Wine Regions: Greece
The Exotic Isles & Wines of Greece
WRITTEN BY Charlene Peters


Published On: July 02, 2023
The Lion Gate to the citadel of Mycenae, dated 1240 BC

Greece may be one of the most ancient winemaking civilizations, but this country has only been producing noteworthy wines since the late ‘70s. The viticulture and wines vary from island to island, as do the historical monuments of the Golden Age of Athens, such as the Temple of Poseidon and the Acropolis, the latter a must visit when in Athens, the largest and oldest city in Greece.

With history that spans roughly 3,400 years and awe-invoking historical sites such as the Parthenon — the architectural genius of achievements built in the 5th century BC, or in the Plaka (translates as old city), visitors will surely enjoy countless options to explore, dine, and shop. Athens is also the hub to grab a seat on a ferry, take an island-bound flight or charter a luxury yacht to explore a few of the thousands of islands in this country.



The sapphire of the Aegean Sea is exaggerated against whitewashed cliffs southeast of mainland Greece, in the Cyclades of the Aegean to the island of Tinos. This archipelago is closest to Mykonos and home to more than 700 churches.

Since 1977, seven wineries have been established on Tinos, the third being Volacus, whose Vivlia Chora Ovilos is made in a white Bordeaux-style blend of Semillon and signature Assyrtiko grapes of Northern Greece. Its bouquet of fresh-picked honeysuckle leads to a creamy almond palate with a cantaloupe finish. An organic Malagousia from the Gardari area is considered the “Cinderella of Greek wine production.” //

This island is energized with outdoor cafés and a beautiful walk uphill to Our Lady of Tinos church, that’s surrounded by spectacular statues depicting the island’s history. To conclude a visit to Tinos, a sweet order of Loucoumades (beignets) drizzled in honey awaits.



Located off the coast of Asia Minor, the island of Samos has been inhabited since the 3rd millennium BC. It has become one of the greatest centers of Ionian civilization, with a long history of maritime and mercantile strength. It’s also where the intellects of the world’s culture once resided, including Pythagoras, Epicurus, and Aristarchus. It’s the discovery spot of Hera’s temple, where Pythagoras, the physicist, once lived, and clay birds can be viewed perched on the edges of rooftops, a nod to the island’s 100-plus migratory bird species.

Balkan oak barrels are the preferred aging vessels for wine on Samos. The preferred winemaking method is Liasto, when golden grapes are harvested, then laid one layer thick under the sun and moon on plastic nets used during the olive harvests. The grapes are pressed to a sticky toffee pudding final product with fig as the predominant flavor.

A tasting at Vakakis Winery is hosted in a space where grapes were once stomped and its juice ran through a tunnel to the cellar. Ninety percent of its wines are made from organic Muscat grapes sourced from independent growers, with grapes grown above 600 meters from sea level, except for its Calypso label, with 620 bottles fermented in the sea. This wine has an aroma of the sea and offers a hint of salt on the palate, best paired with fresh, locally caught seafood. Due to the lack of infused light and oxygen, the wine ages nicely in these bottles under the ocean where divers do the work of winemakers, and the bottles retail for €80. //



A quick Aegean Air flight to Heraklion and a long drive to Elounda on Crete, the biggest island of Greece, leads to the luxurious Blue Palace, where Friday evening food festivals offer guests a cornucopia of traditional Cretan dishes, libations, and cultural music performances. Cultural tastes include chickpea stew, stuffed grape leaves, snails, rack of lamb, and desserts of yogurt topped with cherries and grapes. Guests may opt to experience a private sunset caïque tasting with on-site Sommelier Leonidas (Leo) Sifakis. This is a memorable experience to taste a rose blend of Kotsifali and Syrah with an aroma of pomegranate and a palate of stone fruits— a tasty pairing with sheep cheese. //


View from an abandoned cave in Therasia, an island close to Santorini


One of the most visited islands, Santorini, is sited in the Southern Cyclades islands of Greece where the Caldera, a cavernous body of water, was created by a volcanic eruption in 1612 BC. As a result, mineral springs run under the sea in a noticeable cornflower blue. From the port, visitors can take a cable car or donkey ride to Fira, the capital of Santorini.

Santorini was the only Greek island unaffected by phylloxera; its viticulture is restricted to 30 indigenous varietals, 80 percent are Assyrtiko grapes that thrive high above the cliffs in the salt and smoky volcanic soil. In fact, Santorini wines put Greek wines at the forefront of the world wine stage, thanks to wineries that include Bhutari, Gaia, and Estate Argyros, the latter elevated on the cliffs of Santorini in the driest spot within Europe, on the soil of volcanic rocks and ash so crumbly it doesn’t retain any water. The century-old vines at Argyros are trained in a basket weave method low to the ground. The leaves protect the grapes from the strong sunlight and retain the night mist carried over by the Meltemi winds. When the vines are pulled from the soil, they look like works of art. //

From its peaceful perch high on the hilltops of Vourvoulos in Santorini, Magma Resort offers jaw-dropping views from every angle on the property. A Michelin-starred chef creates its tasting menus, and the dishes are works of art— from sizzling scallops served on a lava rock connecting the island’s volcanic history to a smoked eel dish on a bed of whipped rice. A stop at The Lava Spa for a candle wax massage keeps the lava theme momentum as it’s sited in a lava cave on the property.

Before departing Santorini, a visit to nearby Domaine Sigalas for a food and wine pairing experience on the vineyard property is a must. //



A four-hour ferry ride from Santorini to Paros is where Cosme, a Luxury Collection Resort in Paros, is located. The resort is on the beachside in the whitewashed village of Naoussa, considered the jewel of Paros. The entire property oozes sophistication and laid-back luxury.

The view from Cosme Resort in Paros.

Wine-tasting dinners at the beachside Parostià Restaurant are led by an on-property sommelier who perfects the balance between a kale and strawberry salad served with a deeper rosé. Moraitis Winery is a nearby stop with historical information shared on tour, such as learning Napoleon created the Old World wine designations. Here, the second pressed grapes are used to make the aperitif Siperol, which is much like Raki or Grappa. //

In the barrel room at Semeli Estate in Nemea



In Greek mythology, Heracles killed the Nemean Lion. In this ancient Peloponnese site, beginning in 573 BC, and every two years, Nemean games were played in the temple of Nemeos Zeus, where 40,000 spectators watched the winners get crowned with a celery wreath.

The winemaking success here is attributed to the high altitude of the vineyards. One of the top ultra-luxurious wineries in Nemea is Seméli Estate, where its lodging, grounds, and wine-tasting experiences are on the same level of luxury as the Napa Valley. The winery is certified carbon-neutral and sustainable. //



Where to stay, sip, & dine in Athens

The Royal Olympic Hotel is the place to stay for the best view of the Acropolis while perched on the Roof Garden Bar and Restaurant. On the menu are cultural delights such as leg of lamb and local wines. The view from the restaurant is reason alone to stay here. //

A 40-minute drive from the Acropolis in Athens to Stamata is where Kokotos Estate awaits. This high-elevation winery overlooks the foothills of Penteli, where the 490 BC Battle of Marathon, the first Persian invasion of Greece, took place. In 1971, co-proprietors Anne and George Kokotos began production with one drought-resistant and highly aromatic varietal, Savatiano. This white wine grape is commonly used to make Retsina, the ancient wine made in an amphora sealed with Aleppo pine resin. However, not many people choose to drink Retsina today, so the grape is now used mainly in traditional winemaking for an excellent, dry white wine fermented in Acacia wood. A tasting of Kokotos Estate Savatiano offers an amazing balance and refreshing sip, best paired with sheep cheese.

The wines at Kokotos Estate in Stamata, Athens.

One year after their first production, the Kokotos’s planted more grapes, including Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon (with 10 percent Merlot) was selected on a list as one of 50 Great Greek Wines. //

In Athens, a stroll uphill along an upscale shopping arcade to Papadakis Restaurant is where the menu offerings of Chef Argiro Barbarigou will wow any palate. Her prepared and locally sourced Greek dishes are mostly seafood, so be ready to savor octopus, squid, grouper, and seabass. //

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