There is no better way to ring in the new year than with your loved ones and a bottle of bubbles. While most people flock to Champagne or Prosecco, Greece often gets overlooked as a sparkling wine region.
From Crete & Santorini, to all the way in Northern Greece, sparkling wine is produced all over the country. If you like the brightness and acidity of a blanc de blanc Champagne, you’d love the method traditionalle sparkling wines of Santorini made with Assyrtiko. If you prefer wines with a little more body and fruity character, seek out the sparkling wines of northern Greece made with xinomavro.
My personal favorite and top recommendation to start off the new year is the Akakies Sparkling Xinomavro from Kir-Yianni. This is made 100% from the native red variety of northern Greece, Xinomavro. Meaning “black and tart,” this variety brings a wonderful fruitiness to this sparkling rosé. With characteristics of strawberries and cream, it is a fruit forward and crowd-pleasing wine that will be perfect for ringing in the new year.
Johnny Livanos, Sales Manager for Diamond Wine Importers, is a 3rd Generation Greek American and expert on all things Greek. Coming from a multi-generational New York restaurant family, Johnny joined the Diamond Wine Importer team after having years in the restaurant business selling Greek wine. Running Greek restaurants, such as Molyvos and Ousia in NYC, as well as Zaytinya in Washington, DC, Johnny gained a tremendous knowledge and passion for sharing the joys of Greek wine with the world. This led Johnny to also launch his own gin brand, called Stray Dog Wild Gin, which is distilled in Northern Greece with a medley of wild Greek botanicals.
When we think of Greece, we think of sparkling blue waters and sun drenched beaches. But when we think of sparkling wine, we never think of Greece, until recently. I felt the timing was appropriate to write a piece about the new movement in sparkling wines in Greece as we approach the end of the year. By default we gravitate to Champagne and Prosecco as the standard options for quality, but in the last ten years, Greece has been producing bubbles that will match up with any production.
Typically, sparkling wines can be produced from both white and red grapes. When using red grapes for the production of sparkling wines, the skins are removed prior to fermentation. Greece has so many versatile and diverse indigeneous grapes, that they can produce refreshing and crisp sparkling wines. Greece’s transformation into producing high quality sparkling wines are a result of skillful and progressive winemakers such as Stelios Boutaris of Kir Yianni Estates and Yiannis Tselepos of Domaine Tselepos to name a few. Stelios is using his estate grown red grape, Xinomavro to produce an amazing rosè sparkler called Akakies and Yiannis is using his estate grown white grape, Moschofilero to produce his refreshing sparkler called Amalia. Both exceptional examples of well crafted and produced sparkling wines.
Finally, sparkling wines have made their way to the table to pair with foods and not just be offered as a selection for toasting. The structure of sparkling wines and the cuisine of many Greek dishes that incorporate olive oil, lemon, herbs, and spices make an amazing pairing.
I highly recommend trying a few and your palate will thank you. Stin Ygeia Sas!
Fun Facts: On a sparkling wine bottle if you see the terms:
– Blanc de Blanc – the wine was produced from 100% white grapes – Blanc de Noir – the wine was produced with both white and red grapes