The Greek Vineyard
The Greek vineyard is one of the most ancient and most historic in the world, while, at the same time, it is appropriate for alternative crops (organic, biodynamic etc) and makes use of the most modern wine producing methods. One of its big advantages is its native grape varieties although there are international ones too.
In Greece’s mainly Mediterranean climate, the Greek vineyard stretches over almost the whole country, continental or insular. The element of water, and mainly the sea, benefits it, its geological characteristics vary while its altitude exceeds one kilometer, with the semi-mountainous and mountainous vineyards prevalent in many places. The native grape varieties, the terroirs of the Greek vineyard and their characteristics create the amplitude of the range of Greek wine, determining their diversity and satisfying modern wine lovers. These vineyards are mountainous and semi-mountainous, coastal, continental and volcanic.
In the Greek vineyard mountainous and semi-mountainous vineyards are prevalent, on slopes or in plateaus (entirely or at some parts, in Amynteo, Zitsa, Metsovo, Mantinea, Achaea, Samos, Nemea, Peza, Cephalonia, Rapsani and elsewhere). Most PDO zones of the country are in mountainous and semi-mountainous terroirs. Their altitude benefits Greece’s arid climate, lowering the temperature and assuring there is water and air to cool the vines while intensifying the absorption of solar radiation (on slopes).
In a country like Greece, which is surrounded by sea and has so many islands, the Greek vineyard’s often arid climate is made milder by the sea in coastal areas and relatively coastal vineyards (Thrace, Kavala, Halkidiki, Anchialos, Fthiotida, Patras, Trifilia, Crete and in every wine-producing island of the Aegean and Ionian sea). The sea breeze is important for similar reasons. The element of water of the country’s big lakes benefits viticulture in a similar way (eg in Amynteo, Mesenikolas and elsewhere).
Although the Greek vineyard’s climate is Mediterranean, in the country’s mainlands, far away from the element of water (water effect), some continental climate features meet eg big differences in temperature between day and night (in Attica and elsewhere in Central Greece, in plateaus eg in Mantinea, in parts of Nemea and elsewhere.) There the differences between the wines from harvest to harvest are more intense, something that generally does not characterize the Greek vineyard’s wines.
As for volcanic terroirs, the Greek vineyard has one of the best ones in the world to present, that of Santorini (Thera) which is also one of the most famous active volcanoes in the world. Because of the layers of pumice which were deposited on its ground throughout the centuries, the island’s vineyard has exceptional and at the same time unique viticultural characteristics while it is one of the few anti-phylloxera ones in Europe. In combination with the unique variety Assyrtiko it produces world-class wines, just like the sweet muscat wines of Samos .
Wine regions of Greece
The main Wine regions of Greece are those of Northern and Central Greece, of the Peloponnese and the islands of the Ionian, the Aegean and of Crete. Amongst the wine producing regions of Greece, the vineyard of Northern Greece stretches over the northern part of the country, north of mountain Olympus and extends from East to West, covering Epirus, Macedonia, and Thrace (Rapsani, Zitsa, Metsovo, Naoussa, Goumenissa, Amynteo, Chalkidiki, Drama, Kavala etc) Their relatively mild and quite wet climate is home for international grape varieties, as well as native ones, starring Xinomavro. From a relatively low altitude and even ground, to semi-mountainous or mountainous, the vineyards of Northern Greece often benefit from neighboring waters from lakes or the sea and usually develop with the most modern wine-producing methods. That is also true about most wineries in this wine region of Greece, amongst the most beautiful, functional and often visited of the country.
Amongst the wine regions of Greece, the vineyard of Central Greece is maybe the most diverse as far as soil and climate is concerned. It includes the vineyards of Thessaly (Mesenikolas, Anchialos, Tyrnavos) and of Central Greece (Fthiotida, Viotia, Attica). Here many traditional vineyards but also modern plantations meet, native grape varieties are dominant, with the main being Savvatiano but also with a strong presence of international varieties.
The Peloponnesse is the pioneer of Greek wine production and is mainly one of the semi-mountainous and mountainous wine regions of Greece with diverse soil, vineyards on slopes or plateaus and the cultivation of native and international grape varieties. As far as vineyards are concerned, it is divided into the central and eastern side and the western one. In the first one, which stretches to Monemvasia one can find PDO Nemea, with the variety Agiorgitiko and Mantinia, with the variety Moschofilero. The second, the western one, starts from the north with the Achaean vineyards (Aigio, Patras) which conceivably continue to the northwest, the Ionian Sea and its wine-producing islands (mainly Cephalonia) with almost exclusively native grape varieties. Further south (Ilia) they stretch to the lower end of the Peloponnese (Messinia). The Peloponnese’s climate is usually quite mild and favored by the sea, its breezes and the northerly winds.
Among Greece’s wine regions, the islands of the Aegean have thousands of acres of mainly native grape varieties (including many rare ones) mainly white and the positive effect of the sea being a pioneer in viticulture. In the north (Lemnos, Samos, with the production of world-class sweet wines) muscat grapes are prevalent and more to the south (Cyclades) the white varietals Assyrtiko, Athiri and the red Monemvasia and Mantilaria. In the Cyclades there is also volcanic Santorini island which is unique as far as vineyards and wine production is concerned, which produces world-class wines while, it is worth mentioning Paros as well. Further in the South, in the Dodecanese group of islands, Rhodes is the star as far as vineyards are concerned. On the islands of the Aegean one can often come across terraces, while water is scarce and the winds strong.
Crete retains it’s uniqueness among Greece’s wine regions and the islands of the Aegean and presents a strong potential for growth. Here the native grape varieties Vilana (white), Kotsifali, Liatiko and Mandilaria (red) are prevalent, among many others, while the cultivation of international grape varieties exists and is developing. The vineyards, on plains and mountains, mainly in the Eastern part of the island and mainly in the North (Sitia, Peza, Archanes, Dafnes) are favored by the neighboring sea and it’s breezes, making Crete’s arid climate milder with limited rainfall.