With over five thousand years of experience, Greece is one of the oldest winemaking regions in the world. With viticulture and winemaking dating from the dawn of the Bronze Age, by the time of the great Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations, wine had already become an inextricable part of Greek culture, and it went on to play a key role in the development and spread of Greek civilization.
Wherever they traveled, the ancient Greeks established vineyards and spread their knowledge of winemaking across the Mediterranean basin, bringing wine to their colonies in places like France and Italy. For centuries, Greek wine was cherished across the continent, from the ancient Roman Empire to the northern reaches of medieval Europe. And whilst perhaps they’re not quite as well known today, Greek wines are finally enjoying a well-deserved revival, praised for their unique elegance and interesting aromas.
Thanks to the ample Greek sunshine, long hot summers and limited rainfall, many areas across Greece offer ideal conditions for growing the approximately 300 indigenous varieties that create the country’s most distinctive wines. From Santorini’s famed Vinsanto and Assyrtiko to the widely exported Agiorgitiko and Mavrodaphni of the Peloponnese, Greece has its own pantheon of wines, an acclaimed selection of distinctive varieties and diverse styles.
There’s certainly much to say about Greek wine and its history, but just as appealing is the distinctively Mediterranean way in it is traditionally enjoyed in Greece: slowly, in good company, and with a selection of delicious meze to nibble on. The country is rife with opportunities to indulge, but if you mean business, what better way to get started than a wine and gastronomy tour?
There are many wine producing regions throughout Greece, and two of the best just so happen to also be two of its best tourism destinations, rich in culture and heritage and surrounded by spectacular natural landscapes.
Santorini, regularly voted among the top island destinations on the planet, grows a number of indigenous grape varieties with vines trained low to the ground into basket shapes, to protect the grapes from the sweeping winds that blow across the Aegean Sea. The island’s climate and unique volcanic soil give the grapes their distinctive flavors, characteristic of the island’s small but prestigious selection of wines, including Assyrtiko, Athiri, and Vinsanto. Good tours in Santorini give you an opportunity to combine sightseeing with wine and gastronomy, whether it’s wine tasting and produce sampling at a family-run farm or sitting back and watching the sunset with a glass of Vinsanto from the balcony of a historic villa.
And back on the mainland, the Peloponnese is another fantastic destination for lovers of… well, everything. Perhaps Greece’s best kept secret, the Peloponnese is a place of immense natural beauty and cultural wealth. From snowsports to stunning beaches and from ancient palaces to Venetian forts, it’s full of great places to visit—and it’s also home to some of the country’s most renowned estates, making it ideal for those who love wine and history and want to combine sightseeing with a winery tour. Because who wouldn’t want to spend a day visiting world-class monuments and indulging in world-class wines?
From Crete to Macedonia and from Rhodes to Corfu, Greek wineries make for fantastic day trips and outings, providing options for wine and gastronomy enthusiasts across the country. Staying in Athens? Worry not. The city center has something for everyone and there are plenty of tours in Athens that will give you the opportunity to get up close and personal with the Greek winemaking tradition.
With increasing recognition and praise coming in from all corners of the earth, Greek wine is becoming ever more popular with connoisseurs and wine drinkers worldwide. And while you can now probably track down a rare Assyrtiko in Sydney and order a bottle of Roditis in New York, we’re convinced about one thing: There’s no better place than Greece to enjoy Greek wine. So go on. Enjoy the country, take in the culture, and indulge.