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Winter in the Greek vineyards

Photo credit: Lyrarakis vineyards in Crete

Does it snow in Greece?” That was one of the most common questions I would get when I was a student at BU in Boston. The answer is “Yes, it does snow in Greece, as it is a mountainous country, covered by almost 2/3 of its area in hills, mountains, and large mountain summits.” Greece is known as a summer holiday destination. True, our islands and coastline welcome more than 30 million travelers each summer. Some winter travelers, mainly from continental Europe, have discovered the joy of winter in Greece – low temperatures, snowcapped mountains, ski resorts, beautiful traditional mountain villages and charming hotels with open fireplaces.

Many vineyards are located in slopes of hills and mountains, throughout the country. Some of these vineyards are located 2,200 to 2,500 feet above sea level! To name a few: Mantineia and Nemea in the Peloponnese penninsula. There, in slopes reaching well over 2,500 feet, the Moscofilero grape produces aromatic, crisp white wines. Further north from Mantineia, in the famous region of Nemea, home to the Agiorgitiko grape. On the western side of Nemea, in Asprokampos and Koutsi, the Agiorgitiko grape produces some of the finest red wines with ageing potential and the fragrant aromatic rose wines of the same grape.

Further north, on our Way to Thessaloniki, we find beautiful vineyards in the slopes of mount Olympus -Rapsani is a well known region producing the Rapsani blended red wine and a few more notable wineries in the area. In Northern Greece, Florina and Amyntaio are the northern most vineyards in Greece. There, altitute reaches 2,000 feet above sea level. The local star grape variety of Xinomavro produces red and rose wines with high acidity, healthy tannins and ageing prospects. Amyntaio is also the area where most of the sparlkling wine is being made.

Many islands that are the perfect summer destination, have mountainous vineyards that set their wine production apart: Samos island with its floral dessert Muscat wines, Crete (as shown in above picture), Kefalonia, Robola white wines.

The highest vineyard in Greece is found in Metsovo at the Katogi Averoff estate. There, at an altitude of almost 4,000 feet, the Averof family have been cultivating vines since 1959, mostly the white Traminer and the red Cabernet Sauvignon. In fact, the grandfather Averoff brought the first Cabernet Sauvignon vines from France in the 50’s and they produce award winning wines to this day.

A few years back, I participated in a tasting of the Katogi Averoff wines with Alexandros, the grandson of Evangelo Averoff and the current CEO of the estate. When he was asked what is the greatest challenge growing and tending vines in such high altitude, he answered: “The brown bears. They come down from the forest and munch on the sweet Traminer grapes! It is impossible to keep them away!”

This picture has stayed with me and every time I recall it, it puts a smile on my face.

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