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Greek Wines

The sprouting of numerous fine Greek restaurants in our country has helped to make the wines of Greece more known.

Greek wines have considerably more hurdles to overcome than most other imported wines. The Greek language is unfathomable to all who do not speak it, making the wine labels incomprehensible to many of us. The grape varieties of Greece are fairly unknown, and very hard to pronounce for most consumers. Greek wine regions are largely unknown as well.

Greeks traditionally added pine resin to many of their wines, known as Retsina. These wines became an accustomed taste to Greeks and Greek immigrants throughout the world, However, they were usually unappealing to non-Greeks. Retsina is still sold, often added to Savatiano, which is Greece's most widely-planted white variety. Retsina makes up a small part of the wines that Greece exports to the world.

Greek wines are cool-climate wines, subtle, not overly ripe or fruity, and not overly high in alcohol. The country of Greece ranks 13th in the world today in wine production, a close second to Chile. This is quite extraordinary for a country that is smaller than the state of Georgia, when taking into consideration it's troubled history during the last century. Greece has all of the natural characteristics, and environment for a great wine-producing country. The temperature is variable, the country has a temperate climate with plenty of mountains and hillsides, with all sorts of varied soils. Much like Italy, many areas of Greece are mountainous. The country's varied climate allows for the production of a wide range of wines, from cool-climate white wines, to full-bodied reds, and delicious dessert wines.

A main reason for the improvement of Greek wines during the last decade has been the Greeks' traditional respect for education. A very high percentage of winemakers, known as oenologists, have been trained in the best wine schools around the world, such as U.C. Davis in California and Australia.

While Greece does produce wines from the popular international varieties such as Chardonnay, Merlot, and Syrah. Greek wines encompass an assortment of over 300 indigenous varieties, which is a number only rivaled by Italy. Sixty percent of the country's wines are white, and red wine production is catching up, which will soon make up half of all Greek wines. A small number of dry roses are made as well.

There are three main regions in Greece where wine is made. Macedonia, which is in northernmost Greece, has mountainous terrain and cool climates. Mecedonia's principal district is Naoussa. The Peloponnese makes up the southwestern Greek mainland, and it's three most important wine districts are Nemea, Mantinia, and Patras. Many Greek islands produce wine, mainly Crete and the volcanic island of Santorini.

Greece has 300 native grape varieties, of which 15 are significant for fine wine today. There are two white varieties, and two reds which stand out. Assyrtiko and Moschofilero (white), along with Agiorghitiko and Xinomavro (red). All four can be found in the U.S., and around the world.