For the most part, Greek wine is still under the radar in terms of popularity and accessibility. Though Greece has been producing wine for well over 5,000 years, odds are your local wine shop doesn’t have a large section of shelving dedicated to wines from the region. Greek winemaking took a few big hits throughout history that halted its journey to prowess. Empires harmed the industry early on, and while monks and farmers worked to revitalize and keep it alive, two world wars and one civil war left wine production struggling to keep its head above water. The 1960s and 1970s showed the first real recovery, with the implementation of a modern appellation system allowing the region to be taken seriously once again.
Small producers and winemakers in Greece are entering into an exciting new era as their creations garner more attention and respect. This is no small feat. In the US market, for example, there are over 400,000 wines (domestic and imported) available to the consumer, so breaking into the market is impressive. In order to assist in the growth of Greek wines in the market, the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food has drastically increased funding for promotion. 36.3 million euros were spent between 2010 and 2013, and the budget for 2013 through 2018 is a whopping 72 million euros.
Who wins in this scenario? Everyone.
Here’s why – in a veritable sea of Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and Sauvignon Blanc that’s available in bulk, a Santorini Assyrtiko may now appear, and that’s a wonderful development for the consumer. It’s easy to be overwhelmed with options, and therefore simple to stick with what you know, but with a touch of marketing might, these unique and delightful white wines from Greece can get some attention.
I can’t say enough about how impressed I’ve been with the Santorini Assyrtikos that I’ve been privy to tasting. The island itself is full of intrigue in terms of terroir and technique – from volcanic soil, to whipping winds from the sea, to vines trained into curls – the excitement of the area is evident in the bright, refreshing acidity, and pure flavors that appear in the wines. They are truly beautiful options, and blow your average run-of-the-mill Sauvignon Blanc out of the water.
As interest and availability grows, I can’t wait to see what more delicious white wine options appear from Greece, especially in the Spring and Summer.