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Greek Wines

by Eunice Fried

Jul 1, 2018
July 2018

IT MAY BE ABLE TO TRACE ITS WINE HISTORY back some 6,000 years, perhaps longer than any country, but Greece looks forward, not backward, with the wine it produces today. While some wineries make Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and other wines from Western grapes, most make their best and most interesting wines from Greece’s own original native varieties.

And the country has hundreds of native grapes. Among the most important are Agiorgitiko, a grape that produces darkshaded, rich, velvety reds. The white Assyrtiko grape gives a good acidic edge to wines and is the most important grape on the island of Santoríni. The aroma of the delicate white Athiri grape is reminiscent of nectarines and lemons. Malagousia, a fine white grape, creates rich, aromatic wines with a melon-like scent. Moscofilero presents intense aromas that remind one of roses and other flower blossoms. And the red Xinomavro, one of the most distinguished red grapes of northern Greece, fosters wine with a spicy nose, rich fruit and firm tannin.

From these grapes and many others come highly individual wines. Most range $20–40 in price. Among those I’ve tasted is the lovely Nykteri 2016 from the island of Santoríni, made 95 percent from Assyrtiko. Pale yellow with a pure, dry taste, its acidity level gives it a clean, focused character, and it also offers a round body and medium-long aftertaste.

Also from Santoríni comes the Venetsanos Winery’s 2016 white wine, made 100 percent of Assyrtiko. This elegant wine boasts aromas rich in citrus fruits and flower scents, a whiff of peach and hints of herbs such as thyme.

From northern Greece I particularly enjoyed Biblia Chora’s Biblinos Red 2012, produced from an unnamed local grape believed to have been brought to the region by the Phoenicians, which ancient Greeks began to cultivate. Its aroma encompasses cassis, pomegranate and a potpourri of herbs. It is an elegant, well-balanced wine with a long, satisfying finish.

One taste of a fine Greek wine and we can readily understand why ancient Greeks worshipped Dionysus, the god of wine.


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