Now is usually the time of year where we finalize our vacation plans to the motherland. Tickets are booked, Theia Maria is informed and has already started baking and the daydreams of frappe on the beach invade our cubicles.
Sadly, this is not a usual year. The global pandemic has halted all travel to and from Greece, a smart move to keep everyone safe, but still crushing. Dreaming of our vacation to Greece is what gets us through the harsh winter months.
Do not despair! There is a way to travel to Greece and experience the sun, the land, and the pathos of the Greek people without ever leaving your living room. Put on 2019’s Greek Summer playlist and travel to Greece through wine! Okay, it’s not the same, but maybe after the second glass you won’t care as much.
Wine is often described and explained through its terroir; a fancy French word to describe how the elements of sun, soil, altitude and location contribute to the characteristics of the wine.
Greece is full of terroir-driven wines that not only reflect the environment but also its tradition. All aboard, let’s go to Greece!
First stop, Athens
Most of us dread going through Athens but the experience can be made so much better with wine! To set the stage, put on some rebetika and, for a truly authentic experience, fill your apartment with cigarette smoke and grab a stack of napkins.
Many vineyards surrounding Athens are making beautiful wines, but nothing says Greek wine quite like Restina.
A uniquely Greek wine, Retsina has made a comeback and no longer smells like turpentine. Pine resin has been used to mask the off-flavors of bad wine since the Minoans; however, winemakers have realized that if they start with a good wine and add quality resin: magic happens.
If you can overcome your past experiences with Retsina, it is worth a revisit.
Next stop, the Cyclades
Grab a spray bottle, fill it with water and salt and have your quarantine buddy mist it in your face to help transport you to the islands.
Mykonos, Santorini, Paros et al. tend to be the vacation part of our trip before our relatives hold us hostage in the village.
Wines from Santorini have long been the gateway to Greek wine; the most famous grape being Assyrtiko.
Santorini whites are as close as you can get to drinking the Aegean sea. They are salty, smell like seaweed and can taste like seashells. I swear this is a good thing.
Are reds more your thing? Grab a bottle of Monemvasia or Mandilaria from the neighboring island of Paros.
Time to visit the family
Now that partying on the islands is done, we need to go see the fam. Cue up a FaceTime call with Theia Maria and whip out the photo albums. Chances are you don’t know what the famous wines from your region are because Theio Niko has been force-feeding you his homemade vinegar, errr wine, for years instead. Keep reading, I got you.
The King and Queen of Greek wine hail from the north, the way north. I mean, it’s the least God can do to make up for the lack of coastline.
Xinomavro is the full-bodied, hearty, layered red wine you’ve been craving with your steak.
Oh, you are fasting? Didn’t you hear? Easter is cancelled this year. Still fasting? No worries, I’ve got a recommendation for you; Malagousia is a voluptuous white wine that smells like orchard fruit. Visualize the peach emoji as you enjoy a glass, or three.
If you’re from Peloponnese, track down two of the most important grapes of all of Greece; Moschofilero and Agiorgitiko.
Moschofilero is an aromatic, light-bodied, easy-drinking white wine. While it’s great with meze style foods, in this day and age, go sit on your porch and pound it.
Agiorgitiko is the famous red. It is very versatile and can be expressed in all styles from light to full body. Spark up the barbecue and enjoy Agiorgitiko with some grilled meats and vegetables.
Put on your black shirt and twirl your mustache (ladies too, we all know the salons are closed) while enjoying some wine from Crete. Cretan wines have come a long way with the newest generation of winemakers.
Two grapes that stand out are Vidiano for white and Liatiko for red. Vidiano is so eager to please, virtually no one will dislike it. It is a safe bet in these uncertain times. Liatiko is as graceful as a syrtaki and if you drink enough you’ll be dancing like Zorba.
Lastly, the Ionian islands
Robola and Mavrodaphne are the stars of the west side.
Robola is the lemony white that will make every fish dish you make shine. Mavrodaphne may sound familiar, the sweet styles are usually used to make communion. But the dry styles have been mesmerizing wine lovers for a while with their berry fruits and spice.
Ask for Greek wines at your local wine shop, they’re open because they are essential. Also, check to see if the nearest Greek restaurant has wines available with take out.
You can also visit uncorkedgreeks.com and they’ll ship it to your door.
Stay safe and visit Greece as soon as you can!
Editor’s note: The four wines included in the featured image are as follows:
1. Vassaltis Vineyards Assyrtiko, Santorini
2. Alpha Estate Xinomavro Reserve, Macedonia
3. Domaine Economou Red, Sitia
4. Sclavos Estate Vino di Sasso Robola, Kefalonia
About the author
Anna Maria Kambourakis is a Massachusetts native. In Chicago, she studied wine and became a Certified Sommelier. Anna Maria has been active in the Greek wine industry for many years and is its biggest cheerleader. In 2013, she took the giant leap to move to her ancestral home of Crete. There, she owns Chania Wine Tours and has established herself as a leader of wine tourism on the island. Anna Maria delights in sharing wine stories with her guests on her tours and to the world through her writing. For more wine and food pairing tips, follow her new blog Unraveling Wine.
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