Best Greek Islands for Wine Tasting
Greece is often overlooked as a wine travel destination. Combining some of the world’s most pristine beaches, ancient archaeological sites, and picturesque villages, with fantastic wines unique to each region, wine tasting in the Greek islands should be part of every wine lovers travel plans.
Why Greek wine tourism isn’t more widely promoted is a mystery, as wine has been produced, and wine grape varietals grown here, for thousands of years. Between the mainland and the many islands (over 200 are inhabited), there are over 100 wine varietals cultivated on approximately 134,000 acres.
Though Greece is one of the world’s warmer wine regions, white wine varietals account for approximately 60% of all grapes grown.
Today, there is a new wave of Greek wines winning prestigious awards in wine competitions, such as the International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC) in London, and scoring 90+ points in specialist wine magazines and websites like Decanter. Rightfully, the wines of Greece are making an impact on the international wine stage.
It’s worth noting that many Greek wine producers are using organic methods of viticulture to produce certified organic wines—look for the European ‘EcoCert’ Organic Certification label on the bottles. You’ll also find many Greek wine producers offer wines that are suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
Want to experience the beauty of Greek islands with a glass of fine wine? Here’s where to go:
The most popular and one of the most beautiful of the Aegean Islands, Santorini is a slice of paradise. With an endless sea, an awe-inspiring ancient caldera, and white-washed houses along cobbled streets, every corner of the island will delight you. Santorini is one of the oldest wine growing regions in Greece; you can find vines dating back 400 years!
The most famous Greek varietal, Assyrtiko, finds its best expression on Santorini. Elegant, refreshing, bone-dry, and somewhat salty, Assyrtiko is a white wine that perfectly complements seafood, shellfish, and feta with tomato salads.
Aryros Estate and Gaia are the most renowned wineries on Santorini which produce Assyrtiko.
Samos is much quieter than its famous cousin Santorini but has much to offer. The photogenic coastline, scenic hiking trails, and friendly locals are not the only attraction. Samos is known for Muscat Blanc; it is believed the grape originated here. Many styles of Muscat of Samos, from sweet to dry, are produced. These wines are guaranteed to be appellation controlled origin, meaning the quality is controlled by strict laws and guaranteed to be of the highest quality.
The most popular style is called Vin Doux, a blend of fresh Muscat juice and Muscat grappa. It is a sweet wine, very aromatic, and higher in alcohol content.
Samos Nectar and Samos Anthemisa are two other sweet Muscat wines with wonderful aromas and a beautiful orange hue.
The island of Lemnos offers a perfect balance of sophistication and seclusion. On Lemnos, you will find one of the oldest varietals, Limnio, which was described by Aristotle as having an herbaceous flavor similar to oregano. It is a black grape, but the wine it produces is red.
Muscat de Limnos is the most famous varietal on the island; you’ll find a few different versions, though it is either naturally sweet or fortified, with a high alcohol concentration. You can pair these wines with strong blue cheese or with a sweet dessert.
Garalis Winery in Limnos cultivates Limnio (Muscat de Limnos) and Muscat of Alexandria varieties. Their Terra Ambera and Limnio whites evoke the scents of dried herbs and fruit with a medium finish.
Crete is the largest Greek island and has a rich history and culture dominated by Venetians and Turks. In fact, Crete was part of the Republic of Venice for 400 years before the Ottoman Turks seized power. You’ll find castles and ancient city walls throughout the island, along with amazing beaches. Combine all of this with some delicious wines, and you could easily spend several days visiting Crete alone.
Mandelaria is Crete’s superstar red wine grape. The wine’s strong identity and recognizable dark red color have a special place in the hearts of devoted wine lovers. Due to its low percentage of alcohol (13%), it is often blended to create a soft red wine, similar to a Rhone blend.
The most renowned winery, Lyrarakis, produces award-winning wines like the Muscat of Spina Vidiano, which won Decanter Bronze in 2019.
If seclusion is high on your agenda, Kefalonia is where you should go. This picturesque island of hills and winding roads connecting to alabaster-white beaches suits a wide variety of vacation styles.
In addition to the stunning setting, don’t miss out on Kefalonia’s premium Robola wine. This varietal is grown in designated areas in the southern portion of the island. Robola is characterized by a distinct lemon note and minerality, which pairs perfectly with local seafood dishes. No more than 10,000 bottles are manufactured annually.
Gentilini Winery sits on Kefalonia’s pedestal when it comes to winemaking. Gentilini Robola is dry and rich in taste, with a citrus aftertaste. Apart from Robola, Kefalonia is also famous for Mavrodaphne, strong and intensely aromatic red wine.
The vineyards of Greece offer grapes of unique aromatic richness. Whether they’re planted high in the mountains to temper the heat of the Mediterranean sun, or on the islands, kissed by the sea breeze, they balance freshness with fruit-forward flavors and a supple texture, worthy of the finest European wines. A wine tasting trip to Greece will no doubt be one of your most treasured travel memories. Raise your glass!
Love white wines? Check out this article about Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley, where white wine varietals have their own annual festival.