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A Connoisseur’s Guide to the Finest Greek Wines

We chat with Greece’s first Master Sommelier Eleftherios Hanialidis for the inside scoop on his curated guide to the must-try Greek wine regions, perfect pairings, and some of his favourite spots to savour fine wines around Greece.

Interview by Gina Lionatos 

First up, congratulations on your recently appointed Master Sommelier status! The Master Sommelier’s Diploma exam is the world’s most challenging wine examination, and there are just 300 of you around the globe (and now, 1 in Greece). What does it take to become a Master Sommelier? 

It was a long process that took me years of studying and training. My average day started at 5:30 am with studying and tasting wines from around the world. After a full day’s work, I would often spend the late afternoons in blind tasting sessions. As you can imagine I had to prioritize, so there was not so much free time for a social life and to be honest, I don’t regret it. I feel blessed to have achieved my dream and I really hope I can help and motivate others who have an interest in wine to follow theirs.

It’s rare to be in the company of such a wine expert, so, let’s talk about wine! Which are some of the Greek wine regions (and producers) that you’re most excited about at the moment? 

Mantinia is making some great aromatic wines from the Moschofilero grape. Producers like Troupis and Tselepos are exploring the potential of this grape variety, by creating innovative expressions that are really impressive. 

Kefalonia is another region that makes a difference, in my opinion, with the Robola grape. Producers like Sclavos, Panos Sarris and Gentilini, each create their own interpretation of this amazing grape variety and their farming approaches range from low-intervention and biodynamic to single-vineyard bottlings.

Naousa in Northern Greece has always been one step ahead, and it continues to raise the bar higher and higher as time goes by. In this region, the Xinomavro grape makes breathtaking and age-worthy red wines that have nothing to envy from other “high-end” wines from legendary regions of the world. We come across some great classic examples from producers like Foundis and Karydas, but also more “polished” and modern approaches from Apostolos Thymiopoulos and Kostis Dalamaras. 

Last but not least, Santorini has been in the spotlight for quite some time with the Assyrtiko grape, responsible for very characteristic, mineral-driven, age-worthy white wines.

Even for the Oenophiles among us, perusing wine menus in Greece can sometimes be daunting for those who want to try the local offering. What are some Greek wine varieties that everyone should try when in Greece, and what might we pair them with?

Let’s start with white…

An exceptional wine, that is also extremely well-priced, is Roditis 2021 from Tetramythos Winery, which shows the great potential of this grape with its refreshing and complex character. It can be paired with a wide variety of dishes but I think fried small fish, like Atherina would be great. 

Another wonderful white wine is Robola of Kefalonia Panochori 2022 from Panos Sarris, sourced from high-altitude old vines giving a superb mineral-driven wine that would be ideal to be paired with deep-fried cod or a grilled lemon chicken. 

As for red…

I have to mention Xinomavro Reserve “Barba Yannis” Old Vines 2019 from Alpha Estate of the Amyndeon region, an excellent example of this grape variety showcasing its depth, complexity and elegance. A great classic pairing would be roasted lamb or beef stew.

Limniona 2021 from Oenops Winery, perfectly displays the elegance and fruit purity of the Limniona grape. A great pairing suggestion would be Greek baked meatballs in red sauce. 

Pet Nat, Orange and Retsina reimagined!

As for new-trend wines, Mylonas Pet Nat from Savatiano Grape is impressive, as is Kidonitsa Orange 2022 from Gofas Winery

Last but not least, it is worth tracking down some quality Retsina wines, like Tear of the Pine from Kechris and Pine Forest from Gikas Winery! 

I have to agree with you, sampling Tear of the Pine changed my perception of Retsina for the better! So now that we’ve explored the wines of Greece, what are some of your favourite spots to stop in for a glass of wine in Athens and also around Greece? 

Oinoscent and Materia Prima stand out for me in Athens. They are both great wine bars with great wine selections and friendly staff. Chef John Tsikoudakis at Oinoscent makes some of the best dishes I have ever come across in any wine bar in Greece. 

I should also mention Paleo in Piraeus and Warehouse in Exarcheia (Athens) which both have great wine selections and should not be missed by any wine-lover visiting Athens. 

For those visiting Northern Greece, I highly recommend Classico Bistro Moderne wine restaurant in Thessaloniki, Terroir Wine Restaurant in Kozani and Dionisos Restaurant in Pella.


The Athens Guide

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