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Wine regions in Greece 9 growing regions
Description to Greece
Greek viticultural history began, so to speak, with a fling between the supreme god Zeus and the beautiful Seméle (daughter of Harmonia, goddess of concord), which led to the birth of Dionysus, the god of wine, joy, grapes, fertility and ecstasy. Ancient Greece or, based on archaeological finds, especially the island of Crete, is considered one of the "cradles of European wine culture". Wine was already cultivated in the Mycenaean culture in the 16th century BC (Mycenae = north-eastern Peloponnese), as indicated by amphorae that have been found.
Wine was an important part of the drinking culture of daily life. This was also expressed in the symposia, a drinking party accompanied by witty conversations, jokes, songs, music, games and performances. The painting shows the famous work "Symposion" by Plato (428/427-348/347 BC) with, among others, the participants Aristophanes (450-380 BC) and Socrates (470-399 BC). The Greeks were also among the very first to attach great importance to wine as a valuable commodity. In the Iliad, Homer (8th century BC) already reports on wine as the beverage of choice for the heroes he describes. The historian Hesiod (~750-680 BC), the philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BC), the naturalist Theophrastus (370-287 BC) and the physician Galen (129-216) also dealt with wine and viticulture.
On their colonising campaigns in the Mediterranean, the Greeks brought their grapevine and wine-growing culture to Sicily, to southern Italy known as Oinotria, to southern France and to the Black Sea. Many methods were adopted by the Celts and Romans. The Roman poet Vergil described the diversity of grape varieties: "It would be easier to count the grains of sand in Greece than the different grape varieties." The famous port city of Monemvasia on the Peloponnese peninsula was a widely used transhipment point for sweet wines from the Aegean in the late Middle Ages under the rule of Venice, which were shipped from here to many countries in Europe. From the 15th to the middle of the 19th century, the Ottomans ruled the country, during which time wine lost its importance due to the Muslim ban on alcohol, only continuing on a relatively small scale on most of the islands. Therefore, some knowledge was preserved.
It was not until long after the country gained independence in 1830 and the Turkish influence was pushed back that people in Greece again began to professionally deal with viticulture as an economic factor and reactivated numerous vineyards at great expense. Among the pioneers were also some Germans, such as Gustav Clauss, who founded the huge Achaia Clauss winery in 1861, which still exists today. By the end of the 19th century, the area under vines had doubled, but when phylloxera finally reached Greece in 1898, much was ruined again. Reconstruction was relatively slow, because in the meantime the demand for Greek wine had also fallen sharply. Greek viticulture did not experience a renaissance until the end of the military dictatorship in 1974 and Greece's accession to the European Union in 1981.
Climate & Soil
Despite its strongly maritime character, Greece has a very high mountainous content. The soils of limestone, granite and volcanic rock and the prevailing Mediterranean climate with short humid mild winters and dry hot summers have a favourable effect on viticulture. The often dry autumns produce mostly fully ripe grapes with relatively little acidity. Most of the wine-growing areas are located near the coast with moderating sea breezes. To give the wines more structure, vineyards are deliberately planted at high altitudes. The vines can build up more extract and reach higher acidity levels due to the extended vegetation cycle. Another effective method of slowing down the ripening full stop is to deliberately plant vineyards on north-facing slopes.
Regions & Growing Areas
Viticulture is practised, often on a small scale on a few hectares, throughout Greece on the mainland and also all the larger islands. The appellations (POP, formerly OPAP and OPE) are marked in red:
Aegean (with Cyclades)
- Limnos, Muscat of Limnos (POP)
- Paros (POP)
- Rhodes, Muscat of Rhodes (POP)
- Samos (POP)
- Santorini (POP)
- Kefallonia, Mavrodaphne of K., Muscat of K., Robola of K. (POP)
- Amynteo (POP)
- Athos with Agioritikos (PGE)
- Côtes de Meliton (POP)
- Goumenissa (POP)
- Naoussa (POP)
- Mantinia (POP)
- Monemvasia-Malvasia (POP)
- Nemea (POP)
- Patras, Muscat of P., Muscat of Rio P., Mavrodaphne of P. (POP)
- Anchialos (POP)
- Messenikola (POP)
- Rapsani (POP)
Grape variety list
In 2014, the area under vines covered 110,000 hectares. Of this, 2.8 million hectolitres of wine were produced (see also under wine production volumes). There are around 300 different autochthonous grape varieties, which account for 85% of the area. Only in a few cases are foreign varieties permitted in the quality wines. Large quantities of table grapes and sultanas are also produced; the most important variety for this is Korinthiaki. Even today, viticulture is characterised by original flavours. Around 60% are high-alcohol white wines. 90% of the wines are vinified dry. The grape variety list in 2016 with the top 50 (statistics Kym Anderson):
Synonyms / Greek name
|Savatiano||white||Aspro, Dobraina Aspri, Kountoura Aspri||10.268|
|Roditis||white/pink||Alepou Roditis, Arilogos Roditis, Kanellato||8.463|
|Agiorgitiko||red||Aghiorghitico, Aghiorgitiko, Mavro Nemeas||3.270|
|Muscat d'Hamburg||red||Moschato Amvourgou, Moschato Tyrnavou||2.288|
|Xinomavro||red||Mavro Naoussis, Pipoliko, Xinogaltso||2.135|
|Assyrtiko||white||Assirtico, Assyrtico, Asyrtico||1.770|
|Muscat Blanc / Muscat||white||Moschato Aspro, Moschoudi||1.568|
|Kotsifali||red||Kotrifali, Kotsiphali, Kotzifali||1.338|
|Romeiko||red||Loïssima, Romeïco, Romeiko Mavro||1.131|
|Mandilaria||red||Amorghiano, Dombrena Mavri, Kontoura||932|
|Roditis Kokkinos||white||Rodites Kokkinos||828|
|Muscat d'Alexandrie||white||Apostoliatiko, Moschato Alexandrias||773|
|Athiri Aspro||white||Athiri, Athiri Lefko||577|
|Fokiano||red||Fokiana, Fokiano Kokkino||212|
|Garnacha Roja||white||Grenache Gris||114|
|Moschomavro||red||Moschato Mavro, Moschogaltso, Xinogaltso||113|
|Alicante Henri Bouschet||red||-||60|
|Thrapsathiri||white||Bechleri, Begleri, Beghleri, Dafnato||27|
|Negoska||red||Mavro Goumenissas, Negkoska||17|
|Debina||white||Dempina, Ntempina, Zitsa||14|
|Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso||red||-||5|
|Stavroto||red||Ampelakiotiko, Ampelakiotiko Mavro||0,2|
Following the French model, controlled designations of origin for the best growing areas were introduced by the Ministry of Agriculture in 1972: Maximum yields per hectare, specific grape varieties with preference for autochthonous varieties, minimum must weight, ageing regulations and sensory tests. Enrichment of the must with sugar is permitted, but may increase the alcohol content by a maximum of 2.5% vol. Sweetening may be added before and during fermentation up to a maximum of 25% of the must sugar. Acidification is also permitted and is often practised due to the rather low-acid grapes. Controls are exercised by the KEPO (Central Committee for the Protection of Wine Production).
Wine categories / quality levels
In August 2009, the EU wine market regulation became valid for all member countries with fundamental changes to the wine designations and quality levels (see also under Quality System). The traditional terms OPAP, OPE and OKP can still be used alternatively, but most winemakers use the new term POP:
- Oinos (formerly Epitrapezios Oinos or table wine) = wine
- PGE = Topikos Oinos or country wine
- POP or alternatively OPAP, OPE, OKP = quality wine
Oinos / Οίνος
Wines without a narrower designation of origin. This lowest quality level mostly involves blends from different growing regions.
PGE (Prostatevomenis Geografikis Endixis)
ΠΓΈ(Προστατευόμενης Γεωγραφικής Ένδειξης)
Country wine with a protected geographical indication. There are around 80 territorial wine areas, which can cover an entire region, district or communal area. One well-known area is Agioritikos on the "Holy Mountain" in Athos (Chalkidikí).
POP (Prostatevomenis Onomasías Proelefsis)
ΠOΠ(Προστατευόμενης Ονομασίας Προέλευσης)
Quality wine with protected designation of origin. Alternatively, the old designations OPAP, OPE, OKP are also permitted.
OPAP (Onomasía Proelefséos Anotéras Piótitos)
ΟΠΑΠ(Ονομασία Προελεύσεως Ανωτέρας Ποιότητος)
For these quality wines with "higher quality designation of origin", maximum yield, minimum alcohol content, maturing time in barrel and bottle, etc. are prescribed. The OPAP wines were marked with a red banderole until the 2015 vintage.
OPE (Onomasía Proelefséos Eleghoméni)
ΟΠΕ(Ονομασία Προελεύσεως Ελεγχόμενη)
These quality wines with "controlled designation of origin" are subject to the same conditions as OPAP wines. In addition, however, there are higher requirements regarding the sugar content. Sweet wines from the historical areas of Kefallonia, Limnos, Patras, Rhodes and Samos are thus declared. They are either "natural sweet wines" fortified with wine spirit or "naturally sweet wines" pressed from dried grapes, which correspond to a Trockenbeerenauslese. OPE wines were labelled with a blue banderole until the 2015 vintage.
OKP (Onomasía Katá Parádosi = Traditional Appellation)
ΟκΠ(Ονομασία κατά παράδοση)
A special predicate for origin-protected wines made with traditional pressing methods. There are only two of them, Retsina and Verdea produced on the island of Zakynthos.
The term for a top-quality wine that has been stored for a longer period of time. White wines must be stored for two years (of which at least 6 months in barrel and six months in bottle), red wines for three years (of which at least 6 months in new oak or 1 year in used oak and 2 years in bottle).
Reserve (Epilegmenos) and Grande Reserve (Idika Epilegmenos)
Only permitted for quality wines (OPAP and OPE). Reserve applies to white wines with two years (to. 6 months in barrel and 6 months in bottle) and to red wines with three years of ageing (same minimum). Grande Reserve applies to white wines with at least three years of ageing (1 year in cask and 1 year in bottle) and to red wines with at least four years of ageing (2 years in cask and 2 years in bottle).
The preference for resinous wine, first and foremost Retsina with about 10% of the wine production, is an ancient Greek tradition. Sweet dessert wines, some of them fortified, are produced on almost all Aegean islands, the best known being Samos from the island of the same name. Equally well known are the aniseed-flavoured brandy ouzo, and Metaxa, a brandy flavoured with a secret blend of herbs (including rose petals). Important producers are Achaia Clauss, Biblia Chora, Boutari, Calligas, Cambas, Domaine Carras, Gaia, Hatzimichalis, Katsaros, Kechri, Kourtakis, Malamatina, Mercouri, Oenoforos, Papaïoannou, Parparoussis, Pavlidis, Skouras, Spiropoulos, Tsantali and Tselepos. Others are listed under the areas.
Symposium: Deur Anselm Feuerbach - Google Art Project, Publieke domein, Skakel
Amphora: From Andokides painter - Public domain, Link
Greece map: By Pitichinaccio - own work, CC BY 3.0, Link
edited by Norbert F. J. Tischelmayer 2/2018
Classified wine producers in Greece 28
Find+Buy for Greece 25
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