When we think about Greece, the first thoughts likely to spring to mind are sunshine, sandy beaches and stunning views of the magnificent Mediterranean sea. Then we talk about the delicious Greek food, with its exquisite variety of fresh ingredients and ancient recipes. Let’s take that one step further; picking some nice wines. For this, we suggest going local as modern Greek wine is, unbeknown to the majority, phenomenal! The same fresh ingredients and ancient recipes that make for delicious food can be found in the heart of the Greek wine-making tradition.
We all know about Greece and its great cultural and political heritage, but few of us are aware that the country was also one of the leading wine producers in the ancient world. Greek wine was very popular across the entire Mediterranean more than 2000 years ago and now, many centuries later, modern Greek wine is back in vogue due to a group of contemporary winemakers who are very proud of their heritage and unique indigenous grape varieties.
A true introduction into to tastes and flavours you won’t get to find anywhere else. Try the Xinomavro – Greece’s answer to the Barolo. Maybe you want to look at the unique vine baskets of Santorini, which you can see pictured below. They house the Assyrtiko grape varieties and act as a buffer from the scorching Greek sun. Today, Greek wine provides incredible value for money and there are lots of cool varieties that can captivate new and established wine drinkers.
There was a turning point for the production of modern Greek wine after the big economic crisis of 2008. The wine producers had to become more creative and had to work harder to produce wines that were capable of competing on an international scale. Spotting this opportunity, keen young winemakers travelled to study in the best wine schools around the world and as a result, Greek wine is currently showering itself in medals at many an international wine competition. Winemakers are tending to use indigenous varieties with a lot care while sourcing the best sites to grow their grapes, while mastering the use of oak treatment in a bid to make Greek wine more drinkable in the process.
There are so many local grape varieties in Greece that you can easily get lost. We thought the best thing to do would be to give you a quick overview of a white, a red and a sweet wine made from indigenous Greek grapes. Also, you can find some tasty Greek food pairings for each wine. Let’s dive in and uncover modern Greek wines.
WHITE GREEK WINE – ASSYRTIKO
Assyrtiko is the premium white grape in Greece. You can find it all over the country but the best area by far is the tiny island of Santorini – the birthplace of this grape. Don’t miss a chance to visit Santorini island if you get the opportunity to go – the view of its ancient volcanic caldera – crater – is breathtaking. A typical Assyrtiko wine will deliver attractive citrus and passion fruit flavours with a little touch of saltiness. Wines can also be made with oak treatment showing a more creamy character with fennel and pineapple flavours.
Assyrtiko Food pairing – Fennel salad with oranges, grapefruit and feta cheese
Here is a quick recipe for you to try. Fennel has a distinct herbaceous spicy quality which helps to provide contrast. While the salty Feta cheese, that is so famous here, and citrus fruits provide notes to accentuate the fruitiness of this unique white wine.
RED GREEK WINE – AGIORGITIKO
This beautiful grape is responsible for the production of big red wines made in the region of Nemea, an area in the amazing Peloponnese peninsula. Greek wine made from Agiorgitiko are full-bodied red wines with lots of blackcurrant, plum, raspberry and little notes of nutmeg. Agiorgitiko wines are very fruit driven with firm tannins and some spicy character. Oak treatment will be present, but not overpowering. It’s very common to find a Rosé version with a sexy pink look and featuring delicious red fruits like raspberries and strawberries.
Agiorgitiko Food pairing – Spanakopita (a spinach pie filled with feta cheese, onions and egg)
This is a great place to get some great authentic Spanakopitas, and it’s within walking distance of Bayswater tube station. Agiorgitiko is powerful, but it possesses a good degree of acidity. This keeps it light enough and also has the benefit of cutting through the rich cheese and egg mixture.
SWEET GREEK WINE – VIN SANTO
This sweet wine also originates from the famous island of Santorini, but it comes with a really cool twist – it’s made using partially sun-dried grapes. Why do crazy Greek winemakers do that? Easy! If you dry the grapes outside, the heat of the sunlight will make the water evaporate from the berries and, at the same time, it will concentrate the sugar inside the grapes. Then, they will ferment those berries that are naturally really sweet. Assyrtiko is the main grape to make this amazing wine. A Vin Santo will show raisin, dried apricot, cherry and raspberry flavours.
VIN SANTO Food pairing – Baklava (a rich dessert combining layers of filo filled with chopped nuts and honey)
Visit Andy’s Greek Taverna is in the heart of Camden for all your Baklava needs. Takeaway options are also available. Baklava is a decadent dessert which combines nuts, (especially pistachio), and honey through layers of crispy filo pastry. Vin Santo is a classic dessert wine from Greece that has the potential to cellar for decades due to both the high acid and sugar content. The sweet flavours of honey are also found in the fine, alongside oxidative notes of hazelnuts. It really creates an interesting pairing. The flavours will just build up side by side into a delicious delight.
Now if that’s not enough to inspire you to book in a weeks holiday to Greece next summer then I don’t know what will. Easy jet and Ryan Air have some great sales on just after Christmas and into the New Year for Summer 2023. Get on board and get your hands on some Greek wine! Sun, sand, food and some exciting new vino. Tell me how it gets better than that?
If you are into your wine and looking to discover new regions and producers then Savage Vines might be for you. We send you 2 or 3 sommelier selected wines a month to your home or office, made by young independent producers from all over the world. The idea is we introduce you to new wines so that you can start to get an appreciation for the different regions and styles. Prices starting from £29.95 a month including delivery. Along with that we have Spotify playlists, great prices on winery accommodation for our members and exclusive Bring Your Own Bottle (BYOB) deals with restaurants.
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