When it comes to alcoholic beverages, Greece is best known for ouzo. It’s widely considered the national drink with many a tourist, and local for that matter, falling victim to its high alcohol content and ability to give the most punishing of hangovers. There’s a couple other hard hitters in the form of tsipouro from the mainland, and raki which you find in Crete. But some of the best alcoholic drinks that the country makes are its wines. Greece has been producing the stuff since ancient times and while it might not be held on par with the more famed wine growing regions of Europe like Bordeaux or Tuscany, the tipple being made in Greece is rapidly gaining credibility as a fine product with unique attributes.
For a nation that has been making the stuff for thousands of years, you’d think we would be a world leader. But shifting climates and decreased demand for it meant that the quality declined. Well that’s all changed in the last decade as local producers are seeing a resurgence in people’s desire for regionally made wine. It’s similar to when in the 1960’s and 70’s retsina became hugely popular and thanks to the boom in tourism it was synonymous with Greece in much the same way ouzo is today.
There are several wine growing areas across the country, each with their own unique qualities that lend themselves to subtle variations in flavour. You’ve got the mountains of the Peloponnese with their harsh conditions and free draining soils lending themselves to the creation of aromatic whites, then there’s the robola grapes that thrive in the more favourable climate and soils of Cephalonia. Head south to Crete and you’ll find mandelaria grapes that make very distinct reds. Apart from the diverse growing conditions, what also makes Greek wine so special is that there are in excess of 300 indigenous grape varieties grown here, some of which have been cultivated since the earliest days of wine production. It’s hard to imagine that on tiny islands you can find small vineyards, making tasty drops that have been served in local taverns for centuries.
So when you next visit Greece and sit down for a meal, instead of sipping on a cocktail or trying the domestic beer, which mind you is pretty good too, why not ask for the wine list and give the local drop a try. You might just be surprised with how good it is!