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A Journey Through Greek Vineyards

We sat down with wine enthusiast and author Frederiek Lommen, whose expertise on Greek wines “stems” (no pun intended) from her extensive travels in Greece. Her book “Druiven en droesem, een reis langs Griekse wijngaarden” is gaining popularity among Dutch readers. 

 

In this article, Lommen shares her quick tips for first-time visitors to Greece, and what Greek wines they should know about. 

Frederiek Lommen

Where Should I Start my Greek Wine Tour? And Where Should it End?

“Greece has so many different wines. Wineries are literally spread around the country. From north to south, from east to west, on the mainland and on the islands. Greece has more than 1200 wineries.

 

So where to start, that’s a very difficult question. 

 

If you are a beginner, I would start in the capital of Greece, in Athens. Choose one of the excellent wine bars in the city centre and try a few different wines – from white, rosé to red. Do this for a few nights, in the meantime exploring this vibrant city. Try for example Winebar Oinoscent in Voulis Street, Heteroclito on the corner of Fokionos/Petraki or By the Glass at Souris street. All three wine bars are not far away from Syntagma Square in the city centre. After tasting, decide on your favorite and head for this destination. That would be a good and exciting start.

 

And to be honest, ending your Greek wine tour is not a good idea at all. I started some twelve years ago, and I hope my Greek wine tour never ends.”

Vidiano Wine in Crete by Douloufakis Winery

It’s my First Time Trying Greek Wine – Which One Should I Try First?

“The main and most famous grapes at this moment for red wine are Agiorgitiko and Xinomavro. Agiorgitiko is mainly grown in the region Nemea in the Peloponnese, also known as Little Burgundy. Xinomavro is a grape from Naoussa in Macedonia. The wine of this grape, from this region, is sometimes called the Barolo of Greece. I would definitely try these wines.

 

For the whites, I recommend the Assyrtiko, one of the best-known quality white-wine grape varieties. But I personally love the variety Malagousia. It’s a variety brought back on the market by the famous winemaker Evangelos Gerovassiliou from Epanomi, not far from Thessaloniki. He was the first who grew Malagousia on a large scale and won medals at international fairs. Nowadays more winemakers produce Malagousia.”


For first-time buyers of Greek wine from the Netherlands, one good website to order Greek wines is pontiki.nl. 

Ktima Gerovassiliou

What is the Biggest Difference Between Wines from the Mainland, the Islands, and Crete?

“The grape variety is one aspect of winemaking. Knowledge and craftmanship are of course indispensable. Two other important elements in the winemaking process are climate and soil. Greece is much more diverse in terms of climate and soil than most people realize. If you want to compare the mainland with the islands and Crete, all those aspects play a role. 

 

The Northern mainland (Epirus, Macedonia, and Thrace) is mainly mountainous and more wet than other parts of Greece. Many of the red wines have a taste of strong dark cherry fruit with high tannines.

Savatiano Wine by Nikolou Winery

The islands are more sunny and windy, which also affects the winemaking. A few islands like Santorini are volcanic. White wines from this island offer passion fruit or lemon notes, and they are often oaked.

 

Crete and the Peloponnese, because of their location in southern Greece, have the most hours of sunshine per year. The red wines from those two regions are often full-bodied, fruity, and have smooth tannines. 

 

But to be honest, it’s so hard to say what is the difference. A lot depends on the personal choices and skills of the winemaker. He, in the end, is the true master.”

Douloufakis Winery, Crete

Can Greek Wine Compete with Well-Known Varieties from Italy and France?

“Yes! Definitely! In the last few decades, Greek wines have started to pick up prestigious prices and medals in international wine contests. But this fact is still unknown to most consumers. Greek wines are still rather unknown. Why is that? 

 

Partly, it has to do with the quantity of wines made. In 2022 Greece produced 2,1 million hectoliters. The total area of vineyards is approximately 110.000 hectares. Just a small part of this quantity is exported– some 10% I think.

 

Another reason for the fact that consumers are not familiar with quality Greek wines is the obscurity of the grapes. Consumers are still not yet familiar with grape varieties from Greece. They easily choose a Merlot from France or a Chianti from Italy, but not a Greek wine with a difficult name like Agiorgitiko, Xinomavro, Malagousia or Assyrtiko. 

 

I think that’s a missed opportunity. Step out of your comfort zone and try something unknown!”

Wine Press | Photo by @frederieklommen

In Greece, Do Some Vineyards Offer Agrotourism Experiences? 

“Of course. There are a lot of small farmers/winemakers who also function as agrotourism destinations, where you can rent a room or studio.

 

There are also some famous, high-end wineries with lodgings. Check for example Katogi Averoff Hotel & Winery in Epirus, Ktima Bellou in Thessaly, Scalani Hills Boutari Winery or Domaine Semeli on the Peloponnese.”

The Elxis Team at Alpha Winery

Thirsty for More?

“Lommen has more wine guides and general travel information for Dutch travelers to Greece on her website, Greece Journal

 

Want to buy the book? Lommen’s wine guide can be found in bookstores in the Netherlands or Belgium. The books can also be ordered via the webshop of Uitgeverij Passionate Nomads. You can also send an email to the author herself and order a signed copy: info@frederieklommen.nl.”

Reading Time: 5 minutes

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