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Wine! Greek For Me

, Wine! Greek For Me, eTurboNews | eTN
image courtesy of wikipedia - wiki - history of wine

Greek wines offer a captivating journey, and their unique characteristics make them a valuable addition to any wine collection.

Introduction: Discovering Greek Wines – A Palate Adventure

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In this 4-part series, “Greek Wines. Small-Scale + Large Impact,” we look at why Greek wines should be on your radar.

Indigenous Grape Varieties: Greece boasts over 300 indigenous grapes, each with its own distinct flavors and characteristics. This impressive diversity allows wine lovers to explore a wide range of grape expressions that showcase Greece’s rich viticultural heritage. From the crisp and mineral-driven Assyrtiko to the aromatic and floral Moschofilero, there is a Greek wine to suit every palate. Exploring these indigenous varieties is like embarking on a voyage through Greece’s terroir and culture.

Distinctive Terroir: Greece’s diverse climate, abundant sunshine, and unique soil composition contribute to the exceptional quality of its wines. The sunny and dry climate allows grapes to fully ripen, resulting in concentrated flavors and vibrant acidity. The thin and poor soil, often found in mountainous regions, forces the vines to struggle, producing lower yields but grapes of exceptional quality. This combination of factors creates wines with complexity, depth, and a strong sense of place.

Captivating White Wines: Greek white wines have gained international recognition for their outstanding quality and distinct character. Assyrtiko, primarily grown in Santorini, produces bone-dry wines with high acidity, pronounced minerality, and refreshing citrus flavors. Malagousia and Moschofilero offer aromatic profiles with floral notes and hints of exotic fruits. These white wines are versatile and pair well with various cuisines, making them a delightful addition to any wine collection.

Expressive Red Wines: Greek red wines, particularly Xinomavro and Agiorgitiko, have also garnered attention for their depth and complexity. Xinomavro, often compared to Italy’s Nebbiolo, produces age-worthy reds with firm tannins, vibrant acidity, and flavors of dark fruits, spices, and earth. Agiorgitiko, known as the “Blood of Hercules” delivers elegant and medium-bodied wines with red fruit flavors and silky tannins. These red wines offer a unique twist on classic grape varieties and provide a compelling experience for wine enthusiasts.

Food-Friendly Styles: Greek wines are known for their food-friendliness and their ability to beautifully complement the country’s cuisine. With its emphasis on fresh ingredients, aromatic herbs, and vibrant flavors, Greek cuisine pairs exceptionally well with Greek wines. Whether you’re enjoying a seafood feast with a crisp Assyrtiko, pairing a lamb dish with a bold Xinomavro, or savoring Greek meze with a versatile Agiorgitiko, Greek wines elevate the dining experience and create harmonious pairings.

, Wine! Greek For Me, eTurboNews | eTN
image courtesy of Wikipedia/wiki/silenus

Wine! Greek For Me

In the Greek Tradition: “Quality is not an act, it is a habit.” – Aristotle

While Greece does have a rich wine history and has made significant contributions to the development of wine, there are a few factors that have contributed to its wines not being as commonly ranked among the top three wine countries in the world or featured on every wine list at every bar and restaurant. A few reasons include:

1.       Limited export tradition: For a long time, Greek wines were primarily consumed domestically, and there wasn’t a strong focus on exporting them. As a result, Greek wines didn’t gain as much international recognition and exposure compared to wines from countries like France, Italy, and Spain.

2.       Reputation and perception: In the past, Greek wines were often associated with lower-quality and inexpensive options. This perception has been changing over the years as Greek winemakers have been producing higher-quality wines, but it takes time to overcome old stereotypes and establish a new reputation.

3.       Lack of marketing and promotion: The Greek wine industry hasn’t invested as much in marketing and promotion on a global scale compared to some other wine-producing countries. Marketing efforts play a crucial role in building brand awareness and expanding the presence of a country’s wines in international markets.

4.       Limited production and distribution: Greece is a relatively small wine-producing country, both in terms of land under vine and total production. The limited availability of Greek wines in international markets can be attributed to the country’s production capacity, as well as challenges related to distribution and logistics.

5.       Fragmented industry: The Greek wine industry is characterized by a large number of small producers, often working with indigenous grape varieties. While this diversity is a strength, it can also make it more challenging to create a unified and recognizable identity for Greek wines on the global stage.

However, it’s worth noting that the perception of Greek wines has been gradually changing, and they are gaining more recognition worldwide. Many wine enthusiasts are discovering and appreciating the unique qualities and flavors of Greek wines. As the industry continues to develop, and with increased efforts in marketing and promotion, it’s possible that Greek wines will gain more prominence in the future.

Gods Favored Greek Wines

Wine was often used in religious rituals and ceremonies. It was offered as a libation to the gods during prayers and sacrifices. Additionally, wine was believed to provide strength and courage, so it was offered to men before they went to war. The Greeks believed that wine had divine qualities and was a gift from the gods.

It’s worth noting that while wine was enjoyed by many, it was primarily consumed by the upper classes of Greek society. Most of the drinkers were men, as they had more freedom to engage in social and cultural activities. Wine was seen as a luxury and a symbol of wealth and status.

Exporter and Influencer

The Greek nation once supplied more than 10 million liters per year to Gaul, the region we now call France. Wine exports were important as wine fetched a higher price abroad. Vines were exported to several regions in southern Europe and many arrived in Sicily by the 8th century BC. The Etruscans played a large role in expanding vine cultivation from Tuscany and it is the Greeks who introduced wine production in Italy. Greeks also introduced wine in Marseille around 600 BC and rapidly introduced across the Mediterranean coast.

Greece also established the first vineyards in modern-day Provence, Sicily, and the Italian peninsula. The ancient Greeks were early adopters of viticulture and winemaking, with evidence of wine production and consumption dating back to the third millennium BC. We can thank the Greeks for classifying wines based on quality, with certain vineyard sites and regions producing wines that were considered superior. This concept of terroir, or the influence of a specific geographic location on the characteristics of wine, was recognized by the ancient Greeks. They even had a term for their highest quality wines, referring to them as “grand cru.”

To protect the reputation of their wines and prevent fraud, the ancient Greeks implemented legislation governing the wine trade. Amphorae, the clay containers used for transporting and storing wine, were sealed by state regulators to guarantee authenticity. Specific regulations dictated the size and shape of the containers, and there were laws governing production and identity.

One fascinating example of such legislation comes from the island of Thassos, where laws were established in the fifth century BC. According to these laws, Thassos wines had to have a distinct flora character, which was achieved by adding rose petals during maturation. These laws are believed to be the oldest in the world of wine and demonstrate the ancient Greeks’ attention to detail and their desire to produce wines with specific characteristics. Citizens were not allowed to import foreign wine and ships carrying wine could not approach the island’s port.

About the author


Dr. Elinor Garely - special to eTN and editor in chief,

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