Greek wines and spirits, overshadowed by the renowned wines of France and the rest of Europe, are just now being discovered and appreciated by connoisseurs – and the rest of us!
The land that revered Dionysus and Bacchus as gods of wine is reviving a divine tradition of winemaking and the arts of the distillery. The industry is expanding and Greek wines are winning distinguished awards. While Boutari is the best known producer, dozens of others are producing increasingly fine wines, liqueurs, brandies – and ouzo.
When Plato and Aristotle were leading discussions on life, love, and politics with their followers, plenty of wine was around, and it was no Yellow Tail shiraz from Down Under or even a French merlot. No, it was local wine. Greece, of course, is the cradle of most of what passes for civilization, and wine is no exception. Some scholars point to evidence of Greek winemaking as far back as 8,000 B.C., and the vinters of that era exported their knowhow, not to mention their grapes, to Sicily and Continental Europe.
Crete, accounting for 20% of Greek wine production, is a sleeping giant. While the wine industry elsewhere in Greece has undergone a high profile resurrection, Crete, to the untrained eye, would appear to have missed the boat. Even wine professionals in Greece are quick to assert that Crete lacks quality cultivars. It is true that the wider revolution in the industry never reached Crete in quite the same way as it did on the mainland.
While Crete has been slow to rise to the challenge of world-class production of bottled wine, there have been exceptions. The island has been fortunate to be home to a number of privately-owned wineries in various stages of adaptation to world markets.