There is some debate about whether winemaking was accidentally invented in Georgia or Armenia, but definitely it was ancient Greeks who popularized it in the western world, starting in the 7th century B.C.
Classical writers Homer and Socrates, among others, wrote about the virtues of wine whether making offerings of drinks to the gods (of whom Dionysus, the god of wine, was one of the many worshipped), or enjoying convivial company called symposia, the Greeks made wine part and parcel of their culture.
The varieties popular at that tine have been lost mostly over time, but winemaking in Greece and connections to its history have never ceased. In fact, the Rapsani appellation is located on the southern slopes of Mount Olympus, home of the gods.
Greece’s viticulture started to take a turn for the better when the country joined the EU in the 19880’s. Young people were sent to wine schools in Italy, France, German, and Spain.
Millions of drachmas (at the time there was no Euro) were invested in vineyards and wineries.
An appellation system, taking into account “terroirs” was created and instituted.
There are five main regions with a range of appellations in each one of them/ Northern Greece, where xinomavro (red) reigns, but also popular are assyrtiko, roditis, malagousia, chardonnay and syrah.
Central Greece, a large area, that covers Vlaho, among others namely Thessaly, Attica, Viotia, and the island of Evia, grows rapsani, xinomavro, stavroto, krasato, syrah, and carginan.
Peloponnesian and Ionian islands cover most of the islands in the Aegean Sea where moshofilero, an aromatic white grape thrives, although mavrodaphne also grows well, ad yields sweet red wines.
On teh Aegean island of Santorini assyrtiko thrives on the volcanic soils and is planted in a unique fashion since the place receives only 350 mm. of rain annually.
Crete is the largest and most important Greek island for viticulture. This mountainous terrain is home to 15 per cent of all the vineyards in Greece where vilana, thrapsatiri, liatiko, and mandelaria are grown and yield outstanding wines in the hands of caring and skilled winemakers.
Retsina, a resin flavoured white wine, used to be famous only in Greecem but now has changed, and is a dry and fully enjoyable white wien in the hands of skilled and caring winemakers. You must select the retsina with due care, and buy only after tasting several to find the right brand.
For white wines, I recommend, Assyrtiko by Sigalas from the island of Santorini, Moschofilero from Tsantali, Ramnista Reserve from Kir-Yianni, Rapsani Reserve from Tsantali, Agiorgitiko from Papaionnaou Winery in Nemea. For those who like aromatic sweet white wines try Muscat of Samos, or Muscat of Limnos.
Although there are approximately 300 varieties planed in the 38 appellations in five regions of Greece, the following grape varieties are the most popular.
White varieties aidani, assyrtiko, athiri, debina, moschofilero, malagousia and mantinia.
Reds liatiko, limnia, mavrodaphne, mavrotragano, xinomavro, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah, cabernet franc, cinsault, grenache, mourvedre, tempranillo, refosco, krasato, mavroudi, negoska, stavroto, and vertzami.