Once upon a time in the years before Christ, drinking and talking about wine in Greece was considered a big deal!
And what do I mean by that? Well, consuming bottled wine was seen as a hobby for the snobs, the “connoisseurs”. Or for people who could afford to dine at fancy restaurants and open one overpriced bottle after another as a way to show off their wealth and prestige.
Cheap house wine was the only alternative for customers who wanted to enjoy a good meal accompanied by their favourite drink.
Recently, wine bars have popped up in Athens to remedy the value versus quality issue and, as it seems, this new trend is here to stay. Greeks can now pay tribute to their 6,500 years of winemaking history without paying a fortune. And travellers can taste affordable bottled wines in Athenian bars situated within a stone’s throw of each other.
Don’t worry if you can’t even read the wine list or pronounce any of their Greek names. Super friendly and knowledgeable, the bar staff will help you order what suits you best. Just describe the type of wine that you prefer or, better yet, sit back and let the sommelier put together an amazing experience for you.
Most bars offer 50 ml and 75 ml tasting options, so you can sample a wide variety of Greek wines without getting seriously drunk.
Greece boasts over 300 local varietals, meaning the whole country is a vineyard! Need some recommendations to start?
My personal choice would be Assyrtiko, Santorini’s rising star and a white wine of world-class quality. A true expression of the volcanic terroir, it will refresh you with its high acidity and brisk minerality. Leaving a faint salty aftertaste, you’ll feel as if you’ve been swimming in the Aegean Sea.
Another big hit is Malagousia. This white varietal was brought back from the dead; it wasn’t until the 70s that a now acclaimed winemaker saved it from extinction. Fruity and floral, it’s the perfect summer aperitif! Like a flower in bloom and a piece of fruit just plucked from a tree, this wine will make you sniff your glass again and again to discover a full bouquet of bold aromas.
Moschofilero is a native pink-grey grape that makes white wines, but still leaves the colour of its skin in the glass. Rose and citrus fruits that would easily make the perfect blend for a women’s fragrance prevail.
When it comes to reds, Xinomavro is the choice of the bold. This ruby-red jewel of the Greek vineyard is a pleasure for real wine lovers. Versatile and idiosyncratic, Xinomavro reveals its many faces in reds, rosés, sparkling, still, and even sweet wines.
Prepare your taste buds for the attack of tannins with an assortment of delicious Greek cold cuts. A luscious variety of finger food is offered everywhere – made with fresh, seasonal local produce – some of which can satisfy your appetite as a proper meal would.
If you’re a fan of sweet wine, go for a glass of Vinsanto. Sacred wine, as its name reveals, is the most famous product of Santorini, with roots dating back to the Middle Ages.
Nowadays, there’s a plethora of wine bars spread all around the city centre and the suburbs. I’ve picked out six that seem perfect for a mini wine route in the heart of Athens. They’re all marked with yellow stars on the map.
- By the glass: G. Souri 3
- Sideways: Iperidou 1
- Oinoscent: Voulis 4547
- Kiki de Grece: Ipitou 4
- Heteroclito: Petraki 30
- Vintage: Mitropoleos 66