Greece's Wine Regions
Greeks have a long history with wine. Although archaeological evidence shows that wine was first produced in China, Greece wasn't far behind: the ancient Greeks started crushing grapes as early as 4500 BCE, later introducing the wine-making tradition to their colonies in present-day Italy, France, and Spain. Today, even though Greek wines may not be as well-known as Bourdeaux or Barolo, wine production and consumption remains an important part of the national identity.
There are many wine regions scattered across the Greek mainland and islands. Many visitors will become familiar with white wines like Assyrtiko while vacationing on Santorini or aromatic varietals like Retsina while visiting Athens. But there's much more to the Greek wine scene. Read on for an overview of the country's main wine regions, divided into four categories—Central, South, North, and Aegean Islands—as you plan your travels.
|Region||Includes||Scenery||Varietal||Best for||Closest city|
|Central||Thessaly, Attica||Sunny vineyards and mountains||Retsina||Day trips from Athens||Athens|
|Northern||Epirus, Macedonia, Thrace||Forest and hills||Xinomavro||Sparkling wine||Thessaloniki|
|Southern||Crete, Peloponnese, Kefalonia||Lakes, rivers, islands||Agiorgitiko||Road trips||Patra and Heraklion|
|Aegean||Santorini, Samos, Límnos||Volcanic islands||Assyrtiko||Sea views||Heraklion|
First-time visitors to the country often end up trying wines from Central Greece—a region that encompasses Attica and Thessaly—without even realizing it. That's because Athens is located here, too, and lots of restaurants serve locally produced wine. The capital city is part of the historic wine-producing region of Attica (also known as the Attic Peninsula). It's the place where, as legend holds, Dionysus, the god of wine in Greek mythology, introduced winemaking to the mortal Icarius.
The most well-known wine produced in Attica's hot, dry climate is Retsina. Traditionally infused with sap from an Aleppo pine tree, this wine—whose origins date back as far as the 2nd century BCE—is considered by some an acquired taste. Friendlier, more palatable versions of the resinous varietal are popping up at bars and restaurants in recent years, however, including versions made with Savatiano, the country's most widely planted white grape. Further north in Greece's central region, in Thessaly, you'll find Cabernet Sauvignon and other red wines produced at vineyards with higher elevations near the base of Mount Olympus.
Several travel agencies offer wine-focused day tours from Athens that incorporate wine tastings at local wineries with visits to archaeological sites. Recommended wineries include Mylonas, Anastasia Frangos, Papagiannakos, and Kokotou Estate.
September is the ideal time to visit the region. Find out more about the advantages of visiting in early autumn here.
What better way to enjoy the charm of a Greek island, with its postcard-perfect views of white-washed houses and deep blue ocean, than with a glass of cold, dry white wine? The Aegean Sea is dotted with islands where wine has been produced for thousands of years. On Santorini, the most popular varietal is Assyrtiko, a white wine with notes of lemon and passion fruit. Compare it with Nykteri, an oaked version of the same wine, at a local winery like Vassaltis Vineyards, where wine tastings come with cheeses produced on the island. Consider this tour of Santorini, which includes a trip to the island's highest peak, stops in medieval villages like Megalochori and Pyrgos, and a tasting of local wines.
On the volcanic island of Limnos, a distinctive red wine called Limnio (also known as Kalampaki) is a local classic. Considered one of the oldest Greek wines, it was Aristotle's favorite. Muscat of Alexandria, a sweet wine, is another to try. Check out Lemnos Wine Trails for more information on visiting wineries on the island: recommended stops include Savoglou-Tsivolas (Lemnos Organic Wines) and Ktima Chatzigeorgiou in Karpasi.
Fans of muscat, a sweet fortified wine, won't want to miss a visit to the island of Samos. It's the birthplace of Muscat Blanc, an aromatic white muscat. Start at the Samos Wine Museum, where you can sample local varietals and learn about the island's viticultural history, then head to Vakakis Winery, a small organic winery outside the town of Karlovassi, for a tour and tasting.
For more information on how to explore this part of the country, check out this ultimate guide to Greek island-hopping.
The northernmost region of Greece, bordering Albania, Bulgaria, and Turkey, is colder and wetter than the rest of the country. That contrast is reflected in the wine produced here. In the mountainous area of Zitsa, in the northwest region of Epirus, sparkling wines are the specialty: look for a pink sparkling wine with notes of cherry and strawberry at Zoinas Winery and a traditional semi-sparkling wine, Debina, at Domaine Glinavos.
In Macedonia, in the central north, you'll find excellent sparkling wines at wineries like Domaine Karanikas and Apostolos Matamis. Full-bodied red wines are also produced in Naoussa and Amyndeo, specifically Xinomavro, with aromas of dark cherry and licorice: try it at Moraitis Winery, Elinos, or Boutari Winery, all on the developing Wine Route of Naoussa.
Near Thessaloniki, in the northeast, try an unusually rich white wine, Malagousia, at Gerovassiliou Winery. As elsewhere in Greece, Assyrtiko is widely popular; you'll also see blends with more conventional white grapes like Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay in the historic wine-growing region of Thrace, which crosses over into Turkey and Bulgaria.
Find out more about Greece's mountainous mainland with this guide to Thessaloniki & Macedonia.
Hot and sunny southern Greece is a classic Mediterranean-style wine-growing region. Here you'll discover crisp white wines like Moschofilero, cultivated in Mantineia, rosé wines made with the Agiorgitiko grape in Nemea, in the Peloponnese, and lesser-known reds like Liatiko on Crete.
On Kefalonia, an island in the Ionian Sea that's located southwest of the mainland, wine has been made since ancient times. White muscat is widely grown and consumed here, but the signature wine to try is Robola, a medium-bodied white with notes of pineapple and lemon. Melissinos Winery and Menousis Wines are two wineries on the island where you can sample it.
Further east, in the Peloponnese, check out Corinthia Wine Roads. Featuring several recommended routes that criss-cross through the wine-growing region of Nemea, the circuits take travelers to a variety of local wineries—Domaine Repanis, Zacharias Vineyards, and Bizios Estate, to name just a few—passing geographic highlights like Lake Stymfalia and Asopos River along the way. Keep an eye out for Agiorgitiko, a fruity red with black currant and raspberry aromas, and Roditis, a bright white wine with notes of melon and lime.
The winery scene on Crete is extensive and deeply rooted in history. Popular varietals here include a dry white wine called Vidiano and an unusual red wine, Liatiko, with notes of rose and cherry. Plenty of travel agencies offer wine-themed tours of the island, or you can visit wineries independently: consider stopping at Manousakis Winery, near Vatolakkos, Douloufakis Winery, outside of Heraklion, and Rhous Winery, producing organic wines amid gorgeous island scenery in Houdetsi.