The legend claims that god Dionysus went on a trip to Attica where he was offered the hospitality of king Ikarios and decided that the place was suitable for grape cultivation, so he traveled across the villages of Attica and offered wine to the locals. Wine has been one of the most valued products of Greek land across the centuries as imply the ancient amphorae found, which were labeled with not only the region where the wine was produced but also the very producer. Moreover, the so-called “Dionysian orders“, responsible for the wine production, were highly respected and honoured. The same tradition has reached our days that wine is closely related to a number of religious and popular traditions, many Greek wines from all over the country have won several international awards and are certified with Protected Designation of Origin status.
Such distinctions have been achieved thanks to their producers’ hard work and attention to detail as well as high law standards. Notable Greek varieties include the Vinsanto, a blend of Assyrtiko and Aidani (Santorini), the Ksinomavro, a red wine from Northern Greece, the Ayoryitiko from Nemea – the favorite wine of king Agamemnon, the Mavrotragano from Santorini, the yellowish and fruity Athiri from Southern Agean and Chalkidiki, the Assyrtiko which has successfully travelled from Santorini to Peloponesse, Drama, Epanomi, Chalkidiki and Mount Pangeo, the light pink to deep purple Moschofilero from Arcadia and its almost white subvariety from Mantineia, the citrus-fragranced Robola from Cephalonia, the 2500 years old Savvatiano combining aromas of peach, lemon, kiwi, banana, lemon and strawberry, the famous-white Retsina, the Moschato (muskat) most notably from Samos, the Nykteri from Santorini which took its name from the vinification procedure taking place at night in the past for the risk of oxidisation (nykta means night in Greek) and Mavrodafni from Patras and Cephalonia with its fabulus combination of vanilla, chocolate and dried fruits. Apart from all these local varieties though, there are also others successfully imported from abroad such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot etc. In order the long tradition to be kept alive and further promoted along with all those varieties, Wine Routes have been established across the country as a form of agritourism. Taking one of the Wine Routes, the travelers will be able to learn about the wine-making process and taste local wines, often from organically grown grapes and produced in limited quantities, along with traditional appetizers. In the same time, they will have the chance to enjoy natural beauties, picturesque villages, churches and monasteries, museums and archaelogical sites on their way. Besides, it should be kept in mind that Athens is the only European capital with so many vineyards and wineries so close!
Apart from the popularity and long history of wine, Greece has also a tradition in distillation of transparent, strong spirits such as ouzo and tsipouro with its own variations, tsikoudia and raki, dating back to the Byzantine Empire era. What is interesting about these spirits is that almost any region in Greece offers a different variety of aromas and scents due to slightly different procedures and herbs used during the distillation. The most common herbs used are aniseed, cinnamon, fennel, nutmeg, carnation, mastic or oak leaves. Ouzo is mainly produced in Lesvos, Plomari in particular, and is drunk in tall and slim glasses with a bit of cold water and ice. Tsipouro on the other hand has a long history in Macedonia, Epirus, Thessaly, especially in Tyrnavos, Amorgos and Crete. Both spirits are common to accompany apetizers such as olives, cheese, salted food and seafood. Aniseed is a necessary ingredient in ouzo, while tsipouro may be straight; aniseed though features both spirits with white color when water is added.
Liqueurs & the “Flying Brandy”
Other well-known spirits of Greece include the citron liqueur from Naxos, coming in three varieties: green – sweeter and less strong, yellow – stronger and with less sugar and an intermediate, and kumquat liqueur from Corfu.
Last but not least, Metaxa, a combination of brandy, moschato wine from Samos and a secret mix of herbs, could not be omitted. The “flying brandy”, first produced in 1888, has won several awards and medals in international competitions and has been an official supplier of many of European royal houses. Metaxa comes in nine varieties: 3 Stars, 5 Stars, 5 Stars Honey Shot, 7 Stars, 12 stars, Grande Fine, Private Reserve, Angels Treasure and the celebrating the 120 years of the brand, AEN. The number of stars represents the number of years the blend is matured. Metaxa has been very popular internationally and is the basic ingredient of many cocktails too.