable admiration, is what to do next? Having conquered many markets, now comes the more arduous and long-term task of administering and growing them. For me, this means staying on the high road, being ever-vigilant about quality and authenticity, celebrating uniqueness, and staying out of the race to the bottom price tier. Programs to encourage quality-focused producers will increase the critical mass of fine wines, and further solidify the country’s reputation within the premium wine world. Continuing education is key, abroad and especially at home – the final frontier. Considering Greece’s legendary beauty and the importance of tourism, ensuring that wines are properly stored and served everywhere, from humble tavernas to top resorts and restaurants, has the potential to convince thousands more each year of what many already know. So be sure to insist on proper service temperature (chilled, even for reds on those sultry Greek nights) and decent glassware to experience Greek wines as they deserve to be.

© ILLUSTRATION: FILIPPOS AVRAMIDES

* John Szabo is a Master Sommelier, partner and principal reviewer for WineAlign.com.

“If you can get a hold of a good bottle of Greek wine, you’ve found a gem, because there are some fantastic wines in that country at great prices.” V O GU E . C O M

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INSIGHT

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Socrates Know thys(h)elf

The only road to follow Despite a history of thousands of years, modern Greek winemakers did not know how to make it in highly competitive foreign markets. Until now.

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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 moderation goes, before begrudgingly arriving at the more rational admission that everything actually began in the greater Mediterranean region, and

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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

© ILLUSTRATIONS: DIMITRIS TSOUMPLEKAS

BY YIANNIS PAR ASK E VOPOULOS


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

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 24

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INSIGHT

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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 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.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Yiannis Paraskevopoulos, PhD in Oenology from the University of Bordeaux II, is the cofounder of Gaia Wines.


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INSIGHT

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The North American Challenge Made from the treasure trove of native varieties and with an excellent price-quality ratio, Greek wines are making a mark on the US and Canadian market.

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ven though wine represents a small percentage of Greece’s GDP, it has become one of the most dynamic export sectors, bringing with it a high prestige factor. The country’s difficult economic situation has actually been a stimulus for wine exports, especially to the US and Canada, as wineries have been compelled to concentrate their sales efforts in foreign markets. Wine exports to the US have increased in value by over 60% from 2010 to 2015 (1), with the per-liter price increasing by 44% to €4.73. Wine exports to Canada rose by 50% from 2011 to 2015 (2), with Greek whites making up 80% of the increase. Moreover, the relatively low per capita wine consumption in both Canada and the US represents a huge potential for future growth, as wine increasingly becomes a part of the everyday consumer’s lifestyle. Wines priced from $15-20, $20-25 and $25 or more in the retail categories constitute one of the most dynamic segments of the market in both countries. This trend bodes well for Greek wine, since these categories are where Greek wines are the strongest, offering an excellent price-quality ratio and establishing a niche in the medium-to-upper price range. The fact that Greece has its own native varieties also offers the chance for differentiation in a market already crowded with many of the same

international varieties. Independent studies tracking consumption trends in the US now include a reference to Greek wine as a category – virtually unthinkable just 10 years ago. In fact, millennials (18-38 years old), the largest wine-consuming segment in the US and the most open to trying new varieties, have already been buying wine from Greece, among other emerging wine regions (4). Another recent study included Greece, along with Spain, Chile and Argentina, among the most up-and-coming countries in the US market (5). Greek wine’s marketing and educational efforts have always targeted the wine market’s gatekeepers, with the media receiving much of the initial focus. Positive coverage of Greek wine has become common, as the wines continue to exceed expectations. Sommeliers have also embraced Greece’s treasure trove of indigenous varieties

(1) Eurostat (2) Canadian Government Census Bureau (3) 2016 Nielsen survey (4) 2016 Wine Market Council report (5) Conducted by the internationally acclaimed marketing and branding company Wine Intelligence

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and are amazed when they visit the vineyards to experience the terroir. An effort has also commenced to offer promotional assistance to retail outlets, as more and more shops add Greek wine to their shelves. Top US and Canadian culinary schools, universities and sommelier organizations have also been enlisted to get the word out to future wine professionals and consumers. In recent years, there has also been a new focus on direct-to-consumer marketing, which the internet has made easier and more cost-effective. Greek wine has invested in the creation of a national consumer database which facilitates marketing to people already interested in Greek wine, in part by refining the broad-brush approach and providing consumers the specific information they want. Marketing efforts are also targeting growing wine markets in the central US that do not get the attention devoted to the coasts. In Canada, Greek wine has continued to support joint promotions with the Liquor Control Boards of Ontario and Quebec, which have produced astonishing results over the last five years.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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

© ILLUSTRATIONS: DIMITRIS TSOUMPLEKAS

B Y S o f ia P erpera


The Gift of Dionysos White dry wine from sideritis variety

Petite Fleur Rose dry wine from sideritis variety

Pnevma Grape marc spirit produced by the distillation of grape marc of sideritis variety

Apostagma Distilled wine from sideritis variety aged in oak barrels

A DV E R TO R I A L

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: info@parparoussis.com | www.parparoussis.com


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INSIGHT

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THE ART OF DRINKING 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

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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 dates back to the 5th century BC and was often taught to students of both that period and through the ages. In the narrative, Hesiod asks what is most edifying for

the human soul. In response, Homer, who had 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; so too, 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.

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© Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos


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insight

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 (Greek independence fighter) 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 Müller. 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 was to prompt discussion or revelry. They devised pithy aphorisms about wine drinking as an effective yet temporary means of escape from this world’s

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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 Aeschylus 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 and 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 – as they provided a temporary release from life’s cares and the woes of death. It is precisely this point that often allowed for the rapid embrace of 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 syncretism that the poet Angelos Sikelianos (1884-1951) 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 (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.

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Š Constantine Manos/Magnum Photos


© Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos

The four-legged guard keeps watch; making sure that no one disturbs his friend, bent over the table in 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 folk song, 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.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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. 32

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TIMELINE

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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

4th cENTURY AD 700 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.

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

500 BC

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

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

13 th CENTURY

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

1453

146 AD 800 BC

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

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Greece becomes part of the Roman Empire. A slow, but definitive economic decline begins. The Romans copy much of the Greek wine system. The focus of the wine trade shifts from Greece to Rome.

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. 


1960 s

1821

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

1898

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 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.

War 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.

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.

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

1912-1949

1990 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.

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.

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

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ORIGINS

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

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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, 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 the Attica/Boeotia frontier, at a spot later overlooked by the border fort of Eleftheres. From

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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origins

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Dionysus was worshiped regularly at aristocratic symposia, all-male occasions often noted for drunken camaraderie, music, female entertainment and orgiastic sex.

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 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. The Rural Dionysia (December/ January) were small celebrations held by communities at various sanctuaries outside Athens, to which urban res38

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

idents 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, as well as 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 almost 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 c. 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.”


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HISTORY

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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

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

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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 slave-girl holding a wine cup and a ladle, by Oltos, ca 510 BC. (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

THE SYMPOSIA

Find out more about the wildest parties in history

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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 Er42

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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 to 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).

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. 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 G R E E C E IS

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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.

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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.


explore GREECE IS

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WINE

THE GR AND TO UR

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

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exciting terroirs, GRAPES WITH ATTITUDE

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. They have dedicated their efforts to promoting native varieties and to marrying them with internationally known grapes that have adapted well to the northern mesoclimates. The region today enjoys a fine reputation, and not just for its large-scale wineries. Smaller producers are making significant inroads, too, with top-notch wines that are fast gaining fans around the world. BY YiANNIS K AR AK ASIS, MW

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Boutari vineyards in Yiannakohori, Naoussa.

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Father John samples wine in the cellar of the Iviron Monastery of Mount Athos.

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epresenting almost one-sixth of Greece’s total vine-growing area, 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, so the climate can get quite chilly, particularly in higher places such as Kozani in Western Macedonia and Amyntaio in Macedonia. Most vineyards in the 48

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region are located at altitudes ranging from 200m to 300m all the way up to 950m in Siatista and 1,000m in Metsovo in Epirus. The soil composition varies greatly; however, as a generalization, it is rich in clay with some patches of limestone. 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 referring to the land of the Kikones, a people in Thrace, and the wine made there by Maron, one of the priests

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1. Aging bottles at the Pavlidis Estate. 2. Pioneer Evangelos Averoff (1910-1990) seen at his vineyard in Metsovo, northwestern Greece. 3. The cellar at the Katogi Averoff estate. 4. (Opposite page) The famous reds of the Xinomavro variety are earning increasingly higher marks. 5. Bottling at Domaine Biblia Chora in the Pangaion Hills near Kavala.


Š ALEXANDROS AVRAMIDIS, VANGELIS ZAVOS

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The vineyard of Domaine Glivanos, a family-owned winery with a 37-year history in Zitsa, Ioannina, northwestern Greece.

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of Apollo in Ismarus. This wine, says Homer, 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 sweet, strong flavor. The foundations of modern winemaking were not laid here until the 1930s, after a terrible phylloxera epidemic wiped out every single vineyard in Macedonia and Thrace. The Greek statesman Evangelos Averoff-Tositsas was the first to introduce foreign grape varieties in 1958, starting a vineyard with Cabernet Sauvignon 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, on the Halkidiki peninsula. At around the same time, Evangelos Tsantalis was discovering the grandeur of the Mount Athos vineyards. In 1981, his Agioritiko (its name derived from Aghion Oros or Holy Mountain) was recognized as the first Regional Wine of Greece. Another key player in the northern Greek wine scene is the Boutari family. With a history stretching back to 1879, it started building its reputation at Naoussa in Imathia (90k from Thessaloniki). Vangelis Gerovassiliou also exerted a significant influence on

developments in the north, both as an oenologist at the Porto Carras estate and as a winemaker at his own wineries, from the mid-1980s on. Other significant players include Alpha Estate and Kir-Yianni, while the Thymiopoulos Vineyards are also gaining ground, quickly evolving from a boutique winery to a large scale producer. Northern Greece is now experiencing a new heyday. On the one hand, the appearance of small wineries, often family-owned and producing no more than 70,000 bottles a year, alongside the big traditional names and, on the other, the quest for harmonious blends between native and foreign varieties, G R E E C E IS

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1. Tsantali’s Agioritiko vineyard, on the “Holy Mountain” of Athos in Halkidiki. 2. Selecting the grapes at the Pavlidis Estate in Drama.

© ALEXANDROS AVRAMIDIS

3. Domaine Costa Lazaridi in Adriani, Drama.

have together 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 breathing fresh life into the industry. Outstanding wines are being produced from boutique wineries such as Dalamara, Argatia and Karydas in Naoussa, and Tatsis in Goumenissa. Diamantis and Dyo Filoi in Siatista are showing excellent potential as well, the former with a gorgeous Xinomavro and the latter with glorious dessert wines. These efforts are focused primarily on producing terroir wines emphasizing the quality and purity of the grape, often through organic farming practices or through limited use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Some vintners are experimenting with biodynamic agriculture, while other trends include fermentation 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 wines of many organic producers. Τhe sparkling wines in the Amyntaio region by Karanikas, made with the traditional Champenoise method, the revival of high-quality retsina by Kechris and several orange wines, all point 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 and fragile wines for earlier consumption. Another area with PDO status is Goumenissa in Kilkis, Central Macedonia. Siatista may emerge as the fifth terroir of Xinomavro (there is also Rapsani in 50

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Central Greece), if more investment is made in the vineyards. Zitsa in Ioannina, Epirus, has also been graced with PDO status, and produces the lemony Debina, a variety that yields both subtle and fresh sparkling wines. Meanwhile, Plagies Melitona, from the slopes of Mount Meliton in Sithonia in Halkidiki, is the only Greek PDO region where the world-renowned Cabernet Sauvignon is still the dominant variety; it is also used in blends with what is probably Greece’s oldest surviving variety, Limnio. It was here in Halkidiki, and in Domaine Porto Carras in particular, that Malagousia, which is the fastest-growing Greek variety today, was first planted commercially in the 1970s and started on its journey to success. 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 such as 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 are produced in the colder climes of Kavala, and the reds in slightly warmer Drama. Other native varieties encountered in northern Greece are Roditis, the popular and floral Malagousia, Assyrtiko in fruitier versions than those produced in Santorini, as well as Vlachiko and Bekari, both grown in Epirus. There is also a wide range of foreign varieties, from Grenache to Tannat.

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Yiannis Karakasis is one of the 355 Masters of Wine in the world, He consults, writes and teaches about wine. He is the founder of karakasis.mw blog and the author of the ebook “The Vineyards and Wines of Greece 2017.”

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THE GREAT GRAPE XINOMAVRO

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PAIRINGS

Other regional varieties

Fresh Xinomavro Oven-roasted lamb and game, meatpies, yellow cheeses Aged Xinomavro Barbequed meats, country sausages, matured cheese, mushrooms

Debina Mild cheese, green salads, green and cheese pies Assyrtiko Small fried fish, tomato salad, meze New generation Retsina Fried fish and seafood, meze, ethnic cuisine Malagousia Vegetable dishes, risotto and white sauce pasta, fresh and creamy cheeses

© STYLING: TINA WEBB, PHOTOS: GEORGE DRAKOPOULOS, ASSISTANT PHOTOGRAPHER: MANOLIS KAPA

Xinomavro (Ksee no’ ma vro) is northern Greece’s most noble variety, planted in approximately 2,166 hectares of vineyards. It is a capricious 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 1960s. Xinomavro wines are not particularly striking in color; their magic lies in the aromatic complexity of small red fruits and floral tones such as the rose. Leather, sun-dried tomato and sophisticated truffle notes complement the bouquet, particularly of a mature wine. Solid 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 is a gastronomic wine paired ideally with lamb and rich, meaty dishes.


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The first white wine of Domaine Porto Carras was baptised “Blanc De Blancs” by Salvador Dali, the famous Spanish artist, who considered it a favorite. Every year Domaine Porto Carras receives awards in numerous prestigious international wine competitions adding more to the reputation of our wines and our company. Today, the winery exports to more than 20 countries, including USA, Canada, China, Australia and Germany. The wine producer of Domaine Porto Carras, Yliana Stengou, wants to share her passion for wine with wine lovers from all over the world by creating a unique wine tourism project. Visit Domaine’s Chateau “Villa Galini” where great personalities from all over the world, such as Gina Bachauer, Melina Merkouri, Giscard d’Estaing, and Salvador Dali, enjoyed the breathtaking landscape with a glass of wine. Tasting some of the leading award-winning Greek wines at a specially designed wine bar in the winery’s garden, dining at Porto Carras Grand Resort’s signature restaurants and staying at the legendary resort of Porto Carras are just some of the many reasons which will make this wine trip memorable.

Domaine Porto Carras is the largest organic vineyard in Greece and one of the largest in Europe with a total area of 500 hectares. The wine-growing PDO zone Slopes of Meliton is exclusive to Domaine Porto Carras. The mountainous areas surrounding the Domaine create excellent ecological conditions for the cultivation of 28 selective indigenous and international grape varieties. Nowadays, the “Slopes of Mt. Meliton” vineyards stand as a model of organic viniculture, in line with modern international trends respecting the consumer and the environment. The forefather of modern oenology Émile Peynaud, our first research oenologist, created a revolution in Greek winemaking and produced the first Greek Cabernet Sauvignon “Chateau Porto Carras.” Domaine Porto Carras is also the winery that revived one of the most promising Greek varieties, the famous Malagouzia back in the 60s. Most of our wines are produced from unique grape varieties such as Limnio, which is the oldest red grape variety in the world and is referred to in the texts of Ancient Greek philosophers, including Aristotle, Homer, Hesiod and others.

INFO Sithonia, Halkidiki Tel. (+30) 23750.77.000, (+30) 2310.253.758, (+30) 210.997.7000 Email: wines@portocarras.com | Web: www.portocarraswines.gr


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V isiting the source © DIMITRIS VLAIKOS, ALEXANDROS AVRAMIDIS

BY MARIA KOR ACHAI

ALPHA ESTATE

DOMAINE BIBLIA CHORA

DOMAINE PORTO CARRAS

Set in the heart of a 100-hectare, family-owned holding, the vineyard of the Alpha Estate, on the outskirts of the picturesque town of Amyntaio in Florina, the estate 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 2016 it welcomed some 11,000 guests who explored the facilities and tasted its different selections. The winery’s proximity to some lovely villages and two lakes (where boat rides are available) presents visitors with even more options. Alpha Estate was named Winery of the Year by Wine & Spirits magazine in 2013.

In addition to the high-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, sums up this vineyard’s philosophy: a marriage of technology and tradition. The vineyard’s 45 organically cultivated hectares are situated on the slopes of Mt Pangeo, where a modern winery welcomes aficionados and initiates them into its secrets – in English, Greek and German.

Overlooking the Toroneos Gulf on the slopes of Mount Meliton in Sithonia (the middle leg of Halkidiki), Domaine Porto Carras is Greece’s single largest organic vineyard and one of the largest in Europe that follows the French winemaking philosophy. The old winery itself, Villa Galini, is an impressive chateau-like structure, inspired by the monasteries of Macedonia. The vineyards, which cover 475 hectares, are shaped in a horseshoe around the modern facilities. Visits can be tailored to individual requirements and may include a tour of the winery as well as other activities, such as walks, picnics among the vines, horse riding and diving. Wine tastings, accompanied by cold dishes or by a full lunch, are available. No visit here is complete without trying the famous Greek Limnio. To crown this wine tourism experience, the nearby Porto Carras Grand Resort complex is renowned for its distinctive luxury and warm hospitality.

ΙNFO 2nd km on the Amyntaio-Aghios Pantelei-

ΙNFO Kokkinohori, Kavala, Tel. (+30) 25920.449.74, www.bibliachora.gr; open Mon-Fri 9:00-14:00; tours, by appointment only, are free of charge.

monas Road, Tel. (+30) 23860.201.11-12, www.alpha-estate.com; open daily 9:00-16:00; tours, by appointment only, are free of charge; advanced tasting package also on offer.

ΙNFO Sithonia, Tel. (+30) 2310.253.758, 210.997.7000 and 23750.770.00, www. portocarraswines.gr; visits by appointment.

KATOGI AVEROFF 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 at its restaurant. Try the meatballs with leeks, accompanied by a glass of the all-time classic Katogi Averoff red, or opt for the veal with locally made hylopites (a Greek pasta), to be washed down with another red, the Inima Negoska. For those who enjoy seafood, there are dishes like the smoked trout, which pairs perfectly with the Inima Assyrtiko Athiri. Climbing the sides of the Pindos mountain range, the vineyards at Yiniets owe their place on the Greek wine map to the politician Evangelos Averoff-Tositsas, who in 1950 planted Greece’s first Cabernet Sauvignon vines and started bottling wine in the cellar of his house. The winery tour includes an informative video with more of the estate’s history, as well as the chance to sample the voluptuous Rossiu di Munte Yiniets.

ΙNFO Metsovo, Tel. (+30) 26560.314.90, www.katogi-averoff.gr,

www.ariahotels.gr; open daily 10:00-16:00; tours are free; tastings (by appointment) start at €4 per person, while you can also arrange for food.

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DOMAINE KARANIKA

KTIMA GEROVASSILIOU

KTIMA KIR-YIANNI

The family-run winery in Amyntaio at an altitude of 600m overlooking Mt Kaimaktsalan, Lake Vegoritida and Mt Vermio, produces organic and biodynamic wines and offers a rich visiting experience. Visitors are welcomed by the family to their home, get to meet their animals and visit the vineyards on jeeps. They can also take a master class in sparkling wine and enjoy the beauty of the area while horse riding, mountain biking or walking in the woods. In 2016, the estate was one of the Wineries to Watch listed by Wine & Spirits magazine.

A jewel of a winery, Ktima Gerovassiliou can teach you much about famous and not-so-famous Greek and international varieties. Its excellent wine museum showcases objects from the personal collection of Vangelis Gerovassiliou, including rare presses, tools, barrels, bottles and a huge collection of corkscrews. The view from the reception area is enchanting; visitors can look out across the vineyards and down to the sea or gaze up at soaring Mt Olympus as they enjoy a glass of wine.

Info Amyntaio, Florina, Tel. (+30) 694.532.6267, www.karanika.com. Tours and standard tasting are free upon request; extra charge for customized packages.

ΙNFO Epanomi, Thessaloniki, Tel. (+30) 23920.445.67, www.gerovassiliou.gr; open MonTue and Thu-Fri 10:00-16:00, Wed 13:00-19:00, Sun 11:00-17:00, closed Sat; tours and tastings €5 PP; advance booking required for groups.

A creation of Yiannis Boutaris, one of Greece’s wine pioneers, and now run by his son Stellios, Ktima Kir-Yianni on the foothills of Mt Vermio, is ushering in a new era after giving its facilities a complete makeover, promising a fresh and exciting experience. The tour includes a brief history of Xinomavro – a native grape that was salvaged by the elder Boutaris and is now turning heads at home and abroad – and either a picnic in the vineyard or a meal on the veranda, as well as the possibility of arranging more in-depth tastings. The new underground wine cellar is also particularly noteworthy.

ΙNFO Yiannakohori, Naoussa,

Tel. (+30) 23320.511.00, www.kiryianni.gr; tours and tastings €4-12 PP, by appointment only.

Wine Roads of Northern Greece

KTIMA PAVLIDIS

WINE ART ESTATE

Mountain views, a beautiful vineyard, minimalist interiors and a New World philosophy are defining features of the Ktima Pavlidis in Drama. For the past 20 years, the estate has been producing a number of internationally acclaimed wines such as the outstanding Thema series, featured in the Wine Enthusiast magazine’s top 100 list for 2016. Tastings are held in the underground cellar, while the public is also invited to watch the nocturnal grape harvest, a practice that is faithfully applied here so as to maintain the purity of the organoleptic properties of the grapes. A 5-minute drive brings you to the Aggitis Cave, one of the world’s largest river caves.

In the shadow of Mount Pangeo, which in antiquity was associated with the cult of the wine god Dionysus, the village of Mikrohori is home to a modern winery consisting of two sites linked by an impressive underground passage which also serves as the cellar. Here, red and white wines are matured in hundreds of French oak barrels. The estate cultivates both Greek and international varieties, while the entire production process is monitored by a state-of-the-art computer system. The tour takes visitors through the production area and the cellars, with cheese and charcuterie served along the way.

ΙNFO

Kokkinogia, Drama, Tel. (+30) 25210.583.00, www.ktima-pavlidis.gr; open daily 10:00-14:00; tours are free, tasting prices vary.

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 28 wineries, points of gastronomic interest, cultural monuments and natural beauty spots, these routes explore the rich and evolving wine landscape of northern Greece. On the European Day of Wine Tourism last November, the initiative set a new record with over 5,000 visitors. Route maps are available to download at www.wineroads.gr.

ΙNFO Mikrohori, Drama, Tel. (+30) 25210.836.26, www.wineart.gr; open Mon-Fri 8:30-16:30; visits by appointment.

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© SOFIA PAPASTRATI

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.

A mosaic of varieties and terroirs

CENTRAL GREECE BY YIANNIS K AR AK ASIS, mw

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A vineyard in Attica

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The vineyards of the Kokotos Estate, north of Athens.

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ost of the vineyards of Central Greece are located on plains where the weather tends to be hot and dry and the climate is definitely continental, 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 (such as Olympus and Parnassos), there is a plurality 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 less-

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er-known Messenikola (for reds) in Karditsa; and Anchialos (for whites) in Magnesia. In Rapsani at the foot of Lower (Kato) Olympus, Xinomavro is blended with another two indigenous varieties that soften its character to produce wines with a more direct style when compared to Naoussa wines in the north. A higher ratio of Xinomavro ensures more age-worthy wines with firm tannins that need time to fully reveal their virtues. Tsantali is the biggest name and largest producer in the region, while the Dougos boutique winery, managed by the brother-and-sister team of Thanos and Louiza Dougos, crafts focused wines for the long run. A recent addition comes from

Apostolos Thymiopoulos (producer of game-changer Earth and Sky Naoussa) who decided to invest in the region by establishing a new winery under the name Terra Olympus. Still on the slopes of Mount Olympus and at an altitude of 700m in Krania, Evripides Katsaros from the Katsaros Estate, who is also doing outstanding things with international varieties, has introduced a lovely Xinomavro wine. At Tyrnavos in Larissa, Christos Zafeirakis has made strides with the red Limniona variety, a candidate with a promising future. Theopetra and Migas Estate are another two wineries to watch. Heading south, we come to the valley of Atalanti in Fthiotida, which has

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1. Brothers Stelios, Panagiotis and Nikos Zacharias at the Ktima Mouson winery. 2. Savatiano, a wonderful, once-overlooked wine grape. 3. The modern, bioclimatic Papagiannakos Winery in Attica. 4. The Wine Museum at Oenotria Land, the Costa Lazaridi estate in Kapandriti, north of Athens. 5. Photo of Andreas Cambas with his workers and relatives at the historic Attica winery. 6. Kyros Melas, owner of La Tour Melas in Fthiotida, with his oenologists Elsa Picard (from France) and Panos Zoumboulis (from Greece). 7. Apostolos Mountrichas, owner of Avantis Estate in Evia.

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

Open the door to discover the treasure that is the Limniona variety, at Domaine Zafeirakis in Tyrnavos.

As a result of the diverse topography shaped by the region’s several mountain ranges (such as Olympus and Parnassos) there is a plurality of mesoclimates.

proven fertile ground in past decades, not only for foreign reds such as 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 (such as La Tour Melas) are adding their own pages to this venerable volume. Meanwhile, in the Valley of the Muses in neighboring Viotia, another grape is attracting interest: Mouchtaro, a red with intense fruity aromas, high acidity and solid tannins, with Nikos Zacharias from Muses Estate producing a delicious example. Located at the southeastern edge of 60

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Central Greece and home to the Greek capital, the region of Attica has been making modern wine history since 1882, when Andreas Cambas established the family winery bearing his name. His enterprise soon became the first in the country to make use of modern technology and of the know-how of experts. In 1935, the winery began selling Cava Cambas, Greece’s first aged wine, made exclusively from free-run Savatiano juice matured in a horizontal position in wax-sealed bottles for eight years before being released. The seat of the Cambas winery, Kantza, even managed to acquire a designation of origin, albeit only 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 high-yield grape that has adapted extremely well to the mesoclimate of Attica’s Mesogeia Plains, where, thanks to the calcium-rich soil, it has managed to yield good quality vintages from unirrigated bush-vines that are as much as 60 years old. The Papagiannakos Winery leads the way in Savatiano’s renaissance, having released superb old vintages; the talented vintner Stamatis Mylonas follows. 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, remains quite terrible, so it is always wiser to opt for the premium stuff. 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. Again, it is Papagiannakos and Mylonas, together with Vassiliou, Gikas and Markou who are producing some very reliable retsinas. 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 given 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. The Avantis, Lykos and Vrinioti wineries all produce delicious wines.


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THE GREAT GRAPE SAVATIANO

© STYLING: TINA WEBB, PHOTOS: GEORGE DRAKOPOULOS, ASSISTANT PHOTOGRAPHER: MANOLIS KAPA

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 produce excellent unresinated whites in favorable mesoclimates like that of the Mesogeia Plains. Here, we find vines planted in limestone (rare in Greece), bush-trained and left unirrigated to control the variety’s high vigor and safeguard its quality. Savatiano can stand up to drought conditions and yields wines that have a discreet color, and a fruity and aromatic nose full of citrus and peach that becomes honeyed and toasty with age. On the palate, 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 texture.

PAIRINGS

Other regional varieties

Savatiano Fried vegetables, white meat, lemony and white sauces Roditis Fried fish, mild cheeses, meze Retsina Meze, ethnic cuisines, fried fish and vegetables

Limniona Lamb, poultry, mild yellow cheeses Rapsani and Mesenikola Casseroles, ragout, oily fish

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V isiting the source BY Maria kor achai

AVANTIS ESTATE

COSTA LAZARIDI WINE MUSEUM

DOMAINE PAPAGIANNAKOS

Exciting things are in the cards for visitors to Avantis Estate, owned by vintner Apostolos Mountrichas, a name intrinsically linked to the Greek success of the red Syrah. After a tour (in Greek or English) of the facilities, guests can taste award-winning wines by the glass at its new wine bar, or increase their knowledge in an entertaining game designed especially for oenophiles. They can also enjoy the cosmetic properties of the grape with some pampering at the Lenga Grape Spa or by purchasing antioxidant creams to take back home.

The Oenotria Land Costa Lazaridi in Attica was the second wine complex to be opened by the Lazaridi group (the first is in Drama, northern Greece). 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 by appointment.

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

ΙNFO Mytikas, Lilantio, Halkida-Evia,

Tel. (+30) 22950.522.13, www.domaine-lazaridi.gr; open Mon-Fri 9:00-17:30, Sat-Sun 11:00-15:00.

ΙNFO Pousi Kalogeri, Markopoulo Mesogeas, Attica, Tel. (+30) 22990.252.06, www.papagiannakos.gr; open Mon-Fri 8:15-16:00, Sat 9:00-15:30; tours and tastings (from €7 PP) by appointment.

LA TOUR MELAS

RAPSANI WINE ADVENTURE BY TSANTALI

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 defunct olive grove. The guided tours (in English, French or Greek) of the winery and the surrounding area last about an hour and a half on average. During the wine tasting, don’t miss the red La Tour Melas with its distinctive bottle. You can also spend the night here; the most sought-after rooms are the beautifully designed accommodations within the estate’s imposing tower. In the morning, you’ll be greeted with a hearty breakfast of regional delights.

Olympus, Greece’s highest mountain, is also a place where wine grapes have been cultivated since the 18th century. After experiencing a lengthy slump, the practice of vine-growing was reinvigorated in 1991 when the Tsantali family acquired the local winery. Today, its zone of PDO Rapsani comprises a collection of small vineyards scattered along the southeastern slope and covering a total area of 90 hectares. The Rapsani Wine Adventure takes visitors on a “wine safari” up the mountain in off-road vehicles, continues on to the Church of Aghion Theodoron for a picnic of local delicacies and Tsantali Rapsani wines, and ends at the charming village of Rapsani with a visit to the Museum of Vine and Wine.

ΙNFO Achinos, Fthiotida, Tel. (+30) 694.475.6556 and 694.285.8839, www. latourmelas.com; free tours and tastings by appointment, from 8:00-15:00 daily.

ΙNFO Tel. (+30) 23990.761.00, marketing@tsantali.gr; tours by appointment for groups of 4, 8 or 12; from €40 PP; available from mid-March to early September.

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© VANGELIS ZAVOS, KATERINA KAMPITI, JOHN K. TOUNTAS

Tel. (+30) 22210.553.50, www.avantisestate.gr; daily 11:00-16:00, Sat 11:00-17:00, Sun11:00-15:00; tours and tastings from €5 PP.

ΙNFO 2nd km Kapandriti-Kalamos Road, Attica,


Winemaker Angelos Rouvalis at the Rouvalis Winery in Aigio, northern Peloponnese.

Agiorgitiko and Moschofilero country

Peloponnese BY YiANNIS K AR AK ASIS, MW

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© VANGELIS ZAVOS

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 same truth that the visitor encounters in the Peloponnese, which, much like a big island, puts all of its quirks and assets on display with honest clarity. Remarkable archaeological sites like Olympia, Epidaurus and Messene, amazing beaches on both the Aegean and Ionian sides of the peninsula, and an abundance of natural bounty from the land and sea come together to create an impressively 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; Nemea in Corinthia is the undisputed wine-country star. G R E E C E IS

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he Peloponnese is mountainous, with the highest summit of Taygetus standing above all other ranges at an altitude of 2,405m. In the south of Greece, bordered by sea on all sides and with a landscape of soaring peaks and crags at its heart, the Peloponnese enjoys a mild Mediterranean climate along its coasts, becoming more continental further inland. There are, however, significant variations, both in mesoclimates and in diurnal and nocturnal temperatures. The history of vine cultivation in the Peloponnese is fascinating. It dates back to antiquity and boasts one of its finest moments in the Middle Ages, when Monemvasia put the region firmly on the map with its trade in Malvasia (or Malmsey) wine. Its modern wine history can be traced to 1861, with the establishment of the Achaia Clauss winery by the Bavarian trailblazer Gustav Clauss. It was Clauss who developed the sweet Mavrodaphne (also spelled Mavrodafni), now known around the world. Our wine tour of the Peloponnese starts in Achaia, where there are four Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) zones: one produces dry wines and three produce sweet wines. The PDO wines of the port city of Patras are made exclusively from the Roditis va-

1. The tasting hall at Domaine Skouras. 2. Viticulturist-oenologist Erifili Parparoussi at the Parparoussis Winery. 3. Autumnal shades at the vineyards of Mantineia. 4. The cellar at Achaia Clauss, Patras’ historic winery. 5. Vassilis Kanellakopoulos with sons Dimitris and Haralambos at the Mercouri Estate winery. Pruning the vines at the Mercouri vineyards

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6. The centerpiece of the Domaine Spiropoulos winery in Mantineia is the traditional Arcadian stone tower, which stands beside the modern facilities.


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riety; the best among them are from vineyards situated about 800m above sea level on the slopes of Mt Aigialeia, with a few even reaching 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; Tetramythos Winery produces a striking example of this. The area’s sweet wines have a well-justified reputation for their fine quality and include several expensive premium examples; those with PDO status are Muscat Patra, Muscat Rio-Patra and, of course, Mavrodaphne of Patra. By law, Mavrodaphne of Patra wines may include a lesser proportion of the Black Corinthian variety, used to make the area’s famed raisins, but the wines made only from Mavrodaphne 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 from this line are those aged in the cel-

lars 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. In this region that spreads over 2,200 hectares, the red Agiorgitiko variety dominates, planted in a range of altitudes that go up to 900m. This grape produces hedonistic wines, distinguishable by their fruity aromas and signature velvety textures, making them particularly attractive to consumers. The finest examples, which are also age-worthy, come from the poor calcareous soil of the village of Koutsi, at an altitude between 400m and 600m, while the best vintages are achieved when the Agiorgitiko has a chance to ripen before the autumn rains. Asprokambos on the other side of ancient Nemea, with some terroirs climbing up to 900m, also shows excellent potential for the production of firm and structured wines, provided ideal ripening conditions can be met. The big guns of Nemea are wine producers Gaia, Skouras, Tselepos and Semeli, with excitement coming as well from smaller scale winemakers such as

A winemaker in action at the Mercouri Estate.

Myrto Salla, head of the Semeli Winery.

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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.

Winemaker Giannis Tselepos.

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© STYLING: TINA WEBB, PHOTOS: GEORGE DRAKOPOULOS, ASSISTANT PHOTOGRAPHER: MANOLIS KAPA

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THE GREAT GRAPEs

PAIRINGS

Moschofilero & Agiorgitiko

Fresh Nemea Cold cuts, rustic sausages, pasta with tomato and meaty sauce Aged Nemea Mature yellow cheeses, cold cuts (smoked), game, beef casserole Roditis, Robola Mild cheese, small fried fish and seafood, meze, poultry Mantineia – Green salads, white cheese, vegetable dishes

Two grapes represent the Peloponnese more than any other: the pink-skinned Moschofilero (Mos ko fee’ le ro) and the red Agiorgitiko (Ah yor yee’ ti ko). The former shows us its classic colors on the plateau of Mantineia, where a PDO of the same name is grown at an altitude of 650m. The still 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, these 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 10 years. The several examples available 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 also being done in other areas of the locality, including Ancient Nemea, Petri and Gymno.

Other regional varieties Monemvasia, Malvasia Green pies, white salty cheeses, white sauce pastas and risottos Mavrodaphne of Patra Mature and blue cheeses, chocolate and nut desserts

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Moschofilero grape.

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

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Mitravellas, Ieropoulos and Aivalis. The high plateau of Mantineia in Arcadia, with an average altitude of 650m, and the area of 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. Tselepos, Troupis and Bosinakis produce some stunning examples. In Monemvasia, meanwhile, the Tsibidis family has put 20 years of hard work into the revival of the historic Malvasia, bringing it forward 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 aromas 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, the Mercouri Estate has paved the way for the successful marriage of native Greek varieties like Mavrodaphne 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. Today, the Peloponnese is building distinct signature brands and raising the quality bar, offering visitors not just its culture and history, but also a portrait of its wine world composed of beautiful vineyards, outstanding flavors and dozens of promising producers.

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.


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V isiting the source BY Maria Kor achai

Domaine Skouras

DOMAINE SPIROPOULOS

MERCOURI estate

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

The austere stone tower that rises majestically above the modern winery in Mantineia tells us a lot about how the Spiropoulos family has been producing its wines since the late 1980s: honoring tradition while utilizing technology. The original vines, which were planted in 1860, are cultivated today using organic methods. Visitors can have a stroll through the vineyard, tour the facilities and taste some of their signature selections (including wines from both this estate and the winery’s Nemea vineyards).

The Mercouri Estate, established in 1864, is located in the western Peloponnese, on the plateau of the Ichthis Peninsula, close to ancient Olympia. It survived both a devastating epidemic and bankruptcy in the late 19th century and has now passed into the hands of the fourth and fifth generations of the founding family. Today, it covers 16 hectares and is considered among the most beautiful wineries in Greece. The vineyard still has a small parcel of its original Italian Refosco, but it has more than 15 other varieties, native and foreign, as well. Tours take visitors around the vineyard, the production facilities, the cellar and the on-site museum. The visit concludes with a tasting session featuring the estate’s wealth of products, a convivial activity that takes place under the shade of pine trees with a view of the Ionian Sea.

ΙNFO 10th km of the Argos-Sterna Road, Malandreni, Argos, Tel. (+30) 27510.236.88, www.skouras.gr; Open Mon-Fri 8:00-15:00, Sat 10:30-18:00; the tour is free of charge, but there is a fee for the tastings; groups by appointment.

ΙNFO 15th km of the Tripoli-Artemisio Road ,

Tel.(+30) 27960.614.00, www.domainspiropoulos. com; open Tue-Sat 9:00-15:00; tours by appointment.

ΙNFO Korakochori, Ilia, Tel. (+30) 26210.416.01, www.mercouri.gr; open Mon-Sat 9:00-15:00; tours are conducted for groups of 6 or more by appointment; prices start at €10 PP.

SEMELI WINERY

© VANGELIS ZAVOS

One of the fastest-growing wine producers in Greece, Semeli is credited with raising the standards of Greek winemaking. Impressive in both size and architectural design, Semeli Winery is a 20-minute drive from the archaeological site of Nemea and sits in a beautiful spot at an altitude of 600m. Tours take visitors around the production facilities and the vineyards – this is the source of the celebrated red Agiorgitiko variety – and the chance to taste the Moschofilero from neighboring Mantineia should not be missed.

ΙNFO Koutsi, Nemea, Corinthia, Tel. (+30) 27460.203.60, www.semeliwines.gr; open Mon-Fri 10:00-14:00, Sat-Sun10:00-15:00; for groups of 10 or more, tours are by appointment only; prices start at €6 PP.

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TETRAMYTHOS WINERY

TSELEPOS WINERY

PARPAROUsSIS WINERY

In a well-designed facility that instantly inspires a sense of comfortable familiarity, wine aficionados can enjoy the rare sight of three young people – Aristides and Stathis Spanos, together with Panagiotis Papagiannopoulos – approaching 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, Tselepos Winery, standing right at the heart of the family-owned vineyard, has been producing award-winning wines since 1992. It currently exports half of its output. The tour here includes a walk to the vineyard and the estate’s restored watermill, as well as a visit to the production facility and the aging cellars. Tastings include excellent Mantineia and Nemea wines, and the sparkling Amalia Brut.

The visits don’t have an organized, commercial character. However, Thanassis Parparoussis, one of the pioneers of the new era of Greek wine, and his family, will welcome you on request. Their beautiful winery is located a few kilometers outside Patra. The tour will take you on a wine-tasting journey that includes seven wines and two spirits that they also produce.

ΙNFO 8th km of the Pounta-Kalavryta Road, Ano Diakopto, Tel. (+30) 26910.975.00, www. tetramythoswines.com; open daily 8:00-16:00; Tours and regular tastings free of charge; there is a fee for special tastings.

ΙNFO 14th km of the Tripoli-Kastri Road,

Rizes- Arcadia, Tel. (+30) 27105.444.40, www.tselepos.gr; οpen Mon-Fri 8:00-16:00, Sat 9:00-15:00; tours by appointment and free of charge; there is a fee for tastings.

Info Bozaitika, Patra, Tel. (+30) 2610.420.334, www.parparoussis.com; open 8:00-15:00; visits by appointment only.

ROUVALIS winery

LAFAZANIS WINERY

Their vineyards are mountainous and remote but worth touring. Their multilevel winery is built on a rock on the slopes of Aigio. Each level relates to a different part of the production process: from harvest to winemaking. Tasting includes five wines. During harvest, it is possible to order and bottle your own 100% custom-made wine.

The Lafazanis family has 70 years of winemaking history behind it. The tour of their winery in Nemea, Korinthia, starts from the Temple of Hercules in Ancient Kleones, includes an optional journey through the vineyards and ends with wine tasting. Nestor Wines, the family’s second winery, is located in Messinia. Inspired by the nearby Palace of Nestor, it is also worth visiting.

Info Selinous, Aigio, Tel. (+30) 26910.294.15, www.rouvaliswinery.gr; open daily 8:00-16:00 or by appointment outside working hours; prices start at €6 PP.

Info Ancient Kleones, Nemea, Tel. (+30) 27460.314.50, www.lafazanis.gr;

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open 9:00-16:00; tasting €7 PP; customized packages available upon request Nestor Wines: Pyrgos, Messinia, Tel. (+30) 27630.410.73; open Monday-Saturday, 9:00-18:00.


Navarino Vineyards j u m p i n w i t h b o t h f e e t at t h e g r a p e h a r v e s t

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his is the perfect setting for wine enthusiasts 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, with 55 hectares extending over western hillsides some 500m to 600m above sea level. Launched in collaboration with the luxury resort of Costa Navarino, it produces wines that benefit from a unique climate and capture all the richness of the Messinian soil. With its long, hazy sunny days and warm temperatures, autumn is the ideal time to discover the region’s rich heritage. The tranquil, neat rows of organic vines buzz 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 cel-

ebration. For centuries, women, men and even young children have come together to gather and press the grape. After hand-picking the fruit, guests are invited to join in the fun of the old-fashioned method of grape stomping. The tour ends under a massive oak with snacks and tastings of the two wine series produced at Navarino Vineyards. The 1827 series – named after the date of the Battle of Navarino – includes a white blend of Chardonnay and Roditis, a red Cabernet Sauvignon and a Syrah-based rosé. The Kotyle series – inspired by the legendary Cup of Nestor – consists of a white Chardonnay and a red Cabernet Sauvignon. 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 area’s microclimate.

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

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The Realm of Robola The undisputed star of this region is Cephalonia, with a variety hailed as the alter ego of Santorini’s flagship Assyrtiko. BY YiANNIS K AR AK ASIS, MW

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he climate is mild and Mediterranean, the sea is the color of sapphires and the hillsides abound with pines and olives – in contrast to the stark and arid Cyclades. The islands of the Ionian Sea, west of the Greek mainland, have a distinct cultural identity with marked Italian influences, as they escaped Turkish conquest and remained instead under Venetian rule. From a total expanse of around 276 hectares of vineyards across the Ionian islands, Cephalonia, off the western coast of the Peloponnese, holds pride of place. Here, the dominant variety is Robola – not to be confused with the Ribolla Gialla grown in Fruili, Italy – which yields slightly flowery and fruity wines with plenty of nerve and mineral dimensions. Its style is similar to Assyrtiko, though distinctly less intense, with less body, complexity or ability to age. Nevertheless, with its Robola, Cephalonia can be seen as the alter ego of Santorini and its Assyrtiko. The variety is grown mainly in the Robola Valley, spanning the south and part of the island’s center, at an altitude of 350m to 800m in calcareous soil so

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poor the Italians called the wines it yielded “vino de sasso,” or wine from stone. Robola wines have a signature finesse that is mostly attributed to the valley’s particular mesoclimate, with cool breezes coming down from Ainos (the island’s highest mountain), and to the many vines that have succeeded in reaching an advanced age after escaping a bout of phylloxera in the 1970s. On the slopes of Ainos in particular, there are still many age-old self-rooted vines that produce fruit of excellent quality. The lion’s share of production is absorbed by the Robola Wine Cooperative, which has 300 members and produces around 450,000 bottles a year. The island also has a few excellent small producers, such as the historic Gentilini Winery and Vineyards, which has succeeded in bringing out all of the grape’s significant potential, and Evriviadis Sclavos of Sclavos Wines in Lixouri, who relies on natural production methods. Melissinos Winery also applies organic methods and produces the excellent Robola Natural. Domaine Foivos ages its Mavrodaphne in amphora, while the wonderful Haritatos

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1. Giorgos Koukouvinos, Petros Markantonatos and Alexandros Doukas of the Gentilini Winery and Vineyards. 2. Winemaker Spiro-Nicholas Kosmetatos at the Gentilini vineyards in Cephalonia. 3. The Oenolpi Winery in the village of Agria, Macherado in Zakynthos.

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Vineyard produces high-quality wines as well. Cephalonia’s Robola is certified with a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), as are two more wines that the island produces, Mavrodaphne and Moschato, both sweet. The dry vinification of Mavrodaphne is also particularly interesting, as it yields a wine with a complex herbal and aromatic structure, with moderate tannins and acids. The local white varieties Vostilidi (also known as Goustolidi) and Zakynthino are also noteworthy. What about the other Ionian islands? Although it’s the largest, Corfu does not produce much wine. Its white Kakotrygis variety, however, does make an impression. Further south, Lefkada’s native grape is the Vertzami, which yields high-quality wines that are rich in tannins and age very nicely. Zakynthos is best known for its Verdea, a traditional multi-varietal dry white that is aged for several years. Significant strides are also being made with the Avgoustiatis variety, used by the Grampsas Winery in mild red dry wines with complex red fruit, flower and spice aromas. G R E E C E IS

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© CLAIRY MOUSTAFELLOU, DIONYSIS KOURIS

4. At the Robola Cooperative of Cephalonia


“AN HISTORICAL WINELAND”

SANTORINI

Already world-famous for its spectacular 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. Unharmed by the phylloxera louse, the aged vines, some as old as 400 years, are trained in the shape of a basket (or kouloura) to protect them from strong winds and preserve precious humidity. They produce four classic varieties: the white Assyrtiko, Athiri and Aidani, and the red Mandilaria. Santorini is also an exemplary oenotourism destination, with wineries that offer everything from tailor-made experiences to group tours and tastings. To tell the island’s wine tale, we have selected excerpts from the preeminent publication “Santorini: An Historical Wineland,” by Stavroula Kourakou-Dragona.

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© PHOTO FROM SANTORINI, AN HISTORICAL VINEYARD, COURTESY FOINIKAS PUBLICATIONS

In the summertime, most of Santorini’s grapes ripen inside their “baskets,” protected from the wind and blasting sand.

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© BENAKI MUSEM/PHOTO ARCHIVE

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

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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 19th 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,

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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 seeds, dispersed among the ruins of the settlement.” Moreover, bunches of grapes feature as decorative motifs in the

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


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vase-painting of the period. Evidence of winemaking and wine trading are certain kinds of storage jars (pithoi) with a spigot near the bottom 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 volcanic gloom and Dionysiac hope; these are 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 is 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 vineyards remained 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 vine-

The impressive canava at Hatzidakis Winery.

yards of Santorini are one of the very few traditional vineyards with such credentials. The fact that Phylloxera vastatrix did not appear on Santorini is due to the role of the island’s soil in defending the plants it hosts. Sandy soils in general prevent the development of the phylloxera insect and the soils of the island’s vineyards are sandy with a very low clay content. 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 G R E E C E IS

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the patient toil and long experience of the island’s vinegrowers. 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.

Superior quality wine Considerable information on the vines and the pre-industrial wines of Santorini can be found in foreign travel literature, dating from 1644 to 1854. In these centuries, the grapes were stomped by foot in canavas, as the traditional cave cellars are called; the 80

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wine was stored in 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 and 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.

1. Matthew Argyros of Estate Argyros. 2. Foreign experts Steve Olson, John Szabo and Bisso Atanassov, visiting Santorini’s vineyards 3. Wine tasting with a view, at Venetsanos Winery. 4. Paris Sigalas, a pioneer of Santorini’s wine industry.

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


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THE GREAT GRAPE ASSYRTIKO The dominant cultivar on the island accounts 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 (fresh, high-grade aged, sweet, semi-sweet, sparkling and even wines that mature under a film of saccharomycetes) depending on the stage of maturity at which the grapes will be harvested. But where did this blessed grape variety 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. However critical these questions are for historians, one thing is certain: Assyrtiko has been enlivening the island’s volcanic earth with its greenery for hundreds of years. Thanks to Assyrtiko, the most remarkable white grape variety in the whole of the Mediterranean basin, the Santorinians down the centuries have been able to keep the winemaking tradition alive on their island.

PAIRINGS

Other regional varieties

Fresh Assyrtiko Fish and seafood, fresh and salty white cheeses, fried meze Aged Assyrtiko Charcoal fish and poultry, mature cheeses, lemony white meats

Monemvasia Green salads, white salty cheeses, fish and seafood Mandilaria Cold cuts, red meats, pasta and pizza with tomato sauce Mavrotragano Red meat, matured cheese, rustic sausages Limnos and Samos Muscat Fresh fruits and fruit desserts, white chocolate, syrupy desserts G R E E C E IS

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Assyrtiko’s Astonishing Rise The efforts of Santorini’s vintners to showcase this endemic variety are being rewarded by the international wine world. BY YIANNIS PAR ASK E VOPOULOS

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know, Master of Wine Jancis Robinson is widely regarded as the preeminent authority today on all matters relating to vine and wine. To put it simply, when the British expert speaks, we, the people of the wine world, sit up and listen. In the book, Robinson provides an in-depth description of no less than 1,368 wine grapes, ranging from widely popular varieties to several that are almost universally unknown. Towards the

end of her presentation, she was asked to single out one variety from the 1,368. Just one. Hearing the question and familiar with the idiosyncrasies of British reserve, I expected Robinson to be evasive, diplomatic. How wrong I was! She did not hesitate for an instant, naming a variety, which, in her own words, “makes the most stunning white wine” ­­– Santorini’s Assyrtiko. Readers without a profound knowl-

Santorini boasts a veritable living monument, the world’s oldest self-rooted vineyards, with a root system that can be traced back four centuries.

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here have been many exciting moments during my 28-year career in the service of Greek wine, but two in particular stand out as really exhilarating, and both feature Santorini’s Assyrtiko variety. The second and most recent of these took place just a couple of years ago, when Jancis Robinson presented her new book, “Wine Grapes,” on the Daily Meal website. For those not in the

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The rare wines that emerge from Santorini’s volcanic soil are much like the island’s people: voluptuous and over-the-top in manner, with a character which you either dislike instantly or adore forever.

edge of the world of wine may not appreciate the gravity of this statement. To a soccer fan, it would be like hearing Pep Guardiola say that Greece will win the World Cup. My first exhilarating experience was a few years earlier, at the change of the millennium. I was at the home of Stavroula Kourakou-Dragona, the doyenne of Greek wine and savior of the Greek vineyard, together with about a dozen oenologists. We opened a bottle of Assyrtiko from 1847. Imagine our astonishment when we realized that what we had before us was in fact a “new” wine that was 153 years old. And at that precise moment, we became aware that we were dealing with a variety like no other, a variety that was almost completely unknown, begging for attention and a new approach. Let us go back about a third of a century. It is 1986-87 and vintner Yiannis Boutaris discovers both the potential of Santorini as a vine-growing region and its endemic Assyrtiko variety. He immediately embarks on the construction of a state-of-the-art winery and strives to convince us of something he has only just realized, namely that San84

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torini’s Assyrtiko is an amazing grape capable of yielding excellent wines. At the time, of course, we could only trust in Boutaris’ intuition, as the wines being produced by the island’s smattering of wineries were, by current standards, anything but great. A great deal has changed since then. A handful of oenologists and vintners threw themselves into the task of producing and promoting Assyrtiko on the international stage, ultimately leading to Jancis Robinson’s astonishing statement. The efforts of winemakers on Santorini, myself included, were focused in the early 1990s on applying established state-of-the-art techniques. More recently, we have gone on to fine-tune these techniques to develop the individual personality – style, if you will – of each of Santorini’s wineries. On the cultivation front, our interventions for Assyrtiko were minimal, and there is good reason for this. In contrast to other wine-growing regions in Greece, where evolving cultivation methods was the key to improving quality, on Santorini the methods were more or less predetermined centuries before, leaving little room for maneuvering. In effect, all we had to do was respect the age-old system of Assyrtiko cultivation, and that’s exactly what we did. Nowhere else in the world do we come across the rare combination of vine, earth and climate that is present on Santorini, a combination that includes volcanic, mineral-rich soil, a climate profile that is essentially arid (forcing the vine to send its roots deep into the earth to find life-giving water), and a white variety – Assyrtiko – that is so perfectly adapted to such extreme conditions of survival. To this, we must also add a singular cultivation technique that the island’s vine growers have been developing for centuries. It is a painstaking system that results in vines that look more like works of sculpture than products of nature (visitors will often walk right past one without knowing what it is), yet one which allows the

vines to emerge victorious from the incessant battle against the strong winds and the searing sun. The result is a veritable living monument of global cultural heritage, the world’s oldest self-rooted vineyards with a root system that can be traced back four centuries and which yield impressive dry whites and the amazing sweet Vinsanto. Today, Assyrtiko is grown in every corner of Greece, more or less, and I am quite confident that we will soon find it throughout the vine-growing world (it is already present in Australia). Outside Santorini, it yields lovely, aromatic and refreshing whites that appeal even to the uninitiated palate. This, however, is not the case in Assyrtiko’s birthplace. The rare wines that emerge from Santorini’s volcanic soil are much like the island’s people: voluptuous and over-the-top in manner, with a character which you either dislike instantly or adore forever. Wines that are whites but have the attitude of a red. Wines that are rich in flavor with sharp and unexpected acidity levels, and a long, briny finish – qualities that allow myriad bold combinations with Greek and international cuisines. Wines that challenge all stereotypes. These are the ultimate food wines. They may be difficult, even hostile at times, but they are also wonderful, rare and, why not, majestic. If you think you know Santorini’s Assyrtiko, think again.


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V isiting the source

ARTEMIS KARAMOLEGOS WINERY

BOUTARI

CANAVA ROUSSOS

Following a tour of the state-of-the-art facilities, stop at the flower-bedecked terrace overlooking the plain and the sea to sample some of the award-winning wines produced by passionate winemaker Artemis Karamolegos. The adjacent Aroma Avlis restaurant serves exquisite local dishes and a sommelier will help you with wine pairing. Don’t miss sampling the Pyritis, made with 100 percent Assyrtiko grapes from selected vineyards and left to age on the lees for 10 months. The winery also offers cooking lessons (for 6-8 persons, starting at €50 PP).

One of the first wineries in Greece to offer organized tours, still impresses with its unique architecture. Visitors learn the history of local viticulture, winemaking methods and the varieties. Tasting wines from all six Boutari wineries located in key viticultural areas across the country offers visitors a comprehensive overview of Greek wines. Discerning wine lovers can also enjoy aged wines available exclusively in the winery, like the 12-year-old Vinsanto. There is also a wine boutique, selling books and accessories.

A member of the Roussos family will give you a tour of one of the oldest wineries on the island, housed in a typical canava dating back to 1800. A hand-powered, 300-year-old grape press and a 90-year-old vine are just two of the unique objects you will see there. There is also plenty to learn about traditional cultivation methods, natural winemaking and maturing of indigenous varieties. Tastings of wines aged up to 17 years are held in a lovely garden. Around the end of August, you could even help crush the grapes at what is essentially an annual celebration.

ΙNFO Megalochori, Tel. (+30) 22860.810.11, 22860.816.07, www.boutari.gr; Open May-Sep, 10:00-19:00; tour and tasting of four wines, accompanied by cheeses €9 PP; customized tours and out-of-season visits by appointment.

ΙNFO Episkopi Gonias, Tel. (+30) 22860.312.78, www.canavaroussos.gr; open daily 11:00-19:00; tours are free, wine tasting starts at €4 PP.

DOMAINE SIGALAS

ESTATE ARGYROs

GAIA WINES

In 1997, Paris Sigalas planted Santorini’s first experimental linear vineyard on the plain of Oia, saving from extinction the now famous Mavrotragano variety. A private tour is highly recommended, as you can learn about the long history of the winery while tasting seasonal dishes from the estate’s own vegetable garden, ideally paired with wines: for example, dolmades (stuffed vine leaves) are made with Aidani vine leaves and served with Aidani. That being said, estate’s highlight is the 100 percent Assyrtiko Nychteri.

Established in 1903, this award-winning Santorini winery has embarked on a new chapter in its long history by moving to a modern building in the middle of its privately owned, 40-hectare vineyard, which is the largest on the island. For the first time, visitors will be able to tour all of the production areas before stopping in at the wine-tasting room. Make sure to try their top 20-year-old Vinsato wine, which earned a rating of 97/100 from leading wine critic Robert Parker.

For Assyrtiko lovers, this early 20th-century former tomato processing plant is not to be missed. Today, one can taste four wines, produced using four different methods, made entirely from the famous Santorini variety. The big surprise is the limited edition Thalassitis Submerged, a wine aged for five years submerged 20m under the sea. You can also taste wines produced in their second winery, in Nemea, Peloponnese.

ΙNFO Episkopi Gonias, Tel. (+30) 22860.314.89,

www.gaia-wines.gr; open Apr-Oct 11:0019:00; tours and tastings €6-8 PP, food extra. Headquarters: 22 Themistokleous, Maroussi, Athens, Tel. (+30) 210.8055.642-3.

ΙNFO Exo Gonia, Tel. (+30) 22860.333.95, www.

artemiskaramolegos-winery.com; open daily, 11:0020:00 (Apr-Oct), 11:00-17:00 (Nov-Mar); tours are free; wine-tasting from €8 PP, deli meat platter is charged extra.

ΙNFO Baxes, Oia, Tel. (+30) 22860.716.44, www.

sigalaswinetasting.com; open daily 10:00-21:00; 11-wine tasting €25 PP, private tour including food €90 PP by appointment.

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www.estate-argyros.com; tours and tastings daily, by appointment.

ΙNFO Exo Gonia, Tel. (+30) 22860.341.86,

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© ILLUSTRATION: IGNATIOS MANAVIS

ΤRAVEL, TASTE, DISCOVER 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 range of exciting options to learn the history, explore the unique terroir and, of course, taste the wines made from the local varieties. Note that wineries are generally open to the public from April through October – it’s advisable to make a call beforehand.

S antorini W ine T rai l s Emborio • Tel. (+30) 22860.831.03, (+30) 697.900.0568 • www. santoriniwinetrails.gr The itineraries offered by Iliana Sidiropoulou are more gastronomically oriented and may include cooking and pairing lessons. They usually last about 4 hours. €100-150 per person, in groups of up to six but also individuals. Languages: English, French.

S antorini W ine A d v enture Messaria • Tel. (+30) 22860.341.23, (+30) 693.296.0062 • www. winetoursantorini.com Gastronomy, wine and culture are the main focuses of the tours. You will need either a half or a full day for the trip and all that it includes. Each tour takes in up to three wineries. €90-150 per person, in groups of up to eight. Individual packages available. Language: English.

1. SANTOWINES

S antorini W ine T our

2. VENETSANOS WINERY

Messaria • Tel. (+30) 22860.283.58, (+30) 693.708.4958 • www. santoriniwinetour.com Seven different food and wine experiences are available, with tours and cooking classes as well, depending on the option that best suits you. Each tour may last up to five hours. €100-150 per person in groups of up to 10, but also available for individuals. Language: English.

4. GAVALAS WINES 3. BOUTARI SANTORINI WINERY 5. HATZIDAKIS WINERY 6. ESTATE ARGYROS 7. CANAVA ROUSSOS 8. ART SPACE 9. ARTEMIS KARAMOLEGOS WINERY 10. KOUTSOYANNOPOULOS WINERY 11. GAIA WINES 12. CANAVA ARGYROS AVANTIS 13. VASSALTIS VINEYARDS 14. DOMAINE SIGALAS

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GAVALAS WINERY

KOUTSOYANNOPOULOS WINE MUSEUM

VASSALTIs

Father and son Giorgos and Vangelis Gavalas are fourth- and fifth-generation winemakers who produce Vinsanto by stomping the grapes the old way. This process is part of a major celebration in late August, in which the public is invited to take part. In the charming production areas, you will see a number of antique items, such a grape press and wicker baskets, while the wine tasting offers a number of rare indigenous varieties, such as the white Katsano and Voudomato rosé, in addition to six-year-old Vinsanto.

At the Wine Museum of the Koutsoyannopoulos Winery, in a labyrinth carved out of rock eight meters under the ground, one can learn about the tradition of vine cultivation since the 17th century through the display of rare items. Manual and electric machinery, as well as photographs depicting wine-related occupations which have long since disappeared, are just some of the items on show. The winery, founded in 1870, cultivates all local varieties, which can be sampled at the wine-tasting table. A highlight is the limited 10-year-old red Kamaritis, which is not available on the market.

The newest, state-of-the-art winery in Santorini takes its name from the black basalt on the island and offers two tour options for visitors. The short tour is 30 minutes, costs €20 per person and concludes in the wine-tasting room where three to six wines are available for sampling, accompanied by a plate of cold cuts. The extended tour lasts an hour and includes a look at the production areas (€40 per person). From 13:00 to 16:00, visitors will be treated to a light lunch of salmon tartare, seafood ceviche and other selections (at an extra charge). On a clear day, you can see as far as the islands of Ios and Amorgos.

ΙNFO Vothonas (on the road leading to Kamari beach), Tel. (+30) 22860.313.22, www. santoriniwinemuseum.com; open daily 9:00-16:00; tours (with a 14-language audio guide) and wine tasting at €9.50 PP.

ΙNFO Vourvoulos, Tel. (+30) 22860.222.11,

ΙNFO Megalochori, Tel. (+30) 22860.825.52,

www.gavalaswines.gr; open daily 10:00-19:00; tours are free; wine tastings from €1.50 to €15.

www.vassaltis.com; open daily, 11:00-20:00. Tours and wine tasting by appointment, from April 1.

VENETSANOs

SANTO WINES

Built practically vertically on the slopes of the caldera, where gravity makes production easier, the first industrial winery in Santorini (it opened in 1949) is impressive for both the view it offers and its architecture. Nowadays, it boasts state-of-the-art facilities, while the older building has been renovated to serve as a museum and wine-tasting area. You will get a look at fascinating exhibits, such as the first diesel generator that arrived on the island in the 1950s and the laboratory where Giorgos Venetsanos, a widely knowledgeable wine pioneer, conducted his early experiments. In the summer months, enjoy a wine cocktail at the bar.

Enjoy the full flavor of Santorini’s vineyards at SantoWines, the Union of Santorini Cooperatives. The tour begins with a documentary about the history of winemaking on the island and continues in the production areas, which comprises five levels and allows the use of gravity instead of pumps to transfer the must and wine. Visit the Deli Shop to buy local produce and fine foods. The visit ends with a wine-tasting on terraces overlooking the caldera. Do not miss the Santo Sparkling Wine, the only dry sparkling wine produced on the island.

ΙNFO Caldera, Megalochori, Santorini, Tel. (+30) 22860.211.00,

10:00-21:00; tours €9 PP, food and wine packages from €23 PP.

www.venetsanoswinery.com; open daily, 10:00-20:00; tours and tastings €13 PP; à la carte menu of cold dishes for an extra charge.

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ΙNFO Pyrgos, Tel. (+30) 22860.280.58, www.santowines.gr; open daily


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Gems of the Archipelago Santorini may be the star of the show, but many other islands can also boast of rich winemaking traditions, unique varieties and excellent wines. BY YIANNIS K AR AK ASIS, MW

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he Aegean Sea has more than 200 islands and a total of around 4,500 hectares of vineyards. In the north, the winemaking leaders are Limnos and Samos, both of which are globally renowned for their dessert wines. The northernmost of the two, Limnos has a smaller vineyard surface (just 750 hectares) and so does not produce as much as Samos. Nonetheless, it does produce both dry and sweet PDO wines under the names Limnos and Muscat of Limnos. The latter designation is used only for sweet wines which are made from the Muscat of Alexandria variety. Limnos is a relatively flat island. Viticulture mainly takes place on the low slopes and shallow valleys formed by the small hills. The volcanic soil is light and rich in minerals. Despite references in antiquity to the red variety Limnio, the grape that dominates (90% of the crop) here is the white Muscat of Alexandria, the main ingredient for the wines produced in both PDOs. The unique identity of this variety is reflected in the style of the wines, which is pleasant to consume, aromatic and full of floral notes. The latest addition to the range of the island’s wines are sparkling examples produced from this same grape. Although Samos, further south, was not as well known in antiquity as was, for example, Ikaria with its famous Pramnian wine, it is now considered synonymous with good Greek wine, thanks to the sweet Samian wine. The winemaking area of ​​Sa-

A vineyard on the island of Samos

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Aris the dog, faithful guard at the T-Oinos vineyards on the island of Tinos.

mos is the largest in the northern Aegean and one of the most beautiful in Greece, with vineyards extending from sea level to mountainous terraces that climb to altitudes of nearly 1000m on Mt Ambelos. As might be expected, the best vineyards are located on the higher altitudes. What’s more, they survive without any irrigation, quenching their thirst on rainwater alone. Most of the bush-trained vines face north, and the combination of these high altitudes and the north-facing orientation contributes to the grapes’ slow and steady ripening, which gives Samian wine its particular aromatic qualities, deep flavor and refreshing acidity. In short, the landscape and climate supply everything that high-quality sweet wines require. The PDO Samos name is used only for sweet wines produced from the Muscat blanc à petits grains variety, famous for its fine, small white grapes. Here, the white Muscat variety is practically the only kind of grape (95% of the crop) and only a small part of the island’s production goes to producing dry wine; this wine cannot bear the PDO name Samos. Until recently, all the growers gave their grapes to the local cooperative, but changes in legislation now allow other players, such as NOPERA, to take part in the game. The Samos cooperative produces a wide range of wines,

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The wealth of choices around the islands suggests that, if you’re looking for very good wines from the Aegean area, it pays to cast a wide net.

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from affordable ones with an excellent price/quality ratio to impressively mature, limited editions and world-class wines, such as Nectar 1975 and 1980. In the southern Aegean, and more specifically in the island cluster of the central Cyclades, Paros is very important. Lacking mountains but with strong winds and dry summers, the island produces limited quantities of wines labeled PDO Paros and Malvasia Paros. The first designates dry white wines from the indigenous variety of Monemvasia and red wines from Mandilaria and Monemvasia. PDO Paros is also the only PDO in Greece that is allowed by law to mix white and red varieties when producing red wine. The second PDO, Malvasia, is made using the Monemvasia variety, reviving the historic Malvasia wine that was shipped far and wide from the port of Monemvasia in the Pelopponese during the Middle Ages. The wine contains a minimum of 85% Monemvasia, and the rest is Assyrtiko. The last two Aegean PDO wines come from Rhodes in the Dodecanese, an island with a long tradition in sparkling wines. Water is abundant and the wine country is concentrated around the hilly uplands of Mount Attavyros, protecting the fruit from the searing summer heat. The vineyards, moreover, were not infected by phylloxera, so self-rooted vines of around 80 years old are not rare.

The PDO Rhodes still and sparkling whites are based on the Athiri variety with small quantities of Malagousia and Assyrtiko. The dry PDO Rhodes reds are produced mainly from Mandilaria. The other PDO on the island, Rhodes Muscat, designates dessert wines – straw or fortified – from white Muscat. Remarkable wines are being produced on other islands as well. In the lunar landscape of Falatados on the island of Tinos, where huge round granite rocks squat among the vines, T-Oinos Winery cultivates a sublime Assyrtiko and Mavrotragano. Remarkable efforts are also being made here by the Volacus and Domaine de Kalathas wineries. On Chios, Kos and Lesvos, where the volcanic soils provide a happy home for the Chidiriotiko variety, there are yet more treasures for oenophiles. In fact, the wealth of choices around the islands suggests that, if you’re looking for very good wines from the Aegean area, it pays to cast a wide net.

1. Samos Wine Museum 2. Grapes from the Samos cooperative 3. Manalis Winery on the island of Sikinos

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Winemaker Manolis Vavoulas harvesting his vines on the tiny island of Lipsi.


© ANDREAS MARKAKIS

Viticulturist and oenologist Andreas Dourakis, creator of the eponymous winery in the mountains of Alikambos.

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THE RISING STAR

CRETE If there is one place in Greece that has managed to reverse its wine fortunes, it is undoubtedly Crete. A new generation of skilled and passionate winemakers is rewriting history, staying true to the island’s rich wine tradition and vastly improving quality. Thanks to their efforts, the privileged terroir of the uplands is gaining recognition, while the potential of obscure grape varieties is being uncorked and developed. Greek and foreign experts speak enthusiastically of a new wine success story – and the best is yet to come.

© HEINZ TROLL

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ore than just the largest island of Greece, Crete is like a world of its own, with a very ancient history, incredible geographical diversity, a unique food culture and distinct traditions. The millions of visitors that become fans for life, know that the island maintains a cultural identity that is clearly different from the rest of Greece, something that is reflected in its inhabitants’ temperament and dialect, too. Crete’s deeply rooted wine history goes back thousands of years. There are indications that wine was part of everyday life in Minoan culture. Archaeological excavations in a Minoan villa in Vathypetro, Irakleio, have brought to light the oldest carved wine press ever discovered, dated to about 1,500 BC. Today, Crete is one of the leading and most dynamic wine regions of Greece, both in terms of quantity – with about 60 wineries producing more than a tenth of the country’s total output – and quality.

Cretan wine is now reclaiming its place on the map, following its recovery from a slump that lasted several decades. This upswing is mainly due to the capabilities of a new generation of winemakers, who are building on the remarkable efforts of their predecessors and taking quality a step further. But it is also due to the hidden potential of native grape varieties, as well as the island’s special topography and climate. As expected, in such a warm climate in the southernmost corner of Europe, the vineyards with the best grapes are located at relatively high altitudes, mainly between 400 to 600 meters, on the slopes of the mountains that run throughout the island: Lefka Ori to the west, the Lasithiotika range to the east and the legendary Mount Ida in between. Up there, the generally mild temperatures and fluctuations between day and night contribute to the production of more structured wines with clear and complex flavor profiles.

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1. At about 5,000 years old, the Minoan winepress in Vathypetro is considered the oldest ever found. 2. Cup bearer: detail from the Minoan Procession Fresco, Knossos. 3. Vidiano is one of the hidden treasures of Greek vineyards, with an as-yet limited production but excellent potential.

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

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The Boutari Fantaxometoho estate, near the archaeological site of Knossos, 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.

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

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Nikos Douloufakis, a third-generation winemaker, checks on his grapevines in Dafnes, outside Irakleio.

Oenologist Emmanuela Paterianaki is one of the four women of the family who run the Domaine Paterianakis winery in Peza, outside Irakleio.

The cellar at the Lyrarakis Winery in Alagni, awarded a Certificate of Excellence by Tripadvisor.

Despite its great diversity, the soil in most viticultural areas is rich in clay and limestone, the latter being associated with superior quality in whites. The naturally high-yield Vilana variety, which covers a fifth of the total vineyard surface, is undisputedly the queen of the whites. When cultivated at an altitude that produces low yields, it expresses its virtues, producing fruity wines with a balanced structure and the complex taste of ripe fruit. Some 98

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winemakers, seeking a more qualitative product, have adopted the single vineyard approach. The production of creamy Vidiano, a rising star with a distinctive flavor and subtle aroma, is only half that of Vilana. Marked by depth, freshness and clear floral and apricot notes, it is constantly gaining new fans. Indeed, many producers, who see the potential in this variety, are investing in it outside Crete as well.

Assyrtiko also seems to be making a dynamic appearance on the island, with the Lyrarakis and Mediterra wineries achieving good results. The landscape of white grapes is completed by the aromatic Spinas Muscat (a clone of the small white Muscat grape), the equally aromatic Malvasia Candia and, in limited plantings, Dafni and Plyto. Moving on to darker grape varieties, which make up the majority of the grapes grown in Cretan vineyards, the late-ripening and productive Mandilaria and the equally productive Kotsifali are dominant. They both yield wines of a somewhat more rustic character and often appear together in a blend, each one compensating for the weaknesses of the other. The more refined and paler in color Liatiko is an interesting case, as it produces both dry and sweet wines. The dry wine, with a high aromatic intensity, moderate tannins and acidity, appears to have many of the qualities of a Pinot Noir. Excellent examples with aging potential are pro-


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Bottling at the Douloufakis Winery.

Mediterra Winery vineyards; Apellation of Origin Peza, near Irakleio. The Lyrarakis Winery tasting experience can easily turn into a Cretan feast.

duced by Nikos Douloufakis in Dafnes and Domaine Economou in Sitia. The island’s Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) areas are concentrated mainly in the prefecture of Irakleio with Archanes, Peza and Dafnes (which is the most distinguished of all PDOs on the island) being the most popular. Lasithi prefecture also has some, such as Sitia. Recently, sweet Malvasia has also earned PDO status. Of the international varieties, those that have adapted with miraculous results are mainly the Rhône Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Roussanne. Exceptional samples are produced by Manousakis Winery as well as by Rhous (such as its Syrah), while Douloufakis’ Aspros Lagos is Crete’s leading Cabernet Sauvignon. The jump in quality over the past two decades is indeed impressive. Whites lead the way, demonstrating what Cretan vineyards can achieve. The reds follow closely behind, though there is clearly room for improvement.

It is, of course, a difficult path when you consider that, in Crete, most red wine is distributed in bulk and is nothing more than a weak-colored, tired and oxidized product. It’s usually the village wine enthusiastically served at tavernas, homes and local celebrations. What’s worse is that it is consumed with the same enthusiasm. In the last decade, Cretan wine has charted its own course, emphasizing both quality and indigenous varieties. The establishment and the activities of

the Wines of Crete network have played an important role in this rapid development. Bringing the island’s leading producers together, the network has managed to highlight the virtues of Cretan wines, collectively marketing them in Greece and beyond. At the same time, tourism is another important contributory factor to this success. The two million visitors to the island every year provide a significant boost to the local economy and total domestic consumption. G R E E C E IS

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Vidiano (Vee thee ah no’), Crete’s rising star, is a white variety found mainly in the vineyards of Rethymno, but it is also being planted in mainland Greece. It was saved from extinction thanks to the efforts of Irakleio winemaker Nikos Douloufakis in early 2000. A productive grape, it thrives when planted in poor soil with good drainage, such as the limestone slopes of Dafnes. A big advantage is that the phenolic ripening of this variety agrees very well with the ripeness of sugars in the grapes, maintaining the desired acidity levels at the same time. It yields wines with a creamy texture, volume and fairly high acidity. Their distinct and characteristic aroma of white-fleshed stone fruits with floral notes evolves over time, obtaining a complex palate and a mineral dimension when two to seven years old. The examples aged in oak and acacia, which give a delicious richness to the wines and highlight their texture and complexity, are also interesting. Recently, a sparkling wine has also been produced using the traditional Champenoise method.

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PAIRINGS

Other regional varieties

Vidiano Poultry, rich creamy sauces, risottos, cheeses Liatiko and Kotsifali Red meat fish and seafood, tomato sauce pasta, meze

Thrapsathiri Green salads, fresh white cheeses, vegetable dishes Plyto and Dafni Green pies, boiled greens, poultry Mandilari Meat pies, baked cheese dishes, cold cuts, snails


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V isiting the source © EFFIE PAROUTSA, JANNIK WEYLANDT

B Y M a r i a K o r a c h a i & N I K O L E T A MA K R Y O N I T O U

DIAMANTAKIS

DOULOUFAKIS

DOURAKIS

IDAIA

Located southwest of the city of Irakleio at an altitude of 450m, this welcoming facility produces distinguished wines from local and international varieties. The best selections are in the Diamantopetra line: the 100% Vidiano, the blend of Vidiano and Assyrtiko, and the full-bodied and complex Syrah and Mandilari blend.

A third-generation vintner, Nikos Douloufakis produces wines with both Cretan and international grapes. Greek varieties will surprise you with their multifaceted character and clear expression of the terroir; taste the charming Femina from Malvasia di Candia Aromatica and the Vidiano in the popular Aspros Lagos (White Hare) line. Tastings are coordinated by the estate’s οenologist, while the winemaker himself is also often present.

A beautiful winery, inside a copse at an altitude of 450m, with a view stretching from the Lefka Ori (White Mountains) to the Sea of Crete. Tours include the vineyard, the production facility and the exhibition space hosting old presses and tools. In the tasting hall, visitors can sample sundried wine from the red Romeiko variety or the aromatic white Malvasia. The best time to visit is during the harvest.

Run by a couple of passionate οenologists and located right at the center of the PDO Dafnes region – which has a long history in winemaking, as attested by the Archaic and Roman stone presses found locally – Idaia produces very decent wines. Its stars are the single-grape Vilana, the Vidiano and the spicy dessert wine made with Liatiko.

ΙNFO Kato Asites, Irakleio,

Τel. (+30) 6949.198.350, www.diamantakiswines.gr

ΙNFO Venerato, Irakleio,

INFO Dafnes, Irakleio, Τel. (+30) 2810.792.017, www.cretanwines.gr; by appointment; €5 PP including Cretan snacks.

INFO Alikambos, Hania, Τel. (+30)

Τel. (+30) 2810.792.156, www.idaiawine.gr.

28250.517.61, www.dourakiswinery. gr; tours by appointment, free of charge; tastings start at €6 PP.

LYRARAKIS

MANOUSAKIS

PATERIANAKIS

RHOUS

Overlooking a sea of vines and the Lasithi mountains, Lyrakakis treats its visitors to wines made from both popular and rare Cretan varieties. Don’t pass up a taste of agourida, a traditional Cretan verjuice. The tasting experience includes yummy Cretan snacks.

One of the oldest and most important wineries in Hania, Manousakis produces impressive aged wines mainly with international varieties, the most popular being the Syrah and the Roussanne. Tasting sessions include platters of cheeses and Cretan meze, while the full meal of traditional delicacies is also recommended.

This family-owned organic winery emphasizes local Cretan grapes, resulting in wines such as the excellent Moschato Spinas, an extremely fragrant white, and the fascinating spin on Assyrtiko. Tastings are offered either in an elegant hall overlooking the vineyard or under a pergola, with a view over the entire Pezon PDO zone.

World-traveled and always welcoming, οenologists Maria Tamiolaki and Dimitris Mansolas show visitors around their vineyard and winery, talk about the history and future of Cretan wine, and offer a very pleasant tasting session, which includes the stellar Skipper, a white made with the local Vidiano and Plyto grapes.

INFO Vatolakkos, Hania, Τel. (+30) 28210.787.87, www. manousakiswinery.com; by appointment; €6-35 PP.

INFO Melesses, ArchanesAsterousia, Irakleio, Τel. (+30) 2810.226.674, www.paterianakis. gr; οpen Mon-Fri, weekends by appointment; tastings from €7.50 PP.

INFO Houdetsi, Pediada, Irakleio, Τel. (+30) 2810.742.083, www. rhouswinery.gr; visits by appointment; €7 PP for a simple tasting, €10 PP for a selection of wines paired with Cretan meze.

INFO Alagni, Arkalochori, Irakleio, Τel. (+30) 2810.284.614, www. lyrarakis.com; open Apr-Oct and by appointment the rest of the year; €5–20 PP; Premium Cellar Experience €60 PP.

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SILVA DASKALAKI The Daskalaki family’s small winery is located right below the paternal homestead in Siva and produces wines, some of them organic, from its privately owned vineyard, including the white Enstikto, made with Vidiano and Chardonnay, or old harvests of sweet red Emilia from 100% Liatiko.

INFO Siva (17th km Iraklio-Moires road), Τel. (+30) 2810.792.021, www.silvawines.gr; tours & tastings free of charge; food served by prior arrangement at an extra cost.

SCALANI HILLS BOUTARI A visit to the state-of-the-art Boutari winery feels like walking through a narrative of Crete’s wine history. Don’t pass up the opportunity to sample limited-production wines like the Iouliatiko, paired with local delicacies. You can also stay at the Scalani Hills Residences, a member of the Aria Hotels group, housed in a renovated glebe on the estate. The ancient site of Knossos is just 4k away.

INFO Skalani, Irakleio, Τel. (+30) 2810.731.617, www.boutari.gr, www.ariahotels.gr; οpen Apr-Oct., 9:00-17:00 (or by appointment); tours and tastings from €5 PP.

ZACHARIOUDAKIS Located in a wonderful spot on the 500m summit of Orthi Petra Hill, north of the archaeological site of ancient Gortyn, this modern winery stands out for its architecture. Lush vineyards are planted on a succession of terraces and the view, particularly at sunset, is amazing.

ΙNFO Plouti, Irakleio, Τel. (+30) 28920.962.26, www.zacharioudakis.com; by

appointment; tastings cost €5-60 PP depending on the snack or meal menu.


Santorini. Grapes are spread out in the sun to dry. The white grapes will yield Vinsanto, the island’s traditional sweet wine.

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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

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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 on 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 10 days and 10 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


Samos. Most vineyards on the island are planted on painstakingly built dry-stone terraces at elevations up to 800m.

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. Thus, the wine remained sweet. In fact, most of the famed wines of Greek antiquity were sweet. This technique has survived for centuries into 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 made, of course, 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 toler-

ance to alcohol. Consequently, if during fermentation the winemaker adds enough alcohol, it will prevent the yeasts from multiplying and remaining active, resulting in a wine that owes its sweet taste to those sugars in the must which did not ferment. Its alcohol comes not only from the fermentation of the sugars, but also from the aforementioned 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.

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

THE INTERVIEW

The Lady of the Vines shares her experience

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MALVASIA In the Peloponnese, on the southeast shore of the Parnon mountain range, stands the fortified Byzantine 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 walled town at the foot of Malevos – as Parnon was known at the time – from which the town’s Frankish name, Mal(e) vasia, derived. And because in sea trade a commodity would often bear the name of the port at 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 on the Cyclades islands, too,

VINSANTO 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 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. This 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 that 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 became industrialized in Greece.

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

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

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

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

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.” The Vin Santo name, carried to this day by some dessert wines of northern Italy, is a vestige of Frankish rule on Santorini and of Venetian and French involvement in the trade of the island’s wines. In the framework of EU legislation, this distinctive name can be written on the labels of Italian wines accompanied obligatorily by a geographical designator (e.g. vino santo de Gambellara). Thus, the name Santo, from a geographical appellation, has degenerated into a generic designation for the type of wine. The Greek Vinsanto, however, is a PDO: Vin[de] Santo[rini]. This view was accepted after negotiations, ratified by EU regulations and is reflected in the labels of the contemporary Santorinian Vinsanto.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Stavroula Kourakou-Dragona, the first woman ever to hold an Oenology degree in Europe, has championed Greek wine for over six decades. Greece owes to her the system for classifying its vineyards, its updated legislation and most of its 33 apellations of origin. Her books are the standard on Greek wine. She is aptly nicknamed “The Lady of the Vines.”


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Back With a Vengeance Once a favorite “wine of the people,” undersung but enjoyed for its distinctly Greek, millennia-old flavor, retsina now challenges critics with a newfound vitality and excellence to reclaim its place in our hearts. BY ME ROPI PAPADOPOULOU


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he custom of adding resin to wine dates back to ancient times. It seems hardly surprising that the grape vine, at some point, would have met the pine, particularly in Central Greece where the two still grow in such close proximity. Although 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 Aleppo pine resin was first used to seal wine casks in ancient times, as well as porous clay amphorae, to ensure safer storage and transportation of their contents. Over the centuries, winemakers noticed that pine resin imbued the wine with a distinctive flavor and its use as a sealant thus became even more widespread. Later still, resin was directly mixed into the wine to improve its taste. Some vintners, it appears, even added whole pine cones 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 such storing or aging: the wine 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 was relegated to being a means of masking the flaws of substandard wines. In fact, it was this role 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. 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 – its main venue for sale and consumption – no longer was 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 – which was served only in “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.

1. The vineyards of the Papagiannakos Winery, where retsina is made from Savatiano grapes.

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2. At the family winery in Kalohori, Thessaloniki, oenologist Eleni Kechri, with her father Stelios, spearhead the rebirth of retsina.

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3. Retsina has gone from simple taverna tumblers to elegant stemmed glassware.

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Promising present Eventually, high-quality unresinated Greek wine did manage to win over the public, although 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 variety. This seems particularly unfair when one considers that it was 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 greatly improved. A revival of this very special wine has occurred, with a number of visionary producers investing in its “Greekness” and hoping to put retsina back on a successful path, both in Greece and abroad. They have boldly taken on this rather cantankerous wine, experimented with it and been rewarded for their daring leap of faith. A harmony between the grape’s varied fruity tones has been achieved, augmented by the distinctive yet discreet flavor of pine resin, underlined with hints of mastic gum, rosemary and sage, the slight bitterness of the pine needle and a peppery finish. Good-quality retsina has a balsamic quality imbued in 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 heavier or more complex traditional Greek dishes. A number of excellent retsinas have emerged on 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 from the Aleppo pine) is added at the start of fermentation, then removed once it has released its flavors. The best resin is still sourced from trees in the Attica region, although Evia, Ilia and Corinthia are now also emerging as significant producers.

4. In the state-of-theart 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.


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Retsina is the perfect wine to serve with all kinds of Greek meze and entrées, 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% and is best served chilled at 10°C. Despite the taverna tradition of serving retsina in small tumblers, it is better in fact 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.

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Over 2.3 billion bottles of sparkling wine are popped open around the world every year, and quite a few of them have Greek labels STYLING TINA WEBB

BY ME ROPI PAPADOPOULOU P H O T OS G E O R G E D R A K O P O U L O S

Greece, long a producer of sparkling wines, now offers an increasingly rich array of both traditional and newly introduced varieties.

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parkling wines range from very dry to sweet, and from light to rich and fuller-bodied. They can be vintage or non-vintage; they can be whites, reds or rosés. There is, however, one fundamental rule: only those produced in France’s Champagne region can be called champagne – everything else is just sparkling wine.* All sparkling wines have significant levels of carbon dioxide at pressures of between two to six atmospheres, which is responsible for the amount of fizziness. This is achieved during the secondary fermentation process which, in champagnes and wines produced under the “champenoise” or “traditionelle” method, is done in the bottle. The wine is then aged for a significant period of time, sometimes years, and the dead yeast cells, or lees, are removed. (It is the lees that lend an aroma of baked bread or sweet brioche to these wines.) For the vast majority of other sparkling wines, the secondary fermentation process takes place in a closed stainless steel tank, or cuvee. This ensures the distinctive aromas of flowers and whitefleshed fruits like pears, white peaches and green apples. Transfer is another method, whereby carbon dioxide is added (much like in fizzy soft drinks), while ancestral is yet another process that yields slightly fizzy and sweet wines, and is also responsible for the PETNAT (Petillant Naturelle, or naturally sparkling) category that will soon make its appearance on Greek shelves.

MADE IN GREECE Greece produced sparkling wines long before regular Greek wine made the qualitative leap that put it on the current international map. The main varieties used in the production of sparkling wine are Debina (found in PDO Zitsa wines from Epirus), Xinomavro (PDO Amyntaio, Macedonia), Athiri (PDO Rhodes) and Moschofilero (PDO Mantineia, Peloponnese). New varieties, such as Muscat of Alexandria, Assyrtiko, Agiorgitiko, Vidiano and Limniona are being introduced to create yet more fashionable and sought-after sparkling wines – with impressive results. 114

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THE EARLY MASTERS At least a century ago, winemakers in Zitsa in the highlands of Ioannina in Epirus, western Greece, created, entirely by accident, a sparkling rosé while vinifying a blend of white Debina with red Bekiari and Vlachiko. The bubbles were the result of the area’s chilly and humid climate, which prevented the grapes from fully maturing and prompted the vine-growers to train the vines upward so the grapes could catch as much sunlight as possible. The grapes did indeed ripen, but their must had such a high sugar content, it did not have time to ferment in September and October before the return of the cold winds from the Pindos Mountains that halted the natural fermentation process. When the warmer weather returned in the springtime, the must contained large quantities of carbon dioxide, which producers gradually learned how to trap in their barrels until the contents were consumed. Unfortunately, this wine did not travel well and only rarely left the boundaries of Ioannina. Today, however, Zitsa is known for its sparkling and semi-sparkling dry and semi-dry PDO wines, made exclusively with Debina grapes.

THE ITALIAN INFLUENCE The first sparkling wines from Greece to appear on store shelves came from the island of Rhodes, where an Italian investment group founded the Compagnia Agricola Industriale Rodi, whose diverse activities included making both still and sparkling wines. Local producers soon caught on, so that by the 1960s and 70s, sparkling wines from Rhodes were all the rage, ever-present at all sorts of celebrations across the country. Nowadays, even though the island’s glory days are over, Rhodian vintners continue to produce very decent sparkling wines, in fact with PDO designation.

* An exception is made for what is known as California Champagne, produced at one particular winery in that American state which has reserved the right to use this name because its product pre-existed the 2006 limitation on the use of the term.

WHAT TO TRY EPIRUS The Lefteris Glinavos Brut (made with the traditional method) and the semi-sparkling Debina (with crispy acidity and aromas of pear and green apple), both from Domaine Glinavos (www.glinavos.gr)

MACEDONIA The Akakies Sparkling and Paranga Sparkling from Ktima Kir-Yianni (kiryianni.gr) The exceptionally complex sparkling wines of Domaine Karanikas, all made with the traditional method and responsible for raising the quality bar (www.karanika.com) Any of the sparkling wines by Apostolos Matamis (www.matamis-wines.com)

THESSALY Tsililis produces a great rosé with Limniona grapes and a white with Malagousia, both sold under the brand name Edenia. (www.tsililis.gr) Blink Zibibbo, made from Muscat of Alexandria by the Pieria Eratini Winery (www.ktimapieriaeratini.gr)

PELOPONNESE The chilly hills of Mantineia yield elegant and aromatic sparkling wines from Moschofilero and Agiorgitiko grapes. Try the Amalia Brut (white and rosé) from Tselepos (www.tselepos.gr) and the Ode Panos by Domaine Spiropoulos. (www.domainspiropoulos.com)

CRETE Zazazu by Lyrarakis is pleasant and refreshing. (www.lyrarakis.com) Sparkling Vidiano by Nikos Douloufakis is made in the traditional method and aged on the lees for 24 months. (www.cretanwines.gr)


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All this reading about wine must have surely whetted your appetite, so let’s move on to the more satisfying part: drinking. Check out our ideal pairings of local wine varieties with both trademark Greek dishes and international cuisines, or indulge in a wine-and-dine experience with the help of our restaurant and wine bar mini-guide. Bacchus (1595) by Caravaggio. (Uffizi Gallery, Florence)

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THE GREEK WAY

Souvlaki/gyros

Spinach pie

Greek Horiatiki Salad

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.

Αn all-rounder for Greeks, served at formal dinners, regular family meals, for breakfast or as a snack on the go. In spinach pie, 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.

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 or purslane – always with extra-virgin olive oil and a generous slab of feta cheese.

PAIRS WITH: Greeks rarely accompany souvlaki with wine, as beer is the more popular option. However, 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.

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PAIRS WITH: Aromatic and oily whites bring out the filling’s creamy texture and elevate the flavors. 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.

PAIRS WITH: Assyrtiko or Malagousia, in a single-variety or blended wine work because the herbal aromas of these varieties create a dance of flavors with the components of the salad. But it would be equally interesting to try a fresh rosé with accentuated acidity from any native variety.


The delicious classics of the country’s cuisine are a perfect match for local wine varieties. 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

Spit-roasted lamb

MousSaka

Charcoal-grilled fish

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.

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 bechamél sauce. It is richer and heavier than pastitsio, in which the vegetables are replaced with bucatini pasta.

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.

PAIRS WITH: Xinomavro is a classic, as its acidity and fruity notes counterbalance the richness of the meat. An alternative choice would be a Limniona.

PAIRS WITH: A fresh Agiorgitiko with very mild tannins and pleasant fruits, a young Xinomavro with a charming flavor imprint and a dynamic character or even a mature Limnio with round, soft tannins, will all complement this complex dish.

PAIRS WITH: Αvoid overly fragrant whites that will mask the flavor of the fish. A good choice would be an Assyrtiko that has spent some time in a barrel; the variety’s characteristic acidity and only slightly fruity notes will come forth and pair with the briny qualities of the juicy flesh. Another option is Crete’s Vidiano, a white full in body and alcohol content. Unbarreled Santorini Assyrtiko is a perfect match for grilled sardines, roe dip and other intense dishes.

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BEST FRIENDS

© PHOTO GEORGE DRAKOPOULOS - FOOD STYLING TINA WEBB

Kefalotyri

Feta Graviera

Kopanisti Anthotyro

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Greece produces an array of fine cheeses whose complex flavors can be brought out by the right wine. BY N i ko l e ta M a k r i o n i t o u

Arachova Formaela

Sifnos Aged Manoura

Kaseri

Manouri

Mytilini Ladotyri

Metsovone

Katiki Domokou

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Graviera

Kefalotyri

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 true place of honor is 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 saganaki (fried). 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 saganaki, 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 using its acidity to bring out kefalotyri’s saltiness.

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 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

© ILLUSTRATION: PHILIPPOS AVRAMIDES

Greece’s tangiest, most cantankerous cheese is made in the Cycladic islands using either cow milk or a mixture of sheep and goat. It is palate-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 to 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 This is a mild, low-fat cheese 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 dry, white 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. 120

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Metsovone This is an unrivalled smoked cheese produced in Metsovo, a town in the Pindos mountains of Epirus. Made with sheep and cow milk, it goes through a complex smoking process that endows it with 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 it can also be 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.


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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. 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 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 the barrel 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 complementary manner. A Santorini Vinsanto would also make a wonderful match.

Mytilini Ladotyri This is a very special cheese 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 palate. 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 with balanced acidity and a relatively intense bouquet, such as Moschofilero or Malagousia, are the best choice. 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 itself 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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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.

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. 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.

Me xican Reds that are rich in fruits, low in tannins and alcohol, and refreshingly acidic 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.

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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 light-red blend of Kotsifali and Mandilaria grapes.

Thai Characterized by intense flavors and high levels of spiciness, it is considered among Asia’s most refined cuisines and calls for elegant wines. 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 roses) – is the perfect choice to counterbalance the highly aromatic dishes of Thai cuisine.

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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.

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 (fermented in oak barrel) from Santorini, or a fruity Assyrtiko from elsewhere.

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 in sushi, sashimi and nigiri dishes, where raw fish features prominently, Malagousia white makes for a perfect pairing as it will complement the sushi’s natural umami with fruity and herbal notes.

american The United States’ cuisine is multinational and multicultural, with myriad interesting dishes. However, the quintessential American food is the hearty, multi-layered burger, with a thick, juicy beef patty, a slice of cheddar cheese and perhaps a strip of smoked bacon, a sweet-sour dill pickle and the wonderful mayo-ketchup-mustard trio. With hundreds of burger variations spanning all 50 states, choosing a wine to go with your meal can sometimes pose a problem. But you can’t go wrong with 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.

Lebane se 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 expressive reds such as a dry Mavrodaphne or a Mavrotragano, or even Savatiano or Roditis whites for cold, spicy dishes.


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SATISFYING THE SENSES A selection of restaurants that highlight the many faces of Greek cuisine in combination with sophisticated wine lists. BY NENA DIMIT R IOU, NIKOLE T TA MAK RYONITOU


© CHRISTOS DRAZOS, VANGELIS ZAVOS, L.S. PHOTOGRAPHY, KAPLANIDIS YIORGOS

Cookoovaya

ALERIA

Scala Vinoteca

ATHENS Aleria Chef Gikas Xenakis has taken Greek cuisine to a whole new level here, while owner Nikiforos Kehayiadakis has a passion for good wine, so you certainly won’t be drinking anything ordinary. Small producers and lesser-known Greek wines also feature among the 120-label list (priced from €24120 per bottle), of which about 14 are available by the glass. 57 Megalou Alexandrou, Metaxourgeio • Tel. (+30) 210.522.2633 •

Athiri Regarded as a classic in new Greek cuisine, Athiri has a chef whose no-frills philosophy is evident in every facet of the restaurant, from the food to the service and the hospitable atmosphere. The menu

Hytra – Onassis Cultural Center

changes almost every month to showcase seasonal ingredients and the wine list (€13-50 per bottle) includes popular and lesser-known Greek varieties. Of the 40 labels on offer, five are served by the glass. • •

15 Plateon, Kerameikos Tel. (+30) 210.346.2983

Base Grill In terms of décor, it is just a tidy taverna, but this authentic steak house is extremely popular, as it serves choice meat, mainly from Greek breeds, in beautiful, well-executed cuts. The wine list is also interesting, with 135 reasonably priced selections (€14-170 per bottle). Alternatively, you can go for beer, choosing from 128 different brews. 64 Konstantinoupoleos & Ammochostou, Peristeri • Tel. (+30) 210.575.7455 •

Botrini’s Michelin-starred chef Ettore Botrini prepares impressive food that pays homage to his native Corfu. The sommelier, meanwhile, is renowned for his skill in food and wine pairings, presenting a wisely designed, 120-label list that includes stellar wines from Greece and other parts of the world (€233,200 per bottle). • •

24B Vassileos Georgiou, Halandri Tel. (+30) 210.685.7323-4

Cookoovaya The trademark here is contemporary Greek cuisine served in a classically elegant environment. The chefs use top-quality seasonal ingredients to elevate familiar Greek dishes. The open kitchen, where some 20 cooks work in perfect unison, is an attractive sight if you’re sitting in the main dining area, while the wine list (200 labels, up to €120 per bottle) represents all

the key Greek varieties and is constantly being updated. It is also organized geographically, so that you can compare and contrast the offerings of different regions. Try the house wine, which is bottled exclusively for the restaurant by Girlemis Winery in central Greece. • •

2A Hatziyianni Mexi, Hilton Tel. (+30) 210.723.5005

Electra Metropolis Athens & Εlectra Palace Athens The restaurant on the 10th floor of this brand-new Athens hotel affords the most spectacular view of the city, with the Acropolis in the foreground. The Mediterranean fusion cuisine bears the hallmarks of experienced chef Dimitris Boutsalis. The wine list offers a choice of 70 labels, 45 of which are from Greek vineyards (€16-79 per bottle), while 20 are also served by the glass. They are GREECE IS

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much-talked-about wines, from all the main wine-producing areas. Close by, in the Plaka district, the classic Electra Palace Athens offers a fine dining experience with its own view of the Acropolis, a sophisticated environment, Mediterranean menu and numerous PDO ingredients. The wine list features 45 labels from Greek wineries (€25-90 per bottle), seventeen of which are also served by the glass, grouped according to geographical region. Electra Metropolis Athens: 15 Mitropoleos, Syntagma Square, Tel. (+30) 214.100.6200 • Electra Palace Αthens: 18 Nikodimou, Plaka, Tel. (+30) 210.337.0000

Funky Gourmet Food is a sophisticated game of molecular techniques here, with beautifully presented, inspired dishes presented in a play of geometric forms. The restaurant, which boasts two Michelin stars, has put together two tasting menus comprising about 16 dishes. The wine list is comprehensive, with 165 labels (€27-770 per bottle) and 32 128

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selections by the glass, which, however, are quite pricey. Reservations must be made at least a month in advance if you hope to get a table. 13 Paramythias & Salaminos, Kerameikos • Tel. (+30) 210.524.2727 •

GB Roof Garden & Tudor Hall Both the excellent restaurants of the luxurious Grande Bretagne and King George hotels on Syntagma Square serve Greek cuisine with international influences, prepared by chefs with a background in French gastronomy. Their wine lists are works of art created by sommelier Vangelis Psofidis, while the cellars host aging international vintage wines from pivotal harvest years. The lists comprise 200 Greek labels and another 400 from the new and old world (€30-10,000 per bottle), as well as 40 by-theglass options. • •

Syntagma Square Tel. (+30) 210.333.0000

Hytra – Onassis Cultural Center One of the preeminent representatives of high-end gastronomy in Athens and a holder of one Michelin star, Hytra serves boldly executed contemporary Greek cuisine. You can sample some of its greatest creations in the tasting menus, which comprise eight to 14 dishes and include a fully vegetarian selection. The wine list includes 90 labels (€26-180 per bottle), most of them Greek. • •

107 Syngrou, Neos Kosmos Tel. (+30) 217.707.1118

Mono Restaurant Here, you’ll find creative Mediterranean cuisine in a tasteful dining room and a low-key atmosphere in the charming Plaka district. If going by metro, use Monastiraki station. The menu features fresh ideas and interesting combinations, while specialists are on hand to advise on wine selection. The list includes about 160 wines (€15120 per bottle), and 25 to 30 selections served by the glass. • 4C

Benizelou Paleologou, Plaka

• Tel.

Tudor Hall

(+30) 210.322.6711

Premiere The new chef at the InterContinental hotel restaurant, Michalis Nouroglou, maintains the fine-dining experience and puts his own signature on intricate Mediterranean-inspired dishes built around classic ingredients like lamb, eel, pistachio nuts from Aegina, tomatoes and olives. The desserts are also excellent and designed to pair with spirits or one of the 12 sweet wines on the 300-label list (€28-1,750 per bottle), which includes 30 by-the-glass options. • •

89-93 Syngrou, Neos Kosmos Tel. (+30) 210.920.6000

Scala Vinoteca This is one of the most interesting wine restaurants in town, located in a really cool space designed by Kokkinou+Kourkoulas Architects. It serves fresh, stylish food prepared by chef Dimitris Kontopoulos. The wine list comprises over 200 labels


© CLAIRY MOUSTAFELLOU

advertorial Theio Tragi

Electra Metropolis Athens

from around the world but mainly Greece (€19-86 per bottle), 40 of which are served by the glass. The sommelier recommends and Assyrtiko from Santorini with the tuna and smoked crispy seaweed. 50 Sina & Anagnostopoulou, Kolonaki • Tel. (+30) 210.361.0041 •

Spondi A meal at Michelin-starred Spondi is something you won’t forget in a hurry. With French cuisine, served in an elegant and beautiful space by discreet and attentive waitstaff, this is fine dining at every level. Tasting menus start at €69, and the wine list brings together 300 excellent selections from Greece and abroad, priced from €34-1,700 per bottle. • •

5 Pyrronos, Pangrati Tel. (+30) 210.756.4021

Theio Tragi This punk bistro became the talk of the town as soon as it opened in 2013 and not just because of its cool name, which translates

as “Holy Goat.” The restaurant is run by a cooperative collective that serves modern European dishes prepared with cutting-edge techniques and presented so beautifully they are a feast for both the eyes and the palate. The menu changes every season and most of the dishes incorporate fine Greek products. The wine list is unconventional and fascinating, with selections from very small producers and relatively unknown Greek wineries (€15-41 per bottle). • •

36 Kidantindon, Ano Petralona Tel. (+30) 210.341.0296

Telemachos Athens The classic meat restaurant of the northern Athens suburbs recently opened a branch in the city center, where it continues to serve its flagship meats from handpicked Greek and foreign farms, in excellent cuts. The stars are the filets and the skewered meats. There are 250 selections on the wine list (€22-180 per bottle), with an emphasis on meat-friendly reds and special imports from

A st o r y o f l o v e an d inn o v ati o n in a tra d iti o nal w ine re g i o n Our story is a tale made from long summer Mediterranean-style family gatherings, endless late-night discussions and a wine that speaks for itself. It started in 1981, when Vaggelis Chatzivaritis met his future wife Olga Iakovidou, who is from Goumenissa, a well-known wine region in northern Greece. Vaggelis started making his own wine to enjoy in the company of his good friends and close relatives. In 1994, he planted the first five hectares and gradually added seven more. An organic farming approach was chosen, with an emphasis on Greek varieties and grape quality as well as soil fertility and environmental protection. In 2007, a wonderful “boutique” winery was built nearby the village of Filiria, where our first PDO GOUMENISSA was produced.

INFO

Chatzivaritis Estate, 6th km Goumenissa - Giannitsa Road, Goumenissa • Τel. (+30)2310.215.259 • www.chatzivaritis.gr


© CLAIRY MOUSTAFELLOU, JESSICA MORFIS

Duck private cheffing

Telemachos Athens

New Zealand, Australia and the Rhône Valley. 10 Panepistimiou (inside the arcade), Syntagma • Tel. (+30) 210.361.3300 •

Varoulko Owner and chef Lefteris Lazarou is largely responsible for elevating fish and seafood into gourmet fare in Greece, where the bounty of the sea is often taken for granted. Varoulko serves jewels like pasta with grouper, calamari in a pesto sauce and sundry fantastic seafood dishes, right beside the sea, overlooking the pretty Mikrolimano harbor. The wine list mostly contains Greek options, with a plethora of complex and aromatic whites (160 labels, €16-520 per bottle) and 32 selections by the glass. The sommelier is on hand to recommend pairings, including a few rich reds that beautifully complement Lazarou’s richer dishes. 52 Akti Koumoundourou, Mikrolimano, Piraeus • Tel. (+30) 210.522.8400 •

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Vasilenas

Based in Piraeus, Vasilenas has been around for almost a century. Recently it opened a branch in Athens that stands out for its elegant Greek cuisine, served in a space that resembles a fancy brasserie. The wine list comprises 125 choices, most of them Greek, and 20 by-the-glass selections. 13 Vrasida, Ilisia (behind the Hilton Hotel) • Tel. (+30) 210.721.0501 •

Vezene

This elegantly subdued bistro-bar is renowned for its fine meat and its respect for natural ingredients, which are left almost untouched, whether they come from the land or the sea. The wine list is made up mainly of Greek producers, handpicked in person by chef and owner Ari Vezene for their quality and good practices, while there is also a good selection from western Europe. The wines are presented in different categories according to the terroir and type of soil rather than grape variety or location.

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11 Vrasida, Ilissia Tel. (+30) 210.723.2002

Vinoterra As it’s conveniently located next to a liquor store owned by the proprietors, the restaurant’s extensive wine list is continually updated. You will find nearly 1,000 wines, half which are Greek (€13-100 per bottle). They also stock quite a few magnums, 3-liter and 5-liter bottles, and offer nearly 50 wines by the glass. They will open any wine from the store, with a €8 corkage fee for bottles costing up to €40; corkage for more expensive wines is 20 percent of their price. The cuisine is Mediterranean and features popular recipes and plenty of dishes of the day with seasonal ingredients as well as good desserts. • 74-76 Marinou Antypa, Neo Irakleio • Tel. (+30) 210.279.2100 • Liquor store: (+30) 210.271.7554

THESSALONIKI Alfredo’s Grand Dining Alfredo’s steals the show with its sophisticated Mediterranean cuisine in the five-star hotel that hosts it. There are both à la carte and fixed menus that pair different wines with every dish, at reasonable prices. The 370-strong wine list (€20-3,500 per bottle) includes many Greek selections, as well as wines from the old and new worlds. If you’re a smoker, you can enjoy a good cigar with a glass of robust wine from northern Greece in the cigar bar. Hyatt Regency Casino, Airport area • Tel. (+30) 2310.491.199 •

Clochard Standing the test of time, Clochard enjoys a loyal following that consists mainly of the city’s intellectuals, but also attracts business travelers who choose it for professional lunches and


Mavri Thalassa

Sinatra

dinners thanks to its discreet, intimate ambience. The food is Greek, with an emphasis on the local cuisine, while the wine on the 180-strong list (€16-160 per bottle) is also mostly domestic, featuring many native varieties. • •

4 Proxenou Koromila, Tel. (+30) 2310.239.805

Duck private cheffing Though located in the industrial district, dining here is like being out in the countryside. The charming chef-owner prepares rustic dishes from all over Greece, and from France and Italy as well. The food is generous and hearty, and the menu changes almost every day depending on what’s available at the market. Local wineries and 70 selections (€14-50 per bottle) feature on the list, which is designed for both connoisseurs and simple pleasure seekers. • •

3 Halkis, Pylea Tel. (+30) 2315.519.333

Electra Palace Thessaloniki

Situated at the highest point of the emblematic hotel in Aristotelous Square, overlooking the Thermaic Gulf, the Roof Garden restaurant sets the standard for luxury dining in the northern city. Locally sourced products are used to create inspiring dishes with a Mediterranean flair. The wine menu features around 30 very reasonably priced labels (€17-47 per bottle) which offer excellent choices for food-pairing. Sixteen are also served by the glass. 9 Aristotelous Square, Thessaloniki, Tel. (+30) 2310.294.000 •

Local

The food in the city’s busiest eatery, open from early in the day for coffee, can be loosely described as good Mediterranean and international, though the list of 70 wines (€16-65 per bottle) is mostly Greek and represents local producers, with 10 labels available by the glass. Interesting cheeses and cold meats are also served. •

17 Paleon Patron Germanou

Tel. (+30) 2310.223.307

Mavri Thalassa Widely regarded as the best fish restaurant in town, Mavri Thalassa excels in fish (grilled, bolied or even raw) and serves a plethora of shellfish and meze. The wine list includes around 90 choices (€16-240 per bottle), mostly white to complement the fish and seafood. There’s also a small selection of wines by the glass and spirits like ouzo and tsipouro. • •

3 Nikolaou Plastira, Kalamaria Tel. (+30) 2310.932.542

and at very reasonable prices. •

61 Stergiou Polydorou, Kastra

Tel. (+30) 2310.202.007

Sinatra

Open from early in the morning, this espresso and wine bar is always buzzing, getting livelier as the evening progresses, thanks to its uplifting music and satisfied clientele. It serves about 14 wines by the glass and its list features some 80 options, reasonably priced (€20-45 per bottle) and mostly domestic. • •

20 Mitropoleos & Komninon Tel. (+30) 2310.223.739

Radikal Their love for wine is attested to by the huge glass case that contains around 70 selections of mainly Greek wines. The main dining area is on the first floor, while there’s also a private room for special meals of up to 12 people. The Mediterranean-based cuisine also brings in other ethnic elements and ingredients in fascinating flavor blends. Almost all of the wines are served by the glass

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Wine Bars ser v in g k n o w le d g e b y the g lass

ATHENS Boheme Bourgeois (BoBo)

Just a short walk from the brand-new National Museum of Contemporary Art, where old-school Plaka meets upand-coming Mets, four friends transformed an old car repair shop into a classy wine bar with a 1970s feel. Wine list: Around 100 Greek and foreign wines (€15-90 per bottle), plus a handful of wines representing European wine regions like Tuscany and Burgundy, as well as many biodynamic and organic wines. By the glass: A selection of 26, priced at €3.80-9. Special feature: The food menu includes a number of PDO delicacies like nivato cheese from Verdikousa near Larissa, salami from the islands and galotyri cheese. • •

36 Anastasiou Zinni, Koukaki Tel. (+30) 210.924.4244

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By the Glass

Stylish and slightly highbrow, tucked away in an arcade across the street from the National Gardens. Wine list: It’s not just the sheer number of wines (200+), but also their eclectic quality, as they include rare, specially bottled and prime harvest wines. By the glass: Almost all are served by the glass but you should avail yourself of the opportunity to try the really, really good stuff. Special feature: Good Mediterranean cuisine and pleasant jazz, sometimes even live. 3 Souri, Stoa Ralli • Tel. (+30) 210.323.2560 •

Cinque

This small, cute and colorful place is located in the nightlife-buzzing Psyrri district. Wine list: 30 choices representing all of Greece’s wine-producing regions (€1226 per bottle). By the glass:

Around six or seven, alternating, at €3-5.40 per glass. Special feature: Every glass of wine is served with small, typically Greek, meze. • •

15 Agatharchou, Psyrri Tel. (+30) 215.501.7853

Corks & Forks

Overlooking a lovely small harbor, it is full even on weekdays. Wine list: 90 options, mainly from lesser-known Greek wineries. By the glass: More than 20, and alternated often. Special feature: Delicious entrées, tapas and meze, all with Mediterranean flair. Akti Themistokleous & 1 Pargas, Piraeus • Tel. (+30) 215.515.9792 •

Heteroclito

Think French bistro circa 1960s, with just a few coveted tables in a narrow passage. Wine list: 200 selections, all Greek, though every so often it includes

“special guests” like Italian reds and French naturals. By the glass: More than 18, in servings of 75 or 150 ml. Special feature: It carries selections from different wine zones and regions (for example, over 15 Assyrtiko or Xinomavro), allowing fascinating comparisons of the different characteristics they bring. 2 Fokionos & Petraki, Monastiraki • Tel. (+30) 210.323.9406 •

Kiki de Grece

Cozy and familiar, it has a pleasant buzz. Wine list: More than 35 Greek wines (starting at €14 per bottle). By the glass: All wines are served by the glass and on some days the aperitif hour features a snack buffet. Special feature: On warm sunny days, opt for a table outside. • •

4 Ipitou, Syntagma Tel. (+30) 210.321.1279

© CLAIRY MOUSTAFELLOU

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Materia Prima

Small and quiet, this place is perfect for wine aficionados who want to concentrate on the contents of their glass. Wine list: Owner Michalis Papatsimbas, an agronomist with a degree in wine geography, makes sure to change at least 30 percent of the list every three or four days. It comprises 300 wines (€14-300 per bottle). By the glass: More than 15, starting at €4. Special feature: You will find native varieties from smallscale producers and special vinification styles like natural and orange wines, as well as several foreign selections. Snacks include Greek and foreign cheeses and cold cuts, while smokers have their own separate area. 68 Falirou, Koukaki • Τel. (+30) 210.924.5935 •

Monk

It’s not your usual subdued wine bar, but a bar proper, with loud music and lots of people on the weekend. Wine list: 115 labels, with detailed geographical and varietal information. By the glass: All of the selections are served by the glass, thanks to the Coravin system. Special feature: Lovely and light wine cocktails. • •

4 Karori, Monastiraki Tel. (+30) 210.321.1117

Oinoscent

This is a lively and non-smoking spot in the city center. Wine list: 700 Greek and foreign labels. By the glass: At least 134

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Boheme Bourgeois (BoBo)

50, which change almost every month. Special feature: You can buy any bottle to take home, but if you prepare to enjoy it on the premises there is an €8 corkage fee. • •

47 Voulis, Syntagma Tel. (+30) 210.322.9374

BY THE GLASS

All the labels are sold by the glass, in servings of 75 or 150 ml. Special feature: Great for some deli shopping or for a snack/light meal of cheese, cold cuts and smoked salmon sliced to order, at one of the few tables. • •

7 Argyropoulou, Kifissia Tel. (+30) 210.808.8157

Paleo

An old, renovated warehouse with a gorgeous wooden roof, chairs bearing the name of different wine territories and cities, and décor centered on hundreds of empty bottles, Paleo is a good reason to make the trip to Piraeus. Wine list: Comprises 360 wines (from €16 per bottle), mainly from Greece, the Mediterranean and Europe. By the glass: Frequently alternating, you will find more than 10 selections, starting at €5. Special feature: Owner and sommelier Yiannis Kaimenakis is one of the most experienced wine experts in Greece, with incredible knowledge and discernment. The food is good Mediterranean, and if you follow the sommelier’s suggestions, it will elevate the wine to a whole new level. • •

39 Polydefkous, Piraeus Tel. (+30) 210.412.5204

SALMONERIA Caffe I Frati

This is a bistro with an impressive display of cheeses, mousses, pâtés, seafood deli goods and caviar. Wine list: 80 labels from around the world (€20400 per bottle). By the glass:

Vein

Stylish and modern, this spot offers a lot. Wine list: 150 (€18-440 per bottle), around half of which are Greek. By the glass: 40, but the bar also has the Coravin system. Special feature: A reputation for good food, with brunch being its most popular hour. • •

3 Markou Botsari, Glyfada Tel. (+30) 215.515.9777

Vinarte

You’ll find modern design elements including an impressive walk-in cellar. Wine list: 200, many of which are older vintages, costing €18-450 per bottle. By the glass: Try the four-glass tasting flights and make use of the Coravin system to taste a few rare gems. Special feature: Italian-inspired cooking and finger food with Greek and Spanish influences. All wines available to buy at store prices to take home. Take advantage of the Wine Wednesdays offers and note that Tuesdays are “free” if you BYOW, with a corkage fee of €8. 18 Maragou, Glyfada • Tel. (+30) 210.894.1511 •

Vintage

Decorated like the living room of a typical middle-class 1950s Athenian home, Vintage is full of retro objects. Wine list: 350, from Greece and abroad. By the glass: Around 270, thanks to the Coravin system. Special feature: You can also order half a glass, to taste a bigger range. • •

66 Mitropoleos, Monastiraki Tel. (+30) 213.029.6570

Warehouse

It really does resemble a warehouse, with a cement roof, cracked mosaic floor and repurposed furniture. Wine list: 200 selections (€12-189 per bottle), with an emphasis on Greek wineries. By the glass: Around 70. Special feature: You can choose one of the 300 labels in the cellar to take home. Mavromichali & 21 Valtetsiou, Exarchia • Tel. (+30) 215.540.8002 •

Wine Not

Wine-inspired decor includes hundreds of bottles and discreet lighting. Wine list: 90 selections, ranging from €18.50-78 per bottle. By the glass: Around 22 Greek choices, as well as distilled, sparkling and aged wines. Special feature: It has a large selection of tsipouro and other spirits. • •

12 Kalogrezas, Halandri Tel. (+30) 216.700.2945

© OLYMPIA ORNERAKI, ANGELOS GIOTOPOULOS, CLAIRY MOUSTAFELLOU

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THE EXPERTS’ CHOICE

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Five esteemed wine professionals pick their ten favorite Greek wines.

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THE EXPERTS’ CHOICE

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Five esteemed wine professionals pick their ten favorite Greek wines.

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THANASSIS PARPAROUSSIS ONE OF THE FIRST GREEKS TO STUDY oENOLOGY IN FR ANCE IN THE SIXTIES; founder and owner of parparoussis winery in patras

Parparoussis Nemea Reserve 2012

Agiorgitiko. An elegant, complex wine with a graceful balance of fruit, acidity and tannin.

Gerovassiliou Museum Collection, PGI Epanomi

Domaine Mercouri 2014, PGI Letrina

Inspired blend of five white grape varieties (Assyrtiko, Chardonnay, Malagousia, Sauvignon Blanc, Viogner) grown on the estate. Gratifying balance of aromas, character and aftertaste.

Refosco-Mavrodafni. Smooth, velvety, perfectly balanced. A true classicďż˝

Tsibidis Kydonitsa, PGI Laconia

Rouvalis Winery, Mitos tis Ariadnis

A particularly charismatic variety in a style that allows its many facets to be fully appreciated.

Combination of Sauvignon Blanc and Assyrtiko from the hillsides of Egialeia in the Peloponnese. Complex aromas, full body, crisp acidity.

Christos Kokkalis Trilogia 2009

Droumo KIr-Yianni 2015

A mouth-filling, oily-textured Sauvignon Blanc, rich in fresh aromas.

A bold, robust Cabernet Sauvignon. Pairs perfectly with rich red meat.

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Tselepos Winery Amalia Vintage 2013

Sophisticated expression of Moschofilero, with refreshing acidity and velvety aftertaste with oily texture.

Domaine Skouras Megas Oenos 2003 Magnum

Exceptional and exciting blend of Agiorgitiko and Cabernet Sauvignon with depth, finesse and power.

Estate Argyros Assyrtiko 2015, PDO Santorini

Charming expression of Assyrtiko with a pleasing balance of minerality and acidity.


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GIANNIS PARASKEVOPOULOS O N E O F T H E B E S T- S K I L L E D W I N E M A K E R S I N G R E E C E , W I T H A P h D in o E nology from the U ni v ersity of B ordeaux I I ; C O - F O U N D E R O F G A I A W I N E S

Alpha Estate Sauvignon Blanc

The most accomplished white Greek wine based on a non-Greek grape. Unusually powerful and complex for a Sauvignon blanc not coming from France.

What a wine! The marriage between the Greek Assyrtiko grape and the French Semillon leads to a wine miracle. Complex, long and totally hedonistic.

KIr-Yianni Diaporos

Xinomavro’s spine-bone and acidity blends with the Syrah’s deep color and juicy-spicy taste. The result is this world-class red wine that defies time.

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Malagousia Gerovassiliou, PGI Epanomi

I thought that I didn’t like wines coming from the Mavrotragano grape. Then I tasted T-Oinos. It totally changed my opinion of this grape. Simply delicious.

Parparoussis Taos Cava, PGI Achaia

Biblia Chora Ovilos White, Kavala, PGI Pangeon

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Τ-oinos Clos Stegasta Mavrotragano

The Malagousia grape yields great whites. Balanced and fragrant, they cry to the world that Greek wines aren’t only Assyrtiko. This one is probably the best example.

Gentilini Eclipse

I love the name, I love the grape variety (Mavrodaphne), I love Cephalonia, I love Petros & Marianna, and, most definitely, I love this juicy and yet powerful red.

Taos (the peacock) helped me redefine Mavrodaphne, this well-hidden and unknown Greek red variety. Priceless for its profound color and stoning acidity.

Skouras Viognier Eclectique

GAIA Estate, PDO Nemea

Are we in South France? No. We are in Greece. And why does this Viognier wine taste better than any Viognier coming from France? Because it’s made by my friend Giorgos Skouras. Way to go, Giorgo! What a balanced use of oak that is!

Not only because it’s one of mine, but mainly because it’s an elusive and constantly demanding monster that never fails to surprise me.

Sigalas Nychteri, PDO Santorini

This wine takes the beloved Assyrtiko variety to a wholy new level, hovering between tradition and modernity.

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STELLIOS BOUTARIS L S E graduate who has , since 2 0 0 4 , been running the K ir -Y ianni E state that his father created in N aoussa

Estate Gerovassiliou White, PGI Epanomi

A Greek classic: a blend of Assyrtiko and Malagousia, Greece’s top white grapes.

Naoussa Boutari, PDO Naoussa

Samos Grand Cru, PDO Samos

A classic Xinomavro, with balanced fruit, acidity and tannins. In all probability, the most widely distributed Greek wine in the world!

A beautiful fortified white sweet wine from the island of Samos, in the Aegean. Most of it is exported to France!

Sigalas Kavalieros, PDO Santorini

The best example of Assyrtiko, Greece’s most prominent white grape, from the island of Santorini. Just wonderful!

Grande Cuvee Nemea Skouras, PDO Nemea

T-Oinos Clos Stegasta Assyrtiko

Gaia Estate, PDO Nemea

A textbook Agiorgitiko from Nemea in the Peloponnese. A great ambassador for Greek wines.

A powerful wine from the island of Tinos, combining the pure minerality of Santorini with the strength of mountain Assyrtiko.

100% Agiorgitiko from Nemea. Pure, clean, sheer power and elegance in a bottle.

Karanika Brut Cuvée Spéciale, PGI Florina

Moschofilero Nassiakos, PDO Mantinia

An elegant, fruity, light wine from Greece’s most popular white grape, Moschofilero.

Methode traditionelle sparkling wine from Amyntaio in northwestern Greece. Unbelievable power and elegance in a bottle

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Domaine Lazaridi Amethystos Cava

Greece’s best Cabernet Sauvignon, from the up-andcoming region of Drama in northeastern Greece.


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ARIS SKLAVENITIS T he best G reek sommelier for 2 0 16 and co - owner of the wine bar O inoscent in Athens

Assyrtiko Vassaltis, PDO Santorini

Agiorgitiko, Aivalis Winery, PDO Nemea

A new entry for Santorini: a wine with medium intensity, mineral aromas, citrus fruit, dry with high acidity, medium to full body and long finish. Taos Cava Mavrodaphne, Parparoussis Winery, PGI Achaia

A wine with high intensity, sweet floral aromas of rose and citrus fruit. Dry with crispy acidity and medium body. One of the best examples of the Mantineia region.

Pronounced aromas of raisin, herbs and citrus fruit. The wine is dry with high acidity, middle-weight body and long finish. Modern style of Retsina; just impressive.

Vidiano, Douloufakis Winery, PGI Crete

Robola is an upand-coming variety from Cephalonia. A wine with mineral aromas, citrus and stone fruits. Dry with high acidity, middle-weight body and long finish.

Complex aromas of ripe stone fruits, herbal and mineral notes. On the palate, it is dry with moderate acidity and full body, oily texture and high alcohol. Vidiano is the rising star of the Greek white varieties.

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Elegant wine with high aromatic intensity. It is dry with high acidity, rough tannins, medium body and long finish. A great ambassador for Greek wines.

Retsina Roditis, Tetramythos Winery, Wine of Traditional Appellation

Robola Cellar Selection, Gentilini

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Earth & Sky Xinomavro, Thymiopoulos, PDO Naoussa

Pronounced floral aromas, citrus and stone fruits. On the palate, it is dry with oiliness and moderate acidity. Vangelis Gerovassiliou is a pioneer who, along with the winemaking team of the Porto Carras Estate, rescued the Malagousia grape in the early 1970s.

Moschofilero, Domaine Tselepos, PDO Mantineia

A wine with intense aromas of black fruits, herbal and botanical aromas. It is dry with moderate acidity, high tannins fine-grained and middle-weight body. One of the best examples of the Mavrodaphne grape variety.

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Pronounced aromatic intensity with deep character of black fruits. It is dry with medium to high acidity, smooth chocolate tannins and middle-weight body. Boutique winery with quite plethoric wines with robust structure.

Malagousia Gerovassiliou, PGI Epanomi

Vinsanto 20 Y.O. Argyros Estate, PDO Santorini

A “once in a lifetime” experience. Pronounced aromas of dried fruits, honey, honeycomb and chocolate. On the palate, it is luscious, with extremely high acidity and full body.

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MARKUS STOLZ C reator of www . elloinos . com blog , a hub for producers , merchants and consumers , offering an inside look into the world of G reek wines

Domaine Economou Liatiko, PGI Sitia

Chrisohoou Prekniariko, PGI Imathia

Made predominately from a local clone of Liatiko found nowhere else in Greece but Crete, this natural wine will surely captivate the heart of even the most serious wine lover.

“Prekniaris” means “freckle-face,” as the skins of the grapes are dotted with spots. The wine is unique and ages very well.

Sigalas Santorini, PDO Santorini

Diamantakos Naoussa, PDO Naoussa

This 100% Assyrtiko never disappoints; it is delicious to sip when young, but becomes much more complex after three to five years. Surely worth waiting for the real treat it offers.

This Xinomavro stands out; full-bodied, with a heady blend of black olives and pepper, reassuring tannins in the tail, and sumptuous fruit, combining power with elegance – which is no easy task to accomplish.

Alpha Estate Omega Late Harvest

This sweet wine, a blend of 85% Gewürztraminer and 15% Malagousia, is a joy to sip, with a lovely pear and apricot character that harmonizes perfectly with spicy and floral aromas.

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Karanika Brut Cuvée Spéciale, PGI Florina

Made from 100% Xinomavro grapes using the méthode traditionelle, this sparkling wine is full of breed on the nose, bracing, focused and dry. It offers one of the very best alternatives to champagne and is without a doubt the top sparkling wine from Greece.

Kokkalis Trilogia, PGI Ilia

For me, the one Greek Cabernet Sauvignon that rules them all. This is a serious wine that could easily be mistaken for a top Bordeaux.

Bosinakis Moschofilero, PDO Mantineia

The most captivating expression of a Moschofilero: lime and stones, crisp acidity, sharp and focused, aromatic, perfumed with layers of rose pedals.

Monemvasia Winery Kidonitsa, PGI Laconia

“Kidoni” translates to “quince”, and this grape could not have been named better. The wine bursts with quince flavors, and is extremely delicious when enjoyed young.

Antonopoulos Gerontoklima Vertzami, PGI Lefkas

Intense aromas of cassis, black berries, tea leaves and truffles, bold and rich on the palate, dense yet gentle tannin; this wine is well worth seeking out.


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LIDL HELLAS iF Design Prize for Inspired Packaging

CHATZIVARITIS ESTATE

Celebratory Wine Chatzivaritis Estate celebrates its 10-year anniversary with the release of a new, unique white wine which was given a quirky name: “Vaggeli! Are you listening to me?” Aromatic and fresh in the mouth, it commemorates the year 1985, when, long before the existence of the winery, a great love and passion for good wine brought together the friends and family of owner Vaggelis Chatzivaritis to assist with the first bottling. The rest is history. •

6th km Goumenissa - Giannitsa Road, Goumenissa • Tel: (+30) 2310.215.259 • www.chatzivaritis.gr

The Merlot 2014, the Syrah 2015 and the Chardonnay 2015, three wines packaged and distributed by Lidl Hellas and sold only in Lidl supermarkets, have been chosen among 5,575 entries from 2,675 participants from 59 countries and awarded the prestigious iF Design Prize 2017 for design excellence in the category of Packaging Beverages. Their design is not only refined, but also clever, revealing the region of each variety’s origin through the artistic depictions of three rare Greek inhabitants: the endemic fish Ellinopygósteos, found only in the Spercheios Valley in central Greece, the Taygetos blue butterfly whose home is Mt Taygetos in the Peloponnese, and the marginated tortoise, also a resident of the Peloponnese.

RIRA VINEYARDS

A Passion for Winemaking The people of RIRA Vineyards have always treated their vines as human beings with whom they co-exist and therefore need to learn to understand in order to better cater to their needs. This empathic approach has led to the production of a series of red, white and rosé wines that have gone on to excel at international competitions, including the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles, the Mundus Vini and the Berliner Wein Trophy. •

OENORAMA

Rira Aigialeias, Achaia, Peloponnese Tel. (+30) 26910.201.23 • www.rira.gr

WINE PILGRIMAGE The beginnings of Greece’s Wine Renaissance coincided with the launch of the Oenorama Wine Exhibition in 1994. Greece’s major annual wine show, Oenorama is a site of pilgrimage for wine lovers and a meeting place for everyone who is anyone in Greek wine. It is also the best place to taste Greek wine and meet the producers. The show takes place every year in mid-March at the Zappeion Megaron exhibition hall, a short walk from Syntagma Square. Over three days, more than 250 wineries present thousands of different wines from all over Greece, in this truly Dionysian event frequented by both consumers and industry professionals. www.oenorama.com

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advertorial

Yiannis Gavalas, Christos Athanasiadis, Aphrodite Dellaporta, George Stylianoudakis, Panagiotis Diamantis (not present: Stamatis Misomikes)

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The LifeThink company is putting on the event with the JBF as a way of increasing exposure for the gastronomy of the South Aegean, which has been named as one of two European Regions of Gastronomy for 2019. Sponsored by Greek merchants active in New York, the event will feature such specialties as Mykonos louza cured pork, Astypalea saffron and the wines of Skouras, Kir-Yianni and SantoWines (via Diamond Importers); olive oil from Kalamata (via Terra Medi); Skinos mastiha liqueur; meat delicacies by Prime Food Distributor; and many other products made particularly delicious by the exceptional microclimate found on the islands.


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CELLARS

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WINE SHOPPING Whether you want to buy a special bottle of wine to enjoy in the comfort of your hotel or order a few to be sent back home, here are our best picks. C o m p i l e d by: N i ko l e ta M a k r i o n i t o u

CENTRAL ATHENS

Athens suburbs

Cellier

Drosia

Older vintage years are always available. 282 Kifisias Avenue, Halandri www.oakcava.gr • Tel. (+30) 210.685.8078 •

An historic Athenian wine and liquor store, with an impressively rich selection. Main store: 1D Kriezotou, Syntagma • www.cellier.gr • Tel. (+30) 210.361.0040 •

About 700 Greek and more than 200 international wines, among them regular new arrivals at good prices, are available here. An added bonus is the availability of special and limited-edition bottling. 3 Stamatas, Drosia www.cavadrosia.gr • Tel. (+30) 210.814.2947 •

Kylix

A luxury wine boutique with an exceptionally interesting collection of fine wines, imports, rare distillates and premium international spirits. Sophisticated selections from the best Greek wineries. Excellent know-how and very good service. 20 Karneadou, Kolonaki www.kylix.gr • Tel. (+30) 210.724.5143 • •

Mr Vertigo

The wine list is impressive and frequently updated, the space is modern and the sommeliers are always at the ready to answer questions and make recommendations. Mr Vertigo has an in-built cellar which maintains the right temperature and humidity, wine cabinets to store champagne and sparkling wines in the way they should be kept and an Enomatic dispenser and Coravin system for sampling wines. 15 Filikis Eterias, Kolonaki • www.mrvertigo.gr • Tel. (+30) 210.725.0862 •

Faidon

Vinifera

You will find more than 1,000 international wine brands in the atmospheric cellar of this 1890 stone-built mansion, though the owners’ weakness for French chateaux is evident. True connoisseurs provide useful advice and knowledge. 317 Kifisias, Kifisia www.vinifera.gr • Tel. (+30) 210.807.7709 •

28 Aghiou Ioannou, Voula • fb.com/cavafaidononline • Tel. (+30) 215.510.9975

Up-to-date and popular, with outstanding service provided by true wine connoisseurs. A wide range of international wines, magnums and vintages.

Halaris

Established in 1950, this store features a noteworthy range of wines. Main store: 74 Akti Moutsopoulou, Marina Zeas, Piraeus • www.cavahalari.gr • Tel. (+30) 210.418.4817 •

Oak

The emphasis here is on enriching an already vast inventory with Greek wines, though there is no shortage of samples from international vineyards among the imports. A state-of-the-art space with a high architectural aesthetic.

7 John Kennedy, Pylea www.winehouse.gr • Tel. (+30) 2310.454.187 • •

It stocks more than 400 Greek and 200 international wines and its two young owners are knowledgeable enough to help you find exactly what you’re looking for. There is a wine and deli bar right next door. •

books to wine accessories, with an interesting international range and rare offerings from small Greek producers.

THESSALONIKI

E-Shops Botilia

A liquor store that searches for and finds special bottlings, some anniversary wines or limited editions, collectible wines and often choices from newcomer vineyards. The list changes continuously, but remains loyal to Greek vineyards. Extremely competitive. Ships abroad. •

Abatzis

12 Aristotelous www.cava-abatzis.com • Tel. (+30) 2310.387.400 • •

Greece and Grapes

A 100% Greek and up-to-date wine list, comprising bottles chosen after taste-testing from both large and small wineries. Ideal cellaring conditions, immediate order delivery and shipping outside Greece. •

Depot des Vins

Fully updated and intriguing selections, with all the mainstream Greek wines along with some debutants. • Bouboulinas and Yianni Makryianni, Kalamaria • www.mycava.gr • Tel. (+30) 2310.442.103

Wine House

A multipurpose space with everything about wine – from

www.botilia.gr

www.greeceandgrapes.com

House of Wine

Greece’s largest online liquor store, featuring detailed descriptions and objective reviews for the more than 1,000 selections, recently opened an attractive store. 40 Ethnikis Antistaseos, Halandri • Tel. (+30) 801.111.9463 • www.houseofwine.gr •

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GREECE IS | WINE | 2017  

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