Which grape varieties are cultivated in Greece? What are their characteristics?
In Greece, we have two groups of grape varieties for wine production: the indigenous (that grow only in Greek soil) and the “Cosmopolitan” varieties (that have been brought from other countries). The cosmopolitan ones (Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Syrah to name a few) arrived in Greece in the late 60’s and 70’s from Europe, along with the first university educated winemakers (mainly from France).
The Greek grape varieties, according to studies conducted by the ministry of Agriculture, number somewhere around 300, out of which, 20-30 are widely cultivated in Greek soil. Some adapt better in the microclimate of certain terrains and have become intertwined in the wine history of certain wine producing areas (i.e. Assyrtiko in Santorini, Xinomavro in Naoussa and Agiorgitiko in Nemea).
To name a few Greek varieties, we have: Assyrtiko, Savvatiano, Malagouzia, Moschofilero (all white varieties) and the red varieties of Xinomavro, Agiorgitiko, Mavrodaphne.
Greek winemakers experiment with single varieties and blends (two or more varieties).
Lets take a look at some of the important varieties that we will cross paths in our travels!