Greek Grape Varieties
The Greece Travel Secrets guide to Greek grape varieties to help you
know which wines to choose when dining in restaurants or buying wine in Greece.
Which Greek Grape Variety Is This?
Some Greek grape varieties have names that are hard to pronounce, and sound unfamiliar if you're used to ordering your favourite chardonnay or merlot when travelling. They cover the alphabet from Agiorgitiko to Xinomavro, but what are these Greek grape varieties? Let's take a look.
Greek Grape Varieties
Some Greek grape varieties are indigenous to Greece, and
don't grow anywhere else. Others are related to more familiar-sounding grapes
grown around the world. Some vineyards have also experimented with growing
non-Greek grapes, like chardonnay or shiraz, with mixed degrees of success.
There's also the all-important question of terroir. Santorini, for example, is at roughly the same latitude as southern California, but has a semi-arid Mediterranean climate, and its own distinctive volcanic soil, so winemaking here is very different from somewhere like Sonoma or Napa Valley.
Picking Grapes on Santorini
Agiorgitiko is a
name you'll come across, especially in the Peloponnese, where it grows widely.
It's native to the Nemea region, in the very north-east of the Peloponnese, and
is one of the Greek grape varieties that you can compare to a more familiar
name: Beaujolais Nouveau. Agiorgitiko produces red wines that are light and
fruity, like a good Beaujolais Nouveau, but unlike the French wine it isn't
meant to be drunk immediately but can improve with aging over a few years.
another commonly-seen name, and this is native to Crete. However, because
Cretan wines are among the top Greek wines and are increasingly sold throughout Greece and overseas, you may well come across it elsewhere. On its own it
produces a bold but subtle red wine, and it also lends itself well to blending.
We sampled some while touring the Lyrarakis Winery on Crete.
Vines at the Lyrarakis Winery on Crete
Liatiko is also
native to Crete and produces good red wines, but ones that are a little spicier
on the palate. It's also one of the varieties used to produce the blended sweet
red wine, Malvasia.
Limnio is a Greek grape variety that's native to, not surprisingly,
the island of Lemnos/Limnos. It has been used here for hundreds if not thousands of
years to produce a red wine by itself, but it also blends well with a large number
of other grape varieties including non-Greek grape varieties like Cabernet
Sauvignon and Shiraz. It's a robust wine that goes well with meat and game.
Mandilaria is a red Greek grape variety that is grown on many
islands, including the two big wine-making islands of Crete and Rhodes. It's
confusing because it goes by different names in different places, including
Amorgiano, Kontoura, and variations on the name Mandalaria. It's commonly
blended with other wines to make red wines that are rich in colour but still
Mavrodafni is another common
Greek grape variety that is plentiful in the Peloponnese and the Ionian
Islands. In these islands, Kefalonia has several good wineries. Mavrodafni
grapes are blended with currants to produce a fortified sweet dessert wine.
Greek Grape Varieties Being Grown on Samos
Mavroudi is one of the oldest-known Greek grapes and it grows all
over the Greek mainland. Mavro means 'black' and this grape produces very dark
red wines, with a sweetish aroma and a robust and distinctive flavor. It's one
of those wines people tend to love or hate, like retsina. But you should at
least try it to see which camp you're in.
Negoska is a grape variety mainly grown in Macedonia and produces
full-bodied red wines that are often rich with fruity flavours. As such, it's a
wine that often appeals to non-Greek palates.
Romeiko grapes grow most widely on Crete and in the Cyclades. It's
a very versatile grape that can be used to make red, white, and rosé wines,
with equal success.
Wine-Tasting Sign at the Manousakis Winery on Crete
Vertzami is a grape that grows well in the Ionian Islands, in the
Peloponnese, and elsewhere in mainland Greece, as well as on Cyprus. It
produces a good quality red wine that is suitable for immediate drinking and
which has a deep red colour and a taste of both red berries and spices.
Xinomavro is a Greek grape variety that grows in several parts of
the mainland, and the vines have even been exported and grown in China and
several other countries. It produces a high quality red wine that benefits from
aging, and is a full-bodied wine that has been compared to the Italian Barolo
wines. It's definitely one to try if you come across it.
Other food and drink pages
This Athens dining guide doesn't list restaurants but gives practical advice on types of eating places, tipping, hotel breakfasts and picnics.
Antonis Maroudas is a Zakynthos winemaker who lives on the 'wine road' and is one of the people who make Zakynthos.
Athens Food Tours are being introduced by new company The Greek Fork, and will include tours of the Central Market, and the best street food.
For a Crete olive oil tour Greece Travel Secrets visits Biolea, one of the few olive oil factories on Crete that you can visit.
The Goules Taverna in Goulediana, south of Rethymnon, has been called one of the best tavernas on Crete and Greece Travel Secrets recently visited them.
Visiting Santorini wineries is a popular activity on this Greek island in the Cyclades, whose volcanic soil provides a distinctive terroir.
We visit and tour the Manousakis Winery on Crete with a wine-tasting and a chance to buy their tsikoudia, sea salt, olive oil and other goodies.
The Stilianou Winery near Knossos on Crete uses only Cretan grape varieties, with every bottle numbered, and aims for quality rather than quantity.
How to make Petimezi, the sweet Cretan syrup made from wine must, is explained to Greece Travel Secrets.
Greek alcoholic drinks include distinctly Greek drinks such as ouzo, Metaxa, retsina, raki, tsikoudia and tsipouro, but also Greek wines and Greek beers.
Greece Travel Secrets visits the Cretan Botano herbs and spices shop near Matala in southern Crete in search of the herb man of Kouses.
A visit to the Museum of Samos Wine to learn about the muscat grapes that produce the best dessert wines in the world and also the Greek spirit, Metaxa.
If you're wondering where to eat in Athens and Piraeus we have a few suggestions including some favorites around the Acropolis, Omonia Square, and Syntagma.
Greece Travel Secrets tours the Lyrarakis Winery on Crete and learns about Crete grape varieties such as plyto, dafni, vidiano, vilana, mandilari and kotsifali.
What is Metaxa? Metaxa is an amber Greek spirit combining brandy made by distilling wine, sweet wine from Samos and a secret recipe of Mediterranean botanicals.
Greece Travel Secrets visits Crete and learns about making rakomelo from Jorgos Kourmoulis in Agouseliana.
Greece Travel Secrets visits the Zacharioudakis Winery near Ancient Gortina in southern Crete, and does a vineyard tour arranged by our guide from Go Crete.
Raki is an alcoholic drink made with distilled grapes and anise, and popular in Greece and other Mediterranean countries, including Greece’s neighbour Turkey.
The Greece Travel Secrets guide to tipping in Greece from two Greece travel experts, including when to tip, what to tip and when not to tip.
The First Corfu Beer Festival took place in Arillas in North West Corfu and celebrated the beer of Bavaria and of Corfu, in the Ionian islands of Greece.
Greek feta cheese is the most popular cheese in Greece, usually made from sheep’s milk, with a soft texture and salty taste and used to top off a Greek salad.
UNESCO has made Thessaloniki a City of Gastronomy, under its Creative Cities network, the only city in Greece to be acknowledged for its unique food and drink.
What is a Greek Salad – a Greek Salad is made up of tomatoes, cucumber, onions, green pepper, olives, and feta cheese.
Two of the best cocktail bars in Athens, MoMix Kerameikos and The Clumsies, are making creative cocktails using that most Greek of Greek spirits, Metaxa.
Corfu’s special cuisine includes dishes like sofrito and pastitsade and the chance to try ginger beer and kumquats.
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