In more recent times, the country’s reputation as a wine producer has been somewhat tarnished. However, those who have terrible memories of the pine-resin scent of Retsina should think again. A new generation of winemakers have spearheaded a renaissance in Greek wine, combining native varieties with cutting edge production techniques.
As with all things Greek, winemaking has a long history. The Greeks mixed their wine in kraters with spices, water and honey. Travelling from Thessaloniki to Athens, we combine wine visits with archaeological sites, sun-drenched beaches and fascinating museums. Along the way, we enjoy some very memorable meals, from mussels steamed in ouzo to hearty moussaka.
Our Wine Guide, Derek Smedley, is a Master of Wine and has a keen interest in Greek wine. He will introduce us to some of the pioneering Greek winemakers from the northernmost wineries such as Ktima Alpha to Gaia Estate in the Peloponnese peninsula. We sample too many grapes to count: the velvety red Agiorgitiko, bone-dry Assyrtiko, jasmine-scented Malagousia, elegant Roditis, and volcanic-soil Xinomavro.
This is the story of Greece’s very ancient history and very modern wines. From the flower-strewn hills of ancient Mycenae to the glittering Aegean sea, this is a wonderful experience to discover it all. Greek wines may be the most underrated on the planet; help us fix their undeserved derision, by showering them with the love they truly deserve on tour.
We start as we mean to go on upon arrival in Thessaloniki, stopping at Domaine Gerovassiliou en route to our hotel. Thanks go to them for the hard work that was seminal in the Greek wine renaissance. We enjoy a dinner of regional specialities at the excellent hotel restaurant.
We travel into the foothills of the mountains to Naoussa, known for its light, acidic reds . Here, we enjoy a tasting at the Dalamara winery, before continuing to Ktima Kir Yianni where we have a tasting and lunch in their iconic Ottoman vineyard watch tower. Those who wish can join us for a visit to the Royal Tombs of Vergina, where the ancient Macedonian kings are buried. Dinner is included in Naoussa town this evening.
We travel even higher into the Amyndeon mountains to visit Ktima Alpha. The vintages here may only count as ‘country wines’, but the quality is superb. The winery is beautifully situated on a lake shore, with mountains rising in the background. After lunch we return to the hotel for a private cookery lesson. The traditional dishes prepared during today’s cookery demonstration will be shared by all of us tonight at dinner.
We check out of our hotel and begin our journey south, stopping en route at Domain Dougas in the Rapsani region. This winery sits in the shelter of Mount Olympus and here we sample the best it has to offer. After lunch at a local restaurant, we continue our journey to the lovely seaside town of Itea, nestled below the hills of Delphi. We enjoy dinner with paired wines at a local restaurant this evening.
We have an early start this morning as we travel to Delphi, the oracle where the god Apollo is said to have delivered his prophecies through the mouth of the Pythia. Magnificent views and ancient architecture greet us at the site. We fortify ourselves at the Ktima Kokotos Vineyards in Attica. The vineyard is situated where wine god Dionysus supposedly landed in Europe. We break from native varieties and enjoy the estate’s Cabernet-Merlot blend. This afternoon, we have a scenic drive to Napflio, situated on the shores of the Peloponnese.
We travel from Napflio to Tselepos Winery, the leading winery in Arcadia. The climate here is cooler and produces startlingly aromatic wines, including a Merlot which we sample over lunch. This afternoon we visit the lovely Bronze Age site of Mycenae, home to Agamemnon, the mythic Greek king of the Illiad.
After breakfast, we make our way to Gaia, which is the brainchild of Oenology Professor Yanni Paraskevopoulus. After a tasting, we continue to Nemea’s top ‘cru’, Domaine Helios, famous for its charming, sleek wines. The rest of the afternoon is free to explore. Why not stop at the nearby UNESCO Mycenaean site of Tiryns and the spectacular beehive tomb.
Enjoy some free time in the Greek capital, Athens, before our flight home.
Derek Smedley MW is one of the most experienced members of the wine trade. He started his career with John Harvey & Sons of Bristol as a management trainee in 1961. After passing the Master of Wine examination in 1968, Derek joined Whitbread as a wine buyer, travelling the world in order to expand their portfolio.
Our Greek odyssey begins with 3 nights in a charming spa hotel with views over the fertile Macedonian plain near Naousa and its wineries, followed by 1 night in a comfortable hotel in Itea near the seafront, and then 3 nights in the pretty coastal town of Nafplio.
We lunch in Ottoman watchtowers, enjoy regional specialties in Thessaloniki and take part in an optional private cookery lesson, the fruits of which we will enjoy at dinner with a representative from Domaine Thymiopoulos. We also enjoy some excellent dinners in the towns of Naoussa and Itea.
From organic wineries led by young winemakers and sophisticated Amyndeon reds, to the cool climate Merlots of the Mantinia appellation, we see it all. A real highlight of our tour is the dry white, Oreinos Helios. Combining citrus, rose and lemon blossom notes, it has won international awards.