Feta, moussaka and dolmades are all famous Greek foods. But when it come to native tipples, ouzo is probably the first thing that springs to mind. All that is set to change in the next few years, however, as Greece embarks on a major initiative to showcase it’s wine industry to the rest of the world.
“Wine has always been listed among the five primary elements of the Greek diet,” explains minister of tourism Harry Theocharis. “Either as the complement of a meal, as a sedative or as a drug, wine is closely connected to the Greek culture and religion.”
Recorded as early as 4,500BC, wine was favoured by the ancient Greeks, who drank it with every meal and worshipped its god, Dionysus. In the morning they would dip bread into the fermented grape juice, but at all other times it would be diluted with water. The aim was always to enjoy, rather than to get drunk.
“The geography of the country has favoured the creation of a great number of small, independent vineyards,” says Theocharis. Many of these are open to the public.
In the Peloponnese, the Domaine Skouras winery is already well established. Owner George Skouras hails from Argos, where wine has been made for 3,000 years. There are two wineries in nearby villages, and guided wine tours and tastings are offered from Monday to Saturday. Visit skouras.gr.
The Pella region in northern Greece is regarded as the birthplace of wine, and the islands also have a strong heritage: visit Domaine Economou (wineryeconomou.blogspot.com) on Crete and Vioma Organic Farm (mykonosvioma.com/the-vineyard.html) on Mykonos.
Along with more than 300 native grape varieties including Assyrtiko (a delicate, crisp white) and Xinomavro (a tannic red), classic vines such as syrah, merlot and chardonnay are also cultivated.
What’s new for 2020?
Now the government plans to strengthen these regions, using European funds to develop vineyards – especially in areas of sustainability and organic viticulture.
“We would like to see more museums, vineyard tours, tastings and even spas,” says Theocharis, outlining ambitions for the future. “We hope to involve tourists in the different stages of the winemaking process, including ploughing in the vineyards, harvesting, stomping and weighing of the grapes.”