Marouvas is a high-alcohol, traditional wine produced in the area of Kissamos in Chania, western Crete. Romeiko is the grape variety prevalent (if not the only one) in the wine. During the centuries of Ottoman rule the name “romeiko” indicated that anyone or anything to whom or to which it applied came from Greece.


Romeiko is a red variety highly prone to oxidation and rather unstable in color. Especially in the hot climate of Crete, it does not offer itself for the creation of “classic” red wines. In the local Cretan dialect  Marouvas means “aged,” which clearly indicates that the wine was destined for long-term aging. Until recently, when a child was born it was customary to bury a barrel of Marouvas in the ground and dig it out to enjoy its contents years later at a great celebration, which could have been that child’s own wedding!

The main organoleptic features of Marouvas evoke sherry or Madeira wines and are as follows:

  • Long-term aging in old, large barrels which have been replenished with new wine every year
  • The wine’s high alcoholic content, which is owed partly to the variety itself and partly to soil and climatic conditions prevalent in the area
  • The distinct presence of oxidation, both in terms of aroma as well as taste, even just a few months after the harvest – which, as in sherry and Madeira wines, does not constitute a flaw: oxidation can well become an integral part of the wine’s other organoleptic features, thus endowing the wine with complexity
  • The intense aroma which evolves over time

Marouvas is a traditional wine considered exceptional by some and …simply oxidized by others. When sipped as an apéritif or, as the locals do, accompanied by a slice of apple at the end of a meal, Marouvas evokes the Mediterranean environment in which it was born centuries ago.


The island of Santorini has a long history in the production of traditional wines. One of the most interesting ones still produced today is Nychteri, a dry white wine with a character of its own. Traditionally, it was made from a blend of Assyrtiko, Athiri and Aidani and the grapes remained on their very own clusters during fermentation, resulting in a wine of high alcoholic content that was oaked over a number of years.

Grapes destined for Nychteri were pressed during the night after the harvest, hence the name which derives from the Greek word for “night” (“nychta”). The harvest itself would start in the wee hours of the morning so that the largest part of it would take place while the morning dew kept temperatures down. In other words, through especially hard work, the grapes would stay the least possible time in the vine press before being pressed, while the amount of damage from bruising was minimized because temperatures were lower. Thus, Nychteri was one of the finer wines since the grape must was not oxidized and grape phenols were not macerated. Besides, during the night, grapes run less of a risk of being oxidized and altered since there is no sunlight, the temperatures are lower and the Aegean winds keep the kanaves (Santorini wineries) cool.

Production of Nychteri is still going strong today but employs modern vinification methods. In essence, the varietal composition, the ecosystem and the organoleptic character of the distinct and complex Nychteri of the past have evolved into a modern PDO Santorini wine of high alcoholic content produced from well-ripened grapes and oaked.

Apart from Nychteri, Santorini used to produce and, in some cases, still produces other characteristically traditional local wines, such as:

  • Vinsanto: the well-known PDO Santorini sweet white wine still produced today
  • Mezzo: a red wine somewhat less sweet than Vinsanto which is undergoing a revival
  • Xenoloo: made from grape varieties other than the classic local ones ones (foreign)
  • Brusco: a rough, tannic wine which necessitated oaking and was produced in all color types from grapes harvested a few at a time for days on end before being pressed (the process was the exact opposite of the process followed in the case of Nychteri)


Verdea is a traditional multi-varietal white wine produced on Zakynthos, one of the Ionian Islands in western Greece which was under Venetian rule for centuries. It owes its name to the Italian “verde,” meaning “green,” which refers to the color of the unripe grapes used to increase the wine’s acidity. Verdea made its appearance at the beginning of the 19th century and has been identified with the island’s subsequent winegrowing history ever since.

Despite the small size of Zakynthos, many dozens of native grape varieties have been cultivated there for centuries. In a few verses, a 1601 poem refers to the existence of as many as 34 varieties on the island, most of which have survived to this day! Still, the term Verdea does not refer to a grape variety but to a type of wine. The main varieties used in the Verdea blend are the following:

  • Skiadopoulo
  • Pavlos
  • Robola
  • Goustolidi
  • Avgoustiatis

Traditional verdea is a high alcohol content, dry wine, which gives a strong sense of aging in oak barrels reminiscent of sherry. Without losing their traditional character, today’s verdea wines are amber in color and have fruity aromas and a fresh and piquant taste. As is the case with retsina, all verdea wines bear the indication “Traditional Designation”.


Retsina is the best known traditional Greek wine. Its reputation, not always positive, had long overshadowed that of other distinguished Greek wines and appellations.

According to archaeological finds and countless written accounts regarding its production and consumption, Retsina, or “retinitis oenos” as it was called in antiquity, has been steadily produced for thousands of years. The main reasons for the use of pine resin used in vinification were the following:

  • The proximity of vineyards to resin-producing pine forests, especially in Central Greece
  • It was used to seal the mouth of amphorae (ancient ceramic vessels used for storage and transportation of wine) and coat their interior for insulation and preventing the wine from coming into contact with the air
  • Resin was added as a wine preservative
  • Wine barrels made of pinewood (in later years)
  • As an additive, it improved the composition of inferior wines
  • It lent the wine its particular aroma (a vinification practice still in use today)

Retsina is produced by the addition of the natural resin extracted from pinus halepensis (commonly known as Aleppo Pine) during fermentation of white and, in rare cases, of rosé wines. Having left only its aroma in the wine, the resin is then removed. The main grape variety used in the production of Retsina is savvatiano and, to a lesser degre, rhoditis.

Premium quality Retsina carries the characteristic balsamic aroma of pine which, however, does not inhibit grape aromas. The imperceptible sense of bitterness leaves a refreshing aftertaste akin to that of a carbonated refreshment, and makes Retsina the ideal companion of the flavorful dishes of traditional Greek cuisine.

Only Retsina produced in Greece can carry the indication “Traditional Designation (as is also the case with verdea wine). The areas best known for their Retsina production and permitted to carry their designation on the label of Retsina are all in Central Greece:

  • Attica (mainly the area of Mesogia)
  • Viotia
  • Evia


From ancient times to today, Dafnes is one of the major wine growing regions of Crete, an island that has seen viticulture thrive through all historical periods. Cretan viticulture was particularly strong during the Roman Times, as indicated by many finds of amphorae and ancient wine presses. It then flourished during the Byzantine period thanks to the association of wine with Christianity. However it was during the Venetian Times when the wines of Crete became internationally known, Malvazia wines being the best-known example.


According to legend, the region of Dafnes got its name from a laurel tree (“daphne”) that grew in the yard of the Holy Belt of the Theotokos church; however the wine produced in that area was already very sought-after all through the Middle Ages and there are many archaelogical finds that prove that wine-making and viticulture have never ceased to constitute one of the major occupations of its inhabitants as, indeed, is the case today.

The climate in this area is typically Mediterranean with vineyards cultivated almost exclusively on slopes and limestone soils, which are the ones the Liatiko variety seems to prefer. In Dafnes Liatiko matures early, in late July, thus its name: “Juliatiko” – Liatiko. The thin-skinned Liatiko berries are rather tannic and maintain high natural acidity levels, but not much color. They seem to be ideal for the production of sweet wines, although yields are invariably low.

Depending on their type (Vin Doux, Vin Doux Naturel and sun-dried) PDO Dafnes sweet wines are characterized by a lovely deep caramel color and concentrated aromas of chocolate and dried fruits. They usually have a full mouth with a velvety texture and a long finish. Although they have been evolving in relative obscurity for the past years, today they are showing signs of a significant revival with many new bottlings coming on to the market.


Sitia, in Crete, has a nearly unrivalled place in the history of wine. After all, it was in Sitia, at the Palace of Kato Zakros, that traces of vinification of grapes thousands of years ago were found! The area’s winegrowing fame continued through the centuries, though, as testimonies indicate: it was from Sitia that Lucullus bought the wine he transported to Rome for his sumptuous, Lucullan banquets. Although at some point in history winegrowing in the area declined, today, the historic area of Sitia is making a dynamic comeback, firmly placing itself on the wine map of the new wines of Greece, with its flagship being its sweet, red wines made from the dark-colored Liatiko variety.

Planted on the slopes of Crete’s southern and eastern coastline, in vineyards starting near the sea and climbing to an altitude of 2000 feet, Liatiko prefers soils rich in clay, lime, and sand. It is in these soils that Liatiko reaches its ideal maturation toward late July, the month after which it was named (“Juliatiko” becoming Liatiko). Its thin-skinned berries may be rather high in tannins but not in color or acidity, making this “ancient” grape variety a first-class choice fort the production of dessert wines. The sweet PDO Sitia wines are produced from grapes that—at least in the case of noteworthy bottlings—are laid out in the sun to dry (sun-dried or “liasta” grapes) so that sugars may hover near 400 g/L. The red vinification and oaking which ensue round off the character of these unusual sweet wines bearing the “Sitia” indication.

Poor in colorants and prone to easy oxidation of their color, the sweet red wines of Sitia assume a brick color easily. Their bouquet is a true potpourri of dried red fruit, quinces, flowers, sweet spices, and leather. Their taste abounds with the primeval and fiery nature of the ragged slopes overlooking the Libyan Sea.

The sweet wines coming from historic Sitia and its ancient Liatiko are rare and little explored, but they will fill the glasses of wine lovers with a European—or rather Cretan—air, especially the wine lovers who place authenticity at the top of their list of wine priorities.

Muscat of Cephalonia

The PDO Muscat of Cephalonia zone—with its eponymous sweet white wines which come from the Muscat variety planted on the island—was once threatened with extinction just as the island’s corresponding red wines were (PDO Mavrodaphne of Cephalonia). Nevertheless, in recent years, Cephalonia has returned to the position of offering its rare dessert wines bearing the “Muscat of Cephalonia” appellation and produced from grapes yielded by the small-berried clone of the white Muscat variety.

The grapes harvested from the Cephalonia vineyards located on the western part of the island are sun-dried (or “liasta” grapes) so that they may be allowed to desiccate and concentrate before vinification. As a result, the new, and therefore unexplored, resurgence of sweet Muscat of Cephalonia wine shows strength and an attractive, honeyed character.

Muscat of Rhodes

Cultivation of the white Muscat variety on Rhodes, the island of the knights, is certainly limited when compared to the cultivation taking place on other Aegean islands. However, Rhodes has its own PDO zone and offers interesting versions of that grape variety in the form of dessert wines which, if within that wine type, bear the “Muscat of Rhodes” indication.

In producing PDO Muscat of Rhodes wines, in addition to using white Muscat, it is also permitted to use the Italian-born Muscat of Trani which is a clone of the Muscat planted on Rhodes. Although this clone is akin to the small-berried Muscat, the resulting limited batch of wine bearing the Muscat of Rhodes label is sensorially closer to the style of wines produced on Lemnos (PDO Muscat of Lemnos), its aromas evoking fresh herbs and its taste light and refreshing.

Muscat of Rio Patras

Meager in quantities yet first-rate in quality, the sweet wine bearing the “Muscat of Rio Patras” appellation comes from semi-mountainous vineyards found over Rio, Achaia. The small-berried white Muscat takes advantage of the rainfall and the cool summers while the grapes’ desiccation fortifies even further the attributes of this unique Peloponnesian terroir.

The resulting award-winning PDO Muscat of Rio Patras dessert wines thrill with their aromatic depth, their lingering taste, and their excellent acidity and superb complexity, meeting the expectations of any wine connoisseur and justifying their coveted place on any gastronomic “Grande Table.” What is more, due to their limited production, bottles of Muscat of Rio Patras wine have become the jewel in the treasure hunt for wine and are worth every bit of the effort required to acquire them!

Muscat of Patras

The region of Achaia looms over the Greek production of dessert wines, boasting three PDO wines of its own (PDO Mavrodaphne of Patras, PDO Muscat of Patras, and PDO Muscat of Rio Patras). Occupying a sizable part of Patras’ vineyards, white Muscat has come to the attention of numerous producers of considerable size in the area and given rise to the wine bearing the “Muscat of Patras” appellation.

The vast majority of Muscat of Patras wines are vinified in stainless steel tanks where fermentation is interrupted so that alcohol may be added. The young Muscat of Patras wines lure with their freshness as well as their affordable price, the latter a shock even to wine consumers unfamiliar with the wines but accustomed to paying high prices for quality wines of this nature. Imagine how much more their glee upon tasting the wine!