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Reading a Greek Wine Label

Greek Wines: Hard to Pronounce Easy to Drink

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 wine.

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.

Wines with Appellation - VQPRD

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.

Some popular Greek Appellations

Naoussa [Νάουσα]
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.

Amyntaio [Αμύνταιο]
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.

Nemea [Νεμέα]
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.

Mantinia [Μαντινεία]
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 wines.

Patras [Πάτρα]
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.

Robola of Cephalonia [Ρομπόλα Κεφαλληνίας]
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.

Santorini [Σαντορίνη]
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 [Ρόδος]
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.

Samos [Σάμος]
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.

Table Wines [Επιτραπέζιοι Οίνοι]

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 [Τοπικοί Οίνοι]

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.

Some Popular Regional Wines

  • Epanomie [Επανομής] - near the town of Thessaloniki in Macedonia.
  • Pangeon [Παγγαιορίτικος] - in Macedonia, near the town of Kavala, on the slopes of Mount Pangeon.
  • Florina [Φλώρινας] - a remote region in Eastern Macedonia
  • Hemathia [Ημαθίας] - in Eastern Macedonia around Naoussa
  • Metsovo [Μετσοβίτικος] - A village on the slopes of Mount Pindos in Epirus.
  • Epirus [Ηπειρώτικος] - in the mountainous northwest of Greece.
  • Ioannina [Ιωαννίνων] - the area surrounding Ioannina, the capital of Epirus.
  • Attica [Αττικής] - the area surrounding Athens.
  • Gerania [Γερανίων] - on the slopes of Mount Gerania near the town of Megara.
  • Anavyssos [Αναβύσσου] - on the way from Athens to Sounion.
  • Peloponnese [Πελοποννήσου] - the multifaceted region of Peloponnese.
  • Slopes of Aegialia [Πλαγιών Αιγειαλείας] - in the region of Achaia in Peloponnese, surrounding the town of Aegio.
  • Tegea [Τεγέας] - in the region of Arcadia in Peloponnese.
  • Arcadia [Αρκαδίας] - in central Peloponnese surrounding the town of Tripoli.
  • Aegean Islands [Αιγαιοπελαγίτικος or Νησιών Αιγαίου Πελάγους] - mainly from the beautiful islands of Santorini and Rhodes.

Appellation by Tradition [Ονομασία κατά Παράδοση]

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.

 

 

Winemaking Regions of Greece

Peloponnese Sterea Ellada Aegean Islands Epirus Ionian Islands Macedonia Thessalia

 

Macedonia
Epirus
Thessalia
Sterea Ellada
Peloponnese
Aegean Islands
Ionian Islands

 

Peloponnese Sterea Ellada Aegean Islands Epirus Ionian Islands Macedonia Thessalia

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