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Wine making in Greece has an amazingly long history (right back to the beginning of recorded history in fact!) and it follows that there are many white wine grape types indigenous to Greece.
While some international grape varietals (particularly Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc) have certainly made their way into Greek vineyards and are producing fine whites, we feel that the unique character of Greek white wines is best expressed when produced with our local varieties.
In this article we make an attempt to list the main Greek grape varieties that produce high quality varietal or blended white wines. The list is not exhaustive, there are some 30+ distinct Greek white grape types, but the varieties listed below are the most widely produced and those most likely to be known and of interest to the average wine drinker.
Aidani is grown mainly in Santorini and some other Cyclades islands. Lately we have seen remarkable single varietal vinifications (low alcohol, low acidity but beautiful lemon and floral aromas), but mainly it is blended with Athiri and Assyrtiko in PDO Santorini wines.
The most famous of the Greek white varieties worldwide. Originally grown in Santorini, its reputation and success has resulted in Assyrtiko being cultivated all over Greece, and lately even Australia. Assyrtiko wines are characterized by citrus aromas, a rich feel in the mouth with distinctive minerality and great acidity. Many vinifications pass from barrels and Assyrtiko wines have a reputation for stamina and being receptive to some ageing.
Athiri grapes are grown in the Cyclades, with a focus on Santorini, but also in the Dodecanese, especially Rhodes. It is a medium capacity grape, with moderate to low acidity and mild flavor characteristics. Athiri can be very interesting in sparkling whites.
Vidiano was a little known Cretan variety but has made a strong comeback and is now grown throughout Crete. It gives great wines with vibrant aromas of apricot, herbs & minerals, rich mouth sense and good acidity. It can be aged and a short passage from the barrel can give value. Vidiano might well be the next big thing in Greek white wines varieties.
A variety from Crete, located mostly around Heraklion that gives light & easy to drink wines with distinctive fruity aromas and good acidity.
A hard to find variety from Santorini since it is scattered in vineyards with other varieties. The varietal vinification gives wines with flower and fresh fruit aromas, slightly greasy with the typical minerality (due to the terroir of Santorini) on the palate and with moderate acidity.
Mainly found at Laconia in the Peloponnese but generally in small quantities. The single varietal wines have complex flavor profile with emphasis on quince, while being balanced with good acidity.
Malagouzia is now grown almost all over the country, although its cultivation originated at Northern Greece. The wines are distinguished by their intense aromatic profile with ripe peach, herbal and Muscat notes prevailing.
It is grown in Italy but most probably the Malvasia di Candia has Greek and probably Cretan origin. It is therefore found in Crete and it is a highly aromatic variety with Muscat and fruity character.
It comes from the particular region of Peloponnese but it is now cultivated mainly at Cyclades and especially Paros. It gives wines with full body, good acidity and mild aromatic profile with an emphasis on white-fleshed fruit.
Grown widely in Lemnos and giving highly aromatic wines with floral character and Muscat note
Appearing widely in the Peloponnese and especially the Mantineia region. Although grayish in color, Moschofilero is vinified in white and some rosé wines lately. The wines have a pleasant aromatic profile with flowers, white-fleshed fruits & herbs, good acidity and pleasant light feel in the mouth.
A widely grown variety that despite its pink color, it is used for white wines. It gives pleasant everyday wines but the mountainous cultivation can give wines with greater aromatic complexity, good acidity and significant volume on the palate.
A grape variety of the Ionian islands and especially Kefalonia. It gives wines of moderate aromatic intensity with emphasis on fruit and minerals, good acidity and rich body.
Associated with Retsina although it produces good white wines without the addition of resin. Grown mainly in Attica but also in many other regions of Greece it is the most widely planted grape variety in the country. It gives easy to drink wines with fruity aromas that are suitable for daily drinking with meals.
A rare variety with reddish color that is vinified in white wines and grown in the Peloponnese and mainly in Achaia. It gives very delicate and serious wines with low aromatic intensity and high acidity.