It’s as clear as the Aegean Sea to many in the wine trade that after 2,000 years, give or take a century, Greek wine is finally getting its day in the sun again. As if the population of Mykonos needed one more reason to party, this surely will have them throwing back a few (more than usual).
Winemaking, as far as we know, has been a way someone’s earned a paycheck in Greece for at least 6,000 years. The country’s diverse array of weather buttressed by the ocean, volcanoes and mountains is what allowed its vines and their wines thrive. The wine trade peaked in the Classical era around Crete and modern-day Santorini, then took a downturn due to the war with the Ottomans and its aftermath – land and an economy in utter disrepair. By the early 20th century, quality winemaking in the birthplace of Dionysus, god of the vine, was essentially eradicated. Today, thanks to some upstarts re-developing their lands and methods as well as a vastly improved economy, that’s all changed. A new generation of Greek winemakers is beginning to slowly but surely put high-quality Greek wine back into production and on the map.
We’ve scouted out some of the most well-known Greek wine players who are using their history-infused terroirs to their fullest potential. Some vintners decided the best use of their land would be to harvest international grapes, while others decided on native Greek grapes. Of those 60 indigenous varietals, many have never been appreciated outside of Greece – until now.
Boutari is of Greece’s oldest wineries, and it’s owned by Yiannis Boutaris’s family. They have several vineyards from Crete to Naoussa, all of them yielding 2 million bottles a year of the pink-hued Moschofilero, a native grape. They are also famous for the exceptional red wine Xinomavro. Tastes as exotic as it sounds.
At about 2,000 feet about sea level in the coolest wine region of Greece, you can find Angelos Iatridis tending to his grapes, probably in a scarf. He works with both Greek grapes (mavrodaphne, malagousia) and international (chardonnay, pinot noir, barbera) for a singularly impressive taste.
From the Mount Falakro region in northeast Greece, right between Bulgaria and the Aegean Sea, comes Ktima Pavlidis. Nikos Karatzas oversees the estate producing extraordinary wine with the red agiorgitik grape. He produces authentic-tasting Greek wines that are so gulpable, Dionysus would be the head of his fan club.