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Greek grapes: What to look out for

Whether trying Greek wines abroad or finding imported wines, explore some of these Greek grape varieties that make these wines great...

Greek grapes: What to look out for

With a broken economy, Greece was jolted to react with its wine producers deciding to focus on exports. Fortunately, global interest in native, hard-to-pronounce grapes is at an all-time high, so the country’s rich indigenous vine heritage is experiencing an unprecedented revival.

In particular, Santorini’s Assyrtiko has grabbed the attention of the curious and open-minded. In John Szabo MS’s award-winning new book Volcanic Wines: Salt, Grit and Power, this improbable vineyard gets its own chapter. And a host of other grapes are now following in Assyrtiko’s path.

See Joanna Simon’s Greek Assyrtiko Expert’s Choice in the August issue of Decanter. Subscribe here. 

Fragrant Malagousia is a door-opener.

Nemea’s red Agiorgitiko is the approachable, fruity charmer.

Xinomavro offers thought provoking reds with a tannic bite and high acidity.

Obscure and lesser-known grapes have also come forward: the delicate red Limniona came out of Tyrnavos, which is a Muscat grape spirit stronghold.

Stepping out of retsina’s shadow, old-vine Savatiano has been a revelation.

Crete’s white, peach-toned Vidiano is a rising star.

And there is more to come from the 300-plus varieties in these historic vinelands.

Increasing exports

In terms of global production by volume, Greece ranked 16th in 2015, according to the Organisation Internationale de la Vigne et du Vin.

And there are changes within export markets too. Germany remains the largest importer by volume, but Greek wines are also winning new fans in the US, where significant inroads have been made and sales by value are on the rise.

It is boutique names such as Tetramythos, Zafeirakis and Thymiopoulos that are reaching these new markets, through hipster sommeliers and the natural wine movement.

France and the UK are among the bright spots, along with Japan and the Far East – especially Shanghai, where there is a real thirst for knowledge.

Success has come to estates which have listened to their markets and are now delivering intriguing flavours, in tasteful modern packaging.

The wine in the bottle is doing the storytelling as brisk sales attest. More such efforts are needed.

Nico Manessis is Regional Chair for Greece and Cyprus at the Decanter World Wine Awards. 

This originally featured in a article in Decanter magazine. Subscribe to Decanter here

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