A Taster's Journey is a newsletter on food, wine and travel. After 15 years of studying, tasting, teaching, and selling wine, I created this newsletter to not only share my passion about wine, but of food and travel as well. Each month I hope to share wines that I am drinking, food that is in season, restaurants that I have enjoyed, and places I have traveled. Enjoy!"


The Wines of Greece

August 17th, 2004

With the 2004 Olympics being held in Athens, I thought the timing was right to taste some Greek wines. Greeks have been producing wine for over 2000 years, but in the last 20 years or so Retsina has received all the publicity. Retsina is a white wine beloved by the Greeks, but I feel it tastes like pine tarÂ…perhaps it is an acquired taste. Greek wines have come along way since my early days of sipping Retsina, and there are major efforts underway to modernize their winemaking techniques and increase their distribution around the world.

There are more than 300 grape varieties grown in Greece, and to make it more confusing, the names of the grapes are near impossible to pronounce. There are however four major regions that produce some of the best wines.

Mantinia and Santorini are two regions known for their excellent whites. Moscofilero is the key grape from Mantinia, produced in the eastern Peloponnese. It is a floral gewurztraminer-like wine, and Domaine Tselepos and Nasiakos are two of the better producers. On the island of Santorini, Assyrtiko is the primary grape, and the wine is a crisp, mineral filled white. Argyros and Heliopoulos are two outstanding producers.

Naoussa and Nemea are two primary regions for red wines. Xinomavro is the important grape grown in Naoussa, a section of Macedonia, and the wine is a big, spicy red. Boutari and Tsantali are two of the better producers. Agiorgitiko is the grape from Nemea, a region of Peloponnese. These lush, plumy reds are typically enjoyed young. Gaia and Palivou are two producers to look for.

Note that 2002 was a very difficult growing season in Greece due to heavy rains, 2003 will be a much better choice. I have found several of the Greek wines enjoyable and quite reasonably priced. Keep an open mind toward Greek wines, they have made some major strides, and I believe they will continue to improve.


Leave a Reply