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Ancient land, modern styling: Greece delivers unique but approachable and ultimately satisfying wines.

Greece's potential for producing world class wines was made evident to me when, as a grateful guest of the Hellenic Foreign Trade Board, I toured many of Greece's viticultural regions during a recent trip led by Sofia Perpera and Georges Athanas, the folks who run Many wines were indeed stunning, reflecting both indigenous wine varieties and international varietals or blends with a unique, Greek slant.


Greece is undergoing a dramatic wine revolution that involves the resurrection of ancient varietals and the production both of world-class reds and light, crisp whites. Beverage professionals eager to satisfy a U.S. public hungry for diversity would do well to acquaint themselves with the indigenous offerings of this ancient land.

With a mountainous area covering approximately 50,000 square miles and a coastline of 9,000 miles and more than 3,000 islands, Greece enjoys a Mediterranean climate with significant altitude variations. This creates daily temperature ranges that allow grapes to maintain their crisp and food-friendly acidity.

Two levels of Greek wines are produced: OPAP for high-quality wines and the famous sweet wine appellation, OPE. What makes Greece unique is its hundreds of indigenous varieties, each with traditions or histories going back thousands of years to the beginnings of European wine drinking culture.

Here is a look at the major white varietals.

Athiri is named after the ancient name of Santorini, Thira, and usually results in an off-dry, low- to medium-acid wine with light aromas. From the high elevations of Rhodes, Emery Winery produces a very minerally clean and acidic wine reminiscent of Chablis.

Assyrtiko is grown in many regions, including the Peloponnese appellation of Achaia, as well as Attika, Macedonia and the island of Santorini, where we tasted extraordinary examples from the Sigalas Winery. On the whole, it has very high acidity and light citrusy and stone fruit flavors with mineral notes.

Malagousia, a recently rediscovered ancient variety, has unique expression and was felt by our experienced group to have enormous potential as Greece's premier white wine variety. It has an exotic fruit aromatic expression with a long, crisp finish. Consider sampling expressions from Alpha Estate and Domaine Gerovassiliou.

Moschofilero is a floral, peachy, crisp and slightly spicy white. Exceptional examples are produced by Domaine Skouras, Antonopoulos Mantania, Spiropoulos Mantania, Boutari and Lafkiotis wineries.

Lagorthi, grown primarily in Peloponnese, has pronounced acidity with aromas of peach and melon, hints of mint and basil and a mineral finish. Check out Oenoforos Lagorthi.

Roditis is a light white wine with citrus notes. A notable example is Oenoforos' Asprolithi from the Peloponnese.

Savatiano, a predominant white varietal grown in Attika, near Athens, features floral, citrus and mineral notes. To get a sense of it without high investment, try Fresco Averoff White, which is a blend of Rhoditis and Savatiano, or the 100 percent Savatiano Lac des Roches from Boutari. While many think of Retsina, which is made with Savatiano grapes, as being the quintessential Greek wine, it has seldom won me over. There was one Retsina, however, the Gaia Ritinitis, that was a bit of an epiphany.

Muscat is an ancient variety with several clones that result in many of Greece's famous dessert wines from Patras and particularly from the islands of Samos and Rhodes. Try Emery Winery's Efreni or Kourtaki's Samos Muscat.

Here are the red Greek varietals to know.

Agiorgitiko produces distinctive and world class wines with bright, ripe, red fruit and floral aromas, along with sweet spices. Many distinctive styles exist, from crisp, refreshingly dry Roses to rich, full-bodied wines with fine, soft, tannic structures. Domaine Skouras' Grand Cuvee Nemea, as well as Gaia Estate 2004 or 1998, set benchmarks. Domaine Palivou produces a deliciously crisp and perfumed Rose.

Xinomavro means "acid black." There are many styles, but the wines are light-colored and can have unforgivingly high acidity without the compensating fruit richness; they are very similar to Barolos in aromatic and taste profile. That said, we did taste some extraordinary bottles, such as Alpha Estate's Xinomavro from 82-year-old vines, which has the potential for age worthiness and complexity.


Limnio is recorded as being planted by Aristotle in the third century B.C. This varietal tends to be excessively acidic and lean, but definitely adds balance and liveliness when involved in blends such as Domaine Gerovassiliou's dark and complex Avaton.

Mandelaria's origin is Crete or Rhodes, where it develops a unique floral character with strawberry and mineral notes. The varietal also is used in delicious Roses such as the one made by Emery Winery.

Mavrodaphne, pronounced Mav-ro-tha'f-nee and meaning "the black laurel," is found primarily in the Peleponnese appellation. It produces wonderful red fortified dessert wines.

Today's restaurateur looking for a point of differentiation often turns to the hot emerging wine regions. I'd advise you also to go back to our ancient European cultural roots and try a taste of Greece. You won't be disappointed. OPA!

Edward Korry is professor and department chairman for Beverage & Dining Services at the College of Culinary arts at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I.
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Title Annotation:GLOBAL VIEW
Author:Korry, Edward
Date:Nov 1, 2007
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