The wine label is the consumer’s important first
contact with the wine. Over half of the wine buyer’s decision
is based on the appearance of the wine label. A well-made label
promotes the unique characteristics of the wine and protects it
from illegal competition. A wine label should be attractive, easy
to understand and inviting to the consumer’s tastes. A wine
label first targets the heart and then mind of the buyer. Once consumers
become familiar with the details of the wine label they will have
much of the information necessary to make an informed decision about
the wine they are buying.
Greek wines in particular present an interesting challenge
to the consumer. One of the challenges is the many different indigenous
grape varieties under cultivation in Greece. While these grapes
are well established, many since ancient times, they are still relatively
unknown outside of Greece and their names are often difficult to
pronounce. The names of the wines, the regions and the producers
also present a similar challenge, but with some basic knowledge
and understanding of the wine labeling system and the new revolution
taking place in the Greek wine sector you will learn to enjoy these
easy to drink, food friendly wines.
The labeling of Greek wines is based on European
Union legislation for the wine sector and therefore must
follow certain rules. A correctly made wine label will contain both
required and optional information, according to the category of
The wines produced by countries in the European
Union, of which Greece is a member, are divided into two
major categories: VQPRD (French
for Quality Wines Produced in a Determined
Region) and Table Wines.
A superior category for the Table Wines
is the Regional Wines also referred
to as Vins de Pays.
In Greece we have two categories of VQPRD:
Wines with Appellation of Superior Quality
[Οίνοι Ονομασίας Προελεύσεως Ανωτέρας Ποιότητος
or ΟΠΑΠ] and Wines
with Appellation of Controlled Origin [Οίνοι
Ονομασίας Προελεύσεως Eλεγχόμενης or ΟΠΕ]
which is only used for dessert wines.
In order for a wine to be determined as an Appellation
of Origin it has to follow certain rules regarding the delineated
areas where the grapes are permitted to be cultivated, the variety
of the grape, the method of cultivation, the maximum yield per acre,
the percent of alcohol, the vinification method and the sensory
characteristics of the wine produced.
There are 28 Appellations
in Greece. 20 are Appellations of Superior Quality
for dry wines and 8 are Appellations of Controlled Origin
for dessert wines.
Naoussa, located on the slopes of
Mount Vermion in the region of Macedonia,
was the first Appellation to be
registered in Greece and produces delicious, full-bodied red wines
made from the native Xinomavro
grape. The 1750 acres of vineyards in the Naoussa
Appellation extend throughout the mountain slopes and hillsides
of 7 counties near the town of Naoussa.
In the remote region of Amyntaio
the Xinomavro grape is also cultivated
producing light, fruity reds and pleasant sparkling and still rosés.
It is the only region in Greece that produces rosé wines
with an Appellation of Origin.
Not far from the lovely town of Nafplion
in the Peloponnese
we find Nemea, the most important
Appellation region in southern Greece
for the production of dry red wines. Here the Agiorghitiko
grape is used and produces wines famous for their deep red color,
complex aroma and long, velvety palate.
In the high altitudes of Mantinia
the noble Moschofilero grape is
cultivated producing elegant white Appellation
wines. The continental climate together with the poor, but well
drained soil, leads to the production of exciting aromatic white
In the northwest of the Peloponnese
the elegant Roditis grape is used
to produce the Appellation wines
of Patra. The Roditis
grape cultivated in the mountainous vineyards of this region produces
pleasant food-friendly dry white wines. The name Patra
is also used for the production of 3 other AOC dessert wines including
the whites Muscat of Patras and
Muscat Rion of Patras, as well as
the red Mavrodaphne of Patras.
The beautiful green and mountainous island of Cephalonia
is acknowledged as the most important of the Ionian
Islands for the production of new style Greek wines. Robola
of Cephalonia is one of the three Appellation
wines produced here. These elegant wines combine citrus and peach
aromas mixed with smoky, mineral hints and a long lemony aftertaste.
On the breathtaking island of Santorini,
the predominant grape is Assyrtiko
which produces superb dry and dessert Appellation
wines. After the devastating volcanic explosion, circa 1650 BC,
the island was covered with volcanic ash, lava and pumice stone.
This catastrophe created the foundation for perfect soil conditions
which now help produce the very distinctive wines of Santorini.
The vines are cultivated in low basket shaped crowns,
close to the ground for protection from the strong winds. Coming
off the sea, the nocturnal fog brings needed water to the vines
during the hot summer nights and together with the refreshing northerly
winds provide excellent growing conditions for the creation of the
superb Santorini wines.
The white wines from Santorini
are bone-dry with a distinct aroma of citrus combined with hints
of smoke and minerals from the volcanic soil. The dessert wines
from Santorini are called "Vinsanto,"
a derivative of the name Santorini.
Vinsanto can be naturally sweet
or fortified and must be barrel-aged for a minimum of two years.
It is distinguished by its superb velvety palate with aromas of
crème brûlée, chocolate and dried apricots.
Rhodes, legendary island of the
knights, was one of the first areas in ancient Greece known for
the production of wine. Rhodes enjoys
the longest periods of sunshine and the shortest periods of rainfall
in all of Greece, favorable factors in the production of the high
quality wines of Rhodes. The dominant
grapes are the white Athiri and
the red Mandelaria (known locally
as Amorgiano), which produce white
and red Appellation wines. A sweet
AOC wine made from the Muscat grape
is also produced in Rhodes.
The dessert wines from Samos are
famous throughout the world, with more than 70% of the production
exported. The dominant grape is the aromatic white Muscat
or "Muscat à petits grains"
which yield many different types of dessert wines and range from
naturally sweet to fortified, from fresh to long-aged. A dry aromatic
white wine is also produced adding to the variety of wines produced
on the island.
The label of a Table Wine
does not include any information identifying the region, the grape
varieties used or the vintage year. Table wines are recognized by
their brand name and known for their consistent quality from year
to year. Some very special Table Wines
are now being produced by many of the new generation of Greek winemakers.
Two sub-categories of Table Wines
are the Regional Wines and the wines
with Appellation by Tradition.
Regional Wines are
the bridge between Appellation and
Table Wines, although many of the
regional wines in Greece can be of equal if not better quality than
some Appellation wines. Regional
Wines follow similar guidelines as those with an Appellation
regarding the delineated areas under cultivation, the grapes used,
the yield per acre and the percentage of alcohol. The delineated
areas of Regional Wines can be very
limited or relatively large. For example the Regional
Wine of Metsovo is a small area outside the village of Metsovo,
but the Regional Wine of Peloponnese
represents and entire region.
- near the town of Thessaloniki
- in Macedonia, near the town of Kavala,
on the slopes of Mount Pangeon.
- a remote region in Eastern Macedonia
- in Eastern Macedonia around Naoussa
- A village on the slopes of Mount Pindos
- in the mountainous northwest of Greece.
- the area surrounding Ioannina,
the capital of Epirus.
- the area surrounding Athens.
- on the slopes of Mount Gerania
near the town of Megara.
- on the way from Athens to Sounion.
- the multifaceted region of Peloponnese.
Αιγειαλείας] - in the region of Achaia
in Peloponnese, surrounding the town of Aegio.
- in the region of Arcadia in
- in central Peloponnese surrounding the town of Tripoli.
or Νησιών Αιγαίου Πελάγους] - mainly
from the beautiful islands of Santorini
The term Appellation by Tradition
states indirectly the origin of a wine by using a word that is traditionally
found in the general area or region of origin. For example, a very
famous wine of Appellation by Tradition
is Retsina, which is well known
throughout the world as being traditionally produced in Greece.
Retsina is mainly
produced in the area surrounding Athens
called Attica, known for its abundance
of pine trees. The grapes primarily used are Savatiano
and Roditis. Pine resin is added
during the fermentation process producing its characteristic flavor.
The ancient Greeks added pine resin to their wines in order to preserve
them. Retsina is an excellent companion
to most fried Greek dishes. Recently, the consumption of Retsina
has decreased following the current trend of healthier eating habits.
The contemporary style of Greek cooking produces foods that are
lighter and less fried. The new style Greek white wines are light
and fresh and are a better match for this lighter fare than Retsina.