Wine tourism

Wine tourism in Greece

Winery and finery

Wine, another famous Greek staple ever since the days the god Dionysus was invented as a convenient excuse for tippling. Traces of Europe’s first grape-trading ground have been uncovered at Linos in Crete. The ancient Greeks were famous winebibbers, and that’s one trait that has continued uninterrupted from that time to this. The main Greek wines are:

Agiorgitiko, cultivated and produced at Nemea, the home of the best Greek wine. This is a deep red wine with a strong blackberry flavour and silken texture. New Agiorgitiko is pleasant with fruit, and can be stored for up to ten years.
Assyrtiko, the wine of Santorini that has since migrated to other areas as well. It is highly acidic, even when fully matured. Crisp and metallic, this wine is refreshing, flavored with citrus fruits and lemon blossoms.
Athiri, deriving from a white grape of the southern Aegean and northern mainland Greece. These wines have overtones of flower aromas that tickle the palate.
Debina, a fruity wine made in Epiros, with a tinge of green apple and pear, and the basis of the region’s sparkling wines.
Kotsifali, deriving from a Cretan grape and noted for its full body, bright red color and satisfying taste. It’s often blended with Mandilaria, a red island grape.
Liatiko, a Cretan wine deriving from one of the oldest Greek grape varieties. It matures in July, hence its full name Iouliatiko, of which the former name is a contraction.
Limnio, as its name implies, a wine from grapes grown on Limnos and mentioned by Aristotle and other ancient writers. The Limnio grape produces a bright red wine that has suggestions of violets and cherries.
Malagouzia, which takes its name from the Malvasia wine of the Middle Ages, cultivated mostly on the islands. It’s strong and aromatic, with complex overtones and leaving a slightly peppery taste in the mouth. Wine tourism is becoming an increasingly popular form of vacationing for the smart set. In Greece one can tour several wineries and sample the product while getting to know how the wine is brewed and aged. One such organized tour is called Wine Roads that combines an experience of several wineries with archaeological visits. These take several days and include ample refreshment and accommodation at good restaurants and hotels along the route.


The Wine Routes

There are presently tens of vine yards and wineries to visit in various parts of Greece, which provide the visitor with the opportunity to tour the magical world of the vine yard and the wine, to become familiar with the traditional and modern methods of wine making and to taste selected Greek wines, in conjunction with traditional flavors. In terms of the preservation and the promotion of this heritage a specific form of rural tourism has in recent years been developed in Greece, the Wine Routes. This is a proposal to the visitor to follow a carefully selected route, which crosses the most graphic points in a viniculture zone. The visitor may visit selected wine production plants, to taste the local wines and to simultaneously tour through traditional built up areas, archaeological areas etc. This is a relatively new form of tourism, which has been absolutely harmonized with the natural environment and is simultaneously excellently organized, which aims at the essential familiarization with every area, through the tradition of viniculture and wine making. Along the length of the routes there are restaurants, taverns, ouzo bars and hotels, which offer hospitality of quality and which complement the familiarization with Greece and its culture.

Wineries to visit
The wine has been bound to the customs, the social life and the traditions of the Greeks for over 4,000 years. Discover the most familiar wineries to visit in Greece and savour the wines at the place where they are produced. Discover their aromas and flavours with the traditional products and the home recipes, which are passed down from generation to generation. Discover the culture of Greece through the seven Wine routes, as well as through tens of other routes for wineries to visit and live unforgettable experiences.
Below have been presented the most organized wineries to visit in Greece:

• North Greece wineries
• Wineries of Corinth
• Attica wineries
• Wineries of Crete
• Wineries of Santorini

PDO Wines of Greece (“Protected Designation of Origin”) include the Greek wine category of “Designation of Origin Wines” (AOQS and AOC).
The areas where AOQS wines are produced – “Designation of Origin of Superior Quality” (part of the PDO Wines of Greece) are in essence the historical winegrowing and winemaking areas of Greece. In those areas, winegrowing zones determined on the basis of the borders of communal municipalities have been established, together with certain restrictions regarding altitudes or natural and artificial limits. With the exception of two areas, varietal compositions are determined strictly on the basis of Greek native grape varieties. All zones are subject to restrictions as to the maximum allowable yields per 0.1 hectare and various other prerequisites which wines must comply with. Especially AOQS wines, which carry a mandatory characteristic red band on the neck of their bottles, must be produced by wineries located within their winegrowing zone. In other words, it is not only the grapes which must originate within a certain zone: the wineries vinifying them must be established within that zone as well.

The AOC wines zones – “Controlled Appellation of Origin” (part of the PDO Wines of Greece) are historically and geographically determined winegrowing areas. AOC wines, which must be vinified by wineries located within their zones, carry a mandatory characteristic blue band on the neck of their bottles, must meet all the prerequisites of AOQS wines and, additionally, have higher specifications as to their content in sugars.

They are exclusively sweet wines which are produced in the following two ways:

• By addition of alcohol originating in wine (previously fortified wines – currently liqueur wines). Such wines are characterized as “vin doux naturel”. The use of alcohol in their vinifications gives them the designation of “controlled” wines.
• By concentration of the grape contents through various natural techniques (over-maturation on the vine stock; exposure to the sun (sun-dried grapes); sun-drying; or air-drying following the harvest). These wines bear the characterization of “vin naturellement doux”. Should the grapes yielding these wines have been sun-dried prior to vinification, the wines are also entitled to being characterized as “straw wines” or “vin liastos”. No additional sweetening is allowed through the addition of must, concentrated or not, or through the addition of alcohol or any distillate.

PDO Wines of Greece (AOQS and AOC) are required to display certain indications and other information on their labels. These concern aging times (oxidized aging in oak barrels and fermentation in bottles) as well as details of the winegrowing entity producing them.

In the popular zones of PDO Wines of Greece (AOQS and AOC) provisions allow aging in oak barrels (with the exception of the PDO Santorini and PDO Monemvassia-Malvasia zones); bottling (except PDO Monemvassia-Malvasia) and bottle fermentation also in wineries located outside the zones. Thus, PDO Wines of Greece (AOQS and AOC) are also produced by wineries outside the zones that collaborate with wineries within them.

The PDO Wines of Greece are:
PDO Anchialos, PDO Amynteo, PDO Archanes, PDO Goumenissa, PDO Dafnes, PDO Zitsa, PDO Lemnos, PDO Mantinia, PDO Mavrodaphne Cephalonia, PDO Mavrodaphne of Patras, PDO Messenikola, PDO Monemvassia-Malvasia, PDO Muscat of Cephalonia, PDO Muscat of Lemnos, PDO Muscat of Patras, PDO Muscat of Rio Patras, PDO Muscat of Rhodes, PDO Naoussa, PDO Nemea, PDO Paros, PDO Patras, PDO Peza, PDO Slopes of Meliton, PDO Rapsani, PDO Rhodes, PDO Robola of Cephalonia, PDO Samos, PDO Santorini and PDO Sitia.

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Organic viticulture in Greece
The vineyards that practice organic viticulture in Greece cover an area of nearly 397,000,000 ft²; 156,000,000 of those are in a transitory stage according to data from 2007. These vineyards follow world-wide protocol for organic agriculture and only use very mild plant protection and fertilization practices. Such mild practices allow for a more balanced vine-environment and keep the soil rich in nutrients.The aim of organic viticulture in Greece, and world-wide, is to have vineyards with zest and reduced sprouting. If the vine yield is low and the surface of the leaf is large, the leaf will photosynthesize well while providing sufficient ventilation. Oxygenated vines are one of the “secrets” that prevent unwanted fungi from seriously affecting the vine. Sulfur (in liquid or powder form) is occasionally used in organic viticulture in Greece to combat powdery mildew, while copper sulfide is used to treat downy mildew (and indirectly botrytis). Copper sulfide is especially useful in the wine regions of Northern Greece and in other similar regions that experience increased rainfall in spring and summer. Copper, as a heavy metal, is seldom used by Greek viticulturists. Organic wine farmers restrict the use of copper to such great extents that there are times when they repeatedly refuse to treat their plants with it, resulting in the loss of part of their crop (a normal phenomenon for bio-farmers). Luckily Greece benefits from both strong winds—such as the Meltemia from the Cyclades and the Aegean islands—and high summer temperatures which favor the vine and do not allow for an extended development of microorganisms; two to three sulfur interventions are usually sufficient in treating the disease.There are many fauna species which are very beneficial to conserving the balance of the environment surrounding the vines—the importance of such fauna to organic viticulture in Greece is not to be overlooked. Certain insects, such as the vine moth, can be easily treated with Bacillus Thuringiensis, while others must be dealt with manually. Most weeds are controlled through mechanical methods. The soil stays nutrient-rich because of the bio-preparations (both animal and organic) that are used to fertilize the vineyards. Quite often viticulturists use digested stalks and skins of grapes from organic vines to enrich the soil.Many farmers who practice organic viticulture in Greece make use of what is called “green manure”. “Green manure” is an ancient agricultural technique achieved by plowing nitrogen rich plants into the soil and consequently to the grape vines. In regions where water is sufficient, bio-culturists do not have to resort to this method because other forms of vegetation grow naturally and create a healthy level of competition against the vine, ultimately leading to livelier vines. In regions that are hot and dry, however, the “green manure” is added to the soil with the first spring plowing.

Biodynamic viticulture in Greece
Biodynamic viticulture in Greece was first introduced by amateur farmers who were experimenting in “nature farming” practices of a Japanese biodynamic leader named Masanobu Fukuoka. A few years ago, a Greek branch of Demeter International (a prestigious biodynamic certification organization) was established.Some viticulturists and winegrowers apply the methods of biodynamic viticulture in Greece in various wine producing zones. Frequently, seminars on the topic are held in Greece—led by Pierre Masson and Enzo Nastati. As of yet, Greece does not have any winegrowers officially certified with the Demeter label. However, some Greek winegrowers participate in international biodynamic fairs such as: Renaissance des Appellations (in Loir, France) and Vini di Vignaioli for “natural wines” (in Parma, Italy).

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