Athens is the only European capital where vineyards and wineries lie within a stone’s throw from the city? Did you know that this region is the birthplace of the renowned retsina wine? Let the aroma take you through memorable wine routes in one of the world’s oldest grapevine plantations. Try old classic or new labels in the cellars of local wineries. Feel the sweet euphoria that lives in the magical world of wine.
Attica is a region favoured with a great climate for winemaking. The winters are mild, the hours of sunshine many, the local summer winds (meltemia) and the sea breeze lower the temperature in the summer. As a result, there are the ideal conditions for viticulture. 6,500 ha of grapevine fields, modern wineries that respect the age-old winemaking tradition and indigenous superior quality varieties. The history of the Attican vineyards goes hand in hand with good quality, and modern technology helps enhance the production of fine wines. The wineries are open to visitors for a tour around and some sampling before selection and purchase.
For wine lovers interested in wine tourism, there is a great abundance of wineries in the area. Some of them are just visiting spots, while others have specially equipped rooms for social events.
Wine tasting in Greece once meant visiting someone in the neighborhood who had a few barrels of retsina in their basement. The owner would weigh the empty pots on the same floor scale used for charcoal or firewood sacks. Before filling them, if the barrel had just been opened, the visitors were encouraged to taste the content.
Unless the owner had formed an improvised wine association with his friends, it was unlikely to have more than one glasses. The glass was washed up with water from an external tap and reused.
No one complaint for the lack of variety -the choices usually ranged among retsina, white and reddish wine. Most of this bulk wine, however, was delicious. Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon were yet to come.
Greek Mythology and winemaking is stronlgy connected. It was during a trip of god Dionysus to Attica where he was offered the hospitality of King Ikarios. He then decided that the area was suitable for growing his beloved grape vine. As a result, he taught Ikarios how to cultivate it and produce wine. He then took to visiting every village in Attica, offering wine to the locals.
Wine and grapes were always considered to be among the most important products of Ancient Athens. Local wine would travel across the then known world in the Attican amphorae; archaeological finds such as kylixes, craters and other vessels are proof of the Greek capital’s wine history and the unique viticultural tradition that dates thousands of years. Today, wine producers cultivate indigenous as well as imported varieties, they use their know-how and they keep experimenting in order to produce top quality wines that have earned Attica a fine position in the international wine map.
Native and selected foreign varieties grow in the vineyards of Attica. White grape varieties have clearly prevailed over red ones in the area. This happened mostly because winemakers selected Savvatiano and Roditis. Two Greek varieties that flourish in 80% of Attica’s fields. These are some of the many varieties that we have in Attica. Also, Athiri, Vilana, White Muscat, Assyrtiko, Robola, Muscat of Alexandria, Muscat of Hamburg, Fileri and Malagouzia. The well-known Retsina wine is produced from Savvatiano with added pine resins of the species Pinus Halepensis. Kokkineli, the rosé ‘counterpart’ of Retsina is made from Roditis.
Some of today’s best Greek red wines are made from red varieties, such as mandilaria and agiorgitiko, which grow well in Attica’s fertile land.
The resin-enriched wine boasts an unbroken history spanning 4,000 years. The famous retsina has been the trademark of Athens as well as Greece from the Interwar Period until the ‘60s. It is said that its unique taste is owed to a method of sealing the amphorae with pine resin in ancient Greece. The target was to prevent the wine from going sour for as long as possible. The ancient Greeks invented the use of the pine resin in order to seal up the mouth of the vessel. Over time the resin’s special aroma would enrich the wine. Later on resin was added to the must in order to flavour the wine and preserve it better.
Retsina is a wine with fresh resin notes which make it spicier and it is the perfect accompaniment to Greek dishes with an intense flavour. It has a mild aroma, the right acidity and a balanced sweetness that have made it the ideal partner for seafood. It is also served next to strong-flavoured appetizers such as taramasalata, octopus and risotto, as well as tarts and poultry. Codfish with skordalia, fried small fish, meatballs, tzatziki, olive oil braised vegetables. All Greek specialties that required a white resinated wine to bring out their full flavour. So, cool a bottle of Savvatiano and enjoy it under the Attican blue sky, the sun and the refreshing breeze of this magical land with the oldest uninterrupted winemaking history in the world.