When we think of old world wine, France, Italy and Spain probably spring to mind long before Greece does.
However, this is a country that has been producing outstanding wine for centuries.
Yet with its hard to pronounce grape varieties and sometimes limited availability (in contrast to say, New Zealand’s sauvignon blanc), Greek wine can often be overlooked.
That’s something that is slowly starting to change, especially with such outstanding crisp, bone-dry white wines coming from the volcanic soil of Santorini.
Red wine doesn’t disappoint either with everything from refreshing, easy drinking reds to the dark and brooding types.
The savoury notes so often found in wines from this part of the world make them an absolute belter when it comes to matching with food.
In short, both mainland Greece and its islands are a treasure trove of wines offering something exciting for every occasion.
Santo Wines, Santorini PDO, Nykteri 13.9%: £17.90, Maltby&Greek
As the quality of wine from Santorini becomes more well-known, prices have been increasing year on year, with some comparing it to white burgundy. Wine is selling faster than it can be aged so a great value Santorini may soon be a thing of the past. However, we think we’ve found one that ticks all the boxes while coming in at under £20. Opening up with a fragrant floral nose, the palate is crisp, dry and refreshing, balanced with just a touch of oak which gives way to an impressive long finish.
Oenops Wines Apla white 2017 13%: £22, Roberson Wine
Combining the thirst quenching minerality found in Santorini’s assyrtiko with the perfumed, stone fruit more familiar in the malagouzia grape, is this fantastically refreshing white wine from northern Greece. Again, there’s a whiff of herbs here which lends a savoury edge, making it bold enough to drink by itself or pair with everything from salty cheese, grilled prawns or spicy curries.
Domaine Lyrarakis, Dafni Psarades vineyard 2017 12.5%: £13.25, Berry Bros
It’s a bit of a gamble including this in a roundup of the very best Greek wines because it’s certainly unusual. However, it’s the unique savoury notes that made this stick in our mind long after we’d finished the bottle. Aptly named after the native “laurel” tree – the plant which produces bay leaves often used to flavour cooking in this part of the world – this is a complex wine with herbaceous notes, a full well-rounded creamy mouthfeel and bright, fresh acidity. Versatile enough to match with a variety of food, but exciting enough to be enjoyed as a standalone glass of wine.
Atlantis Santorini 13%: £72 (case of six), Marks & Spencer
Santorini is an exceptional island for wine production, thanks to its arid volcanic ash-rich soil, hot days and cooler nights. This is a wonderful example which showcases the infamous minerality you’d expect, along with tingling-acidity and just a touch of honeyed fruit which ensures a fine balance. Made predominantly with the indigenous old-vine assyrtiko grapes, this refreshing white wine is great at cutting through salty food – try it with a halloumi souvlaki.
Lyrarakis 'voila' assyrtiko 2018 13.5%: £9.99, Majestic
Even wine giants Majestic don’t stock a huge amount of Greek wine, but this multi-award-winning bottle managed to earn its place on the line-up. Bone-dry and perfectly refreshing, this is best drunk nice and cold on a hot summer’s day. The family-run winery discovered that the assyrtiko grape is very happy growing in east Crete, and we think this represents great value with its infamous minerality, crunchy apple notes and thirst-quenching acidity.
Ktima Vourvoukelis limnio 2016 13%: £22.75, Harvey Nichols
Limnio is an ancient grape, produced on the coast of Thrace in northern Greece for this rich luxurious organic red. Available in limited quantities, expect savoury herbaceous notes – particularly rosemary – fresh, young red fruit and a touch of black pepper on the finish. It works well with slow-cooked stews, barbecued steak and hard cheeses.
Kokotos Three Hills agiorgitiko-cabernet sauvignon 2017 12%: £12, Pull the Cork
A lot of the red wines found across Greece are rich and decadently heavy, but this light, refreshing style shows they are more than a one trick pony. Made predominantly with the agiorgitiko grape from the Nemea region, it has spent six months in French oak but retains fresh floral notes and good acidity. We’ll be enjoying this with barbequed food this summer.
Domaine Skouras Saint George, aghiorghitiko, 2014 12.5%: £15.95, Jeroboams
This cherry-hued red is bursting with ripe juicy fruit – think blackberries, mulberries, raspberries and strawberries – with the added complexity of spices such as aniseed, cinnamon and black pepper. Medium-bodied with a nice long finish and just a touch of sweet vanilla on the palate, we’ll be pairing this with lamb every which way – grilled cutlets, kebabs or in slow-cooked stews would all work a treat.
Vassaltis Santorini assyrtiko 2017 14%: £30, Virgin Wines
This fragrant white may look pricey but on the recommendation of many in the wine business we gave it a go and found it to be worth every penny. Wonderfully complex with notes of sun-baked dried fruit, alongside fresh minerality and vibrant citrus, this would be a treat with lobster or crab in creamy sauces. Another winner from Santorini-grown assyrtiko grapes.
T-OINOS Clos Stegasta assyrtiko 2017 14%: £44.95, Master of Malt
T-OINOS are the first wines in 3000 years to be produced from the volcanic soil of Tinos, a World Heritage-listed island of the Cyclades. Expressing the character of the T-OINOS vines, as well as the soil in which they grow and the climate they are immersed in, this is well worth splashing out for on special occasions. Expect lemon zest, fabulous minerality and a slightly creamy note which gives each sip a wonderful richness. Created with organic assyrtiko grapes, this elegant white works well with spicier dishes (thanks to the salinity) and of course, a variety of seafood.
Domaine Zafeirakis limniona red 2015 13%: £27, Roberson Wine
Pinot-noir fans, listen up! We think you’ll love this easy-drinking red from the foothills of Mount Olympus in Thessaly, central Greece. Well rounded and silky smooth, the savoury notes make this particularly moreish and one that will only get better with age. There is already oak present however and that’s balanced with fresh red berries and the subtlest notes of rose petals. Slow-cooked beef and tomato based dishes will make this shine.
Domaine Kalathas 'Sainte-Obeissance' Aspro Potamisi-Rozaki, 2016 14%: £32, Maltby&Greek
Purveyors of the very finest Greek produce, it’s really no surprise we found so many gems from Maltby&Greek. This exciting biodynamic wine encapsulates the sun and sea of the Aegean islands. Despite its appearance, this isn’t classed as an orange wine, but rather is a natural style, made with minimal intervention and no added sulphur. The salinity found on the finish of this wine means it can take a little spice so don’t be afraid of pairing with Asian cuisine.
Thymiopoulos Atma xinomavro 13%: £11.99, Waitrose
Despite the fact that xinomavro translates as acid black this is surprisingly approachable. Ruby red and super smooth, this is far from aggressive or astringent. In fact the winning combination of young red fruit, floral notes, coffee and spice mean that this is the sort of bottle to savour alongside a long, lazy, mezze.
Adnams ‘Anthemis’ Vin de Liqueur 15%: £11.99, Adnams
So you’ve had white wine with your seafood starter and red with your meaty main, but there’s no need to abandon Greece when it comes to dessert. Adnams have sourced this rich, smooth as honey dessert wine from the island of Samos which has been aged in oak for an impressive five years. Treacle, toffee and raisin notes are crying out to be paired with an exciting cheese board.
The verdict: Greek wines
For us, the perfect example of Greek wine encapsulates the minerality found in Santorini’s assyrtiko grapes along with an underlying savoury note – all wrapped up in bone-dry, lip-smacking acidity. With that in mind, we think Maltby&Greek’s Santo Wines manages to deliver all of that for a very reasonable price.