You're probably familiar with international grape varieties like Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. You may have mastered the major French and Italian wine regions, or even delved deep into the vineyard classifications of Burgundy. But whatever your level of wine knowledge, your first encounter with Greek wine - with its unfamiliar grape varieties and less than comprehensive appellation system - may be a little confusing. If so, this page is for you. It's an intentionally brief, subjective introduction, designed to point interested wine drinkers in the right direction when it comes to exploring Greek wine.
So where should you start? Well, as with France, Italy or anywhere else, there are two main things to get a handle on first: grape variety and region. With Greece in particular, there is a whole array of native grape varieties you are unlikely to encounter anywhere else. This is the best way in to Greek wine. We recommend you start by picking one grape variety and mastering that, or tasting a selection to get an overview. Once you've tried a few grape varieties the regions will follow.
Greek Grape Varieties
What makes Greek wine unique and fascinating is the seemingly endless selection of indigenous grape varieties being (re)discovered each year. If you're new to Greek wine, we suggest starting with two: Assyrtiko and Xinomavro.
Assyrtiko makes some of the best white wine in the world on Santorini, but is also planted all over the country. Tasting a few of these will allow you to get a grip on the style and what makes the Santorini version unique.
Xinomavro is Greece's best red grape. Its home is northern Greece in the Macedonia region, particularly around the town of Naoussa. It's made in all sorts of different styles, from the classic Barolo-like red to savoury, complex rosé, and even traditional method sparkling wine.
Once you're sampled these, you'll have a very good idea of what Greek wine is all about.
Greek Wine Regions
After you've explored some varieties, you might want to look at a particular region. The obvious places to start mirror the big two grape varieties above: Santorini (Assyrtiko) and Macedonia (Xinomavro). After those you could go to the Peloponnese, Crete and Cephalonia.
On this site, we divide Greek wine up into the following regions:
- Northern Greece. Including Macedonia. This is red wine country, and home to Xinomavro.
- Central Greece. Including Thessaly and Attica. Lots of variety here. The heartland of Savatiano (and Retsina).
- Peloponnese. Including Nemea. Home to Agiorgitiko, Moschofilero, Roditis and more.
- The Islands. Including Santorini, Crete, Cephalonia and many others. Home to all sorts of varied grape varieties including Assyrtiko and Robola.
Tasting a selection of wines from these places is like going on a Greek holiday without ever leaving your front room. Any would make for a fascinating wine journey.