Greek - Wines
The Greeks were the finest winemakers of the Classical era, admired throughout the known world, but many centuries of Turkish occupation meant that winemaking was reduced to a village activity with no thought of quality. The renaissance began some thirty years ago, but owing to the prevalence of retsina and local barrel wine in most tourist resorts, rather than the finer wines, few consumers, both Greek and foreign, are aware of the quality Greek wines now being produced.
Greece has many indigenous grape varieties which give new and often very interesting flavors to wine, such as the Agiorgitiko (St. George) which makes the soft and fruity Nemea, or the Xynomavro of Naoussa and Goumenissa, the Robola of Cephalonia, or the blend of Assyrtiko, Athiri and Aedani which make the powerful wine of Santorini. In addition, there is now a system of appellations for the better wines, including the famous Muscats of Samos and of Patras, as well as the great Mavrodaphne wines, remotely reminiscent of tawny Port.
Production in the past has been centered on the great firms that owned some vineyards but also bought in grapes, such as Achaia Clauss, Boutari, Cambas, Kourtakis and Tsantalis. But in the late 1960s a wealthy ship owner, John Carras, started the vineyards of Domaine Carras (today with the appellation
Côtes de Meliton) making estate wines. Assisted by Professor Peynaud of Bordeaux, in addition to Greek grape varieties, the estate planted some French varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cinsaut. The success of these wines undoubtedly encouraged the development of other small estates, such as the wines of Château Semeli and Stroliloa, thus changing the face of Greek wine, which today, if it can only shake off the image of retsina and barrel wine, can certainly make a contribution to the quality wine of the world.