Greek white wines are improving with every vintage, discovers Panos Kakaviatos, who suggests 10 wines to try at under £25 per bottle.

Greek white wines

Situated between 32 ̊ and 42 ̊ north, Greek vineyards are some of the world’s hottest. While this might suggest suitability to the production of red wine, Greece in fact makes a surprising amount of white. Coming from some 65,000ha (hectares) of plantings, more than 60% of Greek wine produced is white: approximately 1.83 million hectolitres of the total 2.9 million hl produced.

The key to success with white wines in hot countries such as Greece is exploiting cool microclimates. Grapes ripen more slowly in cooler terroirs in mountainous vineyards, developing more interesting flavours as a result. Wines whose labels include the names Mantinia, Amyndeo or Nemea can be good examples. Mountainous areas in Nemea range between 250m to over 1,000m above sea level. Not only do they give rise to variations in wine styles, but they also offer amazing views as one drives through the terrain on sometimes perilous tracks, as I did on a recent visit.

Many of the white wines listed below come from cooler vineyards or from vineyards – such as those on the island of Santorini – whose maritime location helps to maintain humidity and to moderate temperatures, with strong winds that blanket the island during the summer, bringing down the night-time temperatures.

10 great value Greek whites
Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko 2014

Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko 2014

Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko, Santorini PDO, Greece 2014 Iodine and white flower aromatics and flavours, in a fresh, vibrant and thirstquenching…

Points 92
Ktima Gerovassiliou Chardonnay 2014

Ktima Gerovassiliou Chardonnay 2014

Ktima Gerovassiliou Chardonnay, Thessaloniki, Epanomi PGI, Greece 2014 Precise and crisp, with lovely citrus notes of grapefruit and lime, as…

Points 92
Ktima Pavlidis Emphasis Assyrtiko

Ktima Pavlidis Emphasis Assyrtiko 2013

Ktima Pavlidis Emphasis Assyrtiko, Northern Greece, Drama PGI, Greece 2013 Less iodine minerality than Santorini Assyrtiko, but a lovely nose…

Points 92
Wine Art Estate Idisma Drios 2013

Wine Art Estate Idisma Drios 2013

Wine Art Estate Idisma Drios, Assyrtiko, Drama PGI, Greece 2013 Lemon and white apricot aromas and flavours with a hint…

Points 92
Domaine Glinavos Primus Zitsa 2013

Domaine Glinavos Primus Zitsa 2013

Domaine Glinavos Primus Zitsa, Epirus, Zitsa PDO, Greece 2013 A brisk and low-alcohol wine made from the Debina grape, this…

Points 91
Hatzidakis Assyrtiko 2014

Hatzidakis Assyrtiko 2014

Hatzidakis Assyrtiko, Santorini PDO, Greece 2014 Orange and floral aromas, a clean and brisk attack. Bright acidity, smooth texture and…

Points 91

Beyond retsina & Assyrtiko

The best-known Greek white wines are undoubtedly retsina and Assyrtiko. Retsina is famous for historical reasons, and has an unarguably chequered reputation, long associated with inferior wine often made from a blend of grapes and masked by resin flavours. Assyrtiko is a more recent success story, a grape that today produces world-class dry whites, most famously from old vines grown on the volcanic island of Santorini with its black sand beaches, gorgeous sunsets – and strong winds.

Savvy consumers should investigate other white varieties from Greece, including the aforementioned Malagousia, with its attractive orange blossom, stone fruit and floral aromatics. Just before leaving Nemea, I bought a lovely white made from the Moschofilero grape by the Semeli winery, which, at well under £10 per bottle, is both floral and vivacious, and fantastic value – and went down very well with grilled calamari doused in fresh lemon.

International varieties

Top producers are also making excellent white wines from international varieties. Try, for

Greek white wines - Winery Skouras

Barrel storage at Domaine Skouras.

example, the Viognier ‘Spilitsa’ PGI Argolida 2013 by Domaine Skouras. This wine’s delectable peach and iodine aspects easily match fine French Viognier for quality. Made from vines planted at a cool 300m above sea level, the Skouras wine exudes both opulence and verve.

The wines recommended below are from both up-and-coming producers and from longer- established brands who have set high standards for Greek wine. The latter category includes Ktima Gerovassiliou, located just outside Thessaloniki. It is one of the most beautiful wineries in Greece, including a charming museum that should be visited by any serious wine lover, for its astounding collection of antique corkscrews. The estate’s single-vineyard Malagousia is made with skin contact to extract aromas, is partially barrel fermented and later matured on its lees, yielding fine flavours of pear, mango and citrus.

‘We have identified the best rootstocks for our soils and the best clones of Malagousia, and the study of the soil has helped us find the best parcels for the variety,’ explains owner Vangelis Gerovassiliou. Thanks to working closely with Bordeaux oenologist Denis Dubourdieu, Gerovassiliou says his team has developed expertise in blending. The winery also makes excellent Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

Most of the wines recommended below cost less than £20, and are a steal at that price.