4 Types of Greek Wine You Need to Try
Greece has a rich winemaking history that dates back 6,500 years. Yet this grape-growing OG has never received the widespread acclaim France or Italy has. But now—thanks, in large part, to innovation and modernization in how grapes are grown and wine is made—the once-overlooked wine region is experiencing something of a renaissance.
So what makes Greek wine so special? First, the more than 300 indigenous grape varieties found throughout the country, many of which have been cultivated since ancient times. Second, the incredible diversity of growing environments, soil types and microclimates, which produce unique wines with a true sense of place.
Here are four key Greek grape varietals to know right now.
Assyrtiko produces dry, full-bodied white wines whose intense minerality, bracing acidity and citrus flavors make them perfect pairings for seafood. In Santorini—where it originates—Assyrtiko expresses its most distinctive characteristics, thanks to the influence of the island’s unique volcanic terroir, Sofia Perpera, enologist and director of the Greek Wine Bureau for North America, notes. Due to its immense popularity, Assyrtiko is now widely planted throughout the country. When grown in other regions of Greece, the grape tends to have a more aromatic profile with less minerality.
Try: 2016 Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko-Athiri
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Moschofilero is a highly aromatic, gray-skinned grape that gives its best expression in the high-altitude plateau of Mantinia in the central Peloponnese. It produces dry, aromatic still and sparkling white wines. Both styles have floral aromas, citrus notes and crisp acidity, making them ideal complements to spicy dishes. A cold glass of Moschofilero is also lovely on its own as an aperitif.
Try: 2015 Tselepos Blanc de Gris Moschofilero
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One of the most ancient grapes, Agiorgitiko—found predominantly in the PDO (protected designation of origin, aka wine-growing zone) region of Nemea in the northeastern Peloponnese—produces deep reds with remarkable complexity, according to Perpera. The soft tannins and balanced acidity allow for the production of many different styles—from rich reds to light, fruity reds to dry, aromatic rosés. Full-bodied bottles are great companions to game meats, like rabbit and venison, and vegetable stews, while lighter sippers are excellent matches for grilled chicken.
Try: 2013 Gaia Estate Agiorgitiko
The predominant red variety of Macedonia in northern Greece, Xinomavro is considered one of the country’s most noble red grapes, according to Perpera. It produces one of Greece’s best terroir-driven wines—in other words, the purest expressions of its origins—and is known for its complexity, superb aging potential and rich tannins. Young Xinomavro has a spicy, fruit-forward bouquet; as it ages, the grapes take on earthy notes of olive and sun-dried tomato, making it tasty with the dishes those vegetables often pair with, like lamb, steak and aged cheeses.
Try: 2013 Kir-Yianni Xinomavro Ramnista
Ready to uncork a bottle yet? We'll be exploring the world of wine all week, uncovering new trends, great wine bars, and tips and tricks you can use all season.
Lindsay Cohn is a freelance lifestyle and travel writer. She believes omakase is always the right choice and that rosé season should be all year long. Follow her on Twitter at @Lindsay_Cohn.
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