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A Guide to Greek Wine

Matt, Santorini wineThere is more to Greek wine than Retsina and Demestica. The Greeks have been making wine longer than anyone and until recently they have been keeping it for themselves. The economic crisis has changed this and suddenly Greek wines are earning the international respect they deserve.

I am a wine drinker. My favorite earthly activity is eating in a taverna with my friends and drinking wine, especially Greek wine, whether it is from the bottle, barrel or the box. Some of my favorite tavernas have their own wine, straight out of the barrels, which are usually stacked against the wall. We order it by the kilo and we can go through several kilos in an evening. Glasses are continually being refilled by each other without anything being said. It's like a reflex or second nature to fill your neighbors glass when you see it is empty. And when the carafe is empty someone at the table just lifts it in the air and catches the eye of a waiter, the busboy or even the owner of the restaurant and in thirty seconds it is full again.

Dioporto AthensRetsina used to be my preferred wine and once in awhile if you are lucky, that is what is available in those barrels. But many tavernas these days have turned away from retsina and are making excellent wines, often as good or better than any well known commercial bottled brands, (though you can find yourself in a taverna where the barrel wine is awful). Most restaurants are proud of their wine though not all the restaurants make their own. Some buy it from distillers by the barrel or by large jug, and in some touristy restaurants homemade wine, or hima, as it is called, is not even available and you have to take your chances with the wine list. Lately many restaurants have been buying bulk wine in boxes and filling the carafes from them. But before you get upset I want to reassure you that many of these boxed wines are pretty good and in some cases it is the same bulk wine the restaurants have always had, but now it comes in boxes. But walking into a restaurant and seeing barrels stacked is often a sign that they make their own wine and you should try that first before you try any bottled wine they may have. My rule is to always ask for local wine (doh-pio) and then ask for hee-ma or wine in a carafe (kara-faki) and hope for the best. It is rare that I will get a house wine so bad that I send it back and order a bottle from the wine list, but it does happen. I always ask if it's good (ee-neh kalo?) and they always say absolutely (veh-vay-os). But what else are they gonna say? It's terrible? There are also many farmers on the islands who are bottling their own wine and you can often find them in tavernas and in the various traditional shops, supermarkets and even in the bakery.

By the way you can order most of these wines through Greece and Grapes which has the largest selection of wine I have found and can ship to just about anywhere in the world. (Except where I live and probably where you live to but it can't hurt to try).

About Retsina

RetsinaThere have been many explanations as to why retsina tastes the way it does. The explanation is because they put pine resin in it to make it taste like that and the reason is because they like the taste. Some people have come up with theories on how this all began. According to Vassilis Kourtakis, who makes the most popular of the bottled retsina, the ancient Greeks knew that the air was the enemy of wine and used pine resin to seal the tops of the amphora and even added it to the wine itself. When we were teenagers we were told that during the Second World War, the Greeks put resin in the good wines so the Germans who occupied the country would not like it. That was nonsense. Then as we became more wise we came up with the theory that since there were mostly pine trees in Greece they stored the wine in pine barrels and so it tasted like pine resin and rather than figure out how to get rid of the taste they decided it was easier just to learn to like it. That is a little more reasonable an explanation but probably not accurate. Yiannis Yannarakis (photo), my brilliant computer nerd friend, finally gave me a believable explanation for why the Greeks drink retsina and why they became ashamed of it. Yiannis said that the resin was put into the wine as a preservative in small amounts. But if the wine was bad they would put in larger amounts to mask the taste and gradually the Greeks began to like it as did many of the early tourists. They would also preserve with sugar and that is where you get Mavrodaphne and the sweet wines from Samos. But visitors always poked fun at retsina, saying things like it "tastes like turpentine but not as good" and things like that, which probably gave the Greeks a complex about it. Eventually as wine making methods in Greece improved everyone was making good wine and some people were making excellent wine. Retsina was looked down upon as being more working class, a sort of embarrassment to the world of wine.

But I know poets and visionaries who have always loved retsina, even bad retsina, and their taste is being vindicated because it is making a comeback. In a way the same thing happened with ouzo which about ten years ago became fashionable and we saw the change from screwcap to corked bottles, with brands like Plomari and Mini. Watch for the same thing to happen with retsina. Right now you can get retsina in beer bottles, and plastic water bottles as well as the normal wine bottles, but Kexrimpari comes in a Mateuse type bottle and that is a sure sign that Retsina is on its way back.

Oinopoulion Taverna, Psiri, AthensThe reason Retsina is so well known outside of Greece is because it was the regional wine of Attika and so it was the wine of Athens. When travelers came to Greece this is what the locals were drinking and so it was the wine that people talked about or brought back with them and so the whole country of Greece became associated with retsina for better or worse. As far back as the late 1800's Athens had over 6000 tavernas, all filled with wine barrels. The grapes were pressed in the countryside and then brought into the city by horse-drawn carts, before the fermentation had taken place and then taken to the restaurants where the proprietor poured in the resin and decided when the wine was ready. It was not until the 1960's that bottled retsina became available in the countryside and common in the city as many of the old tavernas disappeared and land for cultivating wine near Athens became scarce. If you want to get a feeling for the way Athens was in the sixties and even drink some pretty good retsina you can go to Oinopoulion Taverna in Psiri (photo) which is owned by the Markos Winery of Attika. It has a great atmosphere and some excellent wines from the 'barrel' and bottled, as well as live rembetika music in an historic taverna. You can buy their Shinopefko Retsina and some of their other delcious wines through Greece and Grapes.

Wine barrels, GreeceNowadays retsina from the barrel is hit or miss. In fact they may call it retsina even if it is just the local barrel wine. But if you go to a taverna and it is full of happy Greek people drinking from glasses that are being refilled over and over again from a carafe then chances are the retsina (or whatever) is pretty good. When it's not, mix it with soda water like I do. This also will enable you to drink all night long. One of the things I have noticed is that I can drink a lot of retsina and still not be hung over the next day. My kidneys may hurt like hell but otherwise I feel great, considering. As for where you can get good retsina from the barrel, this is a question I am asked fairly often especially by people who lived in Greece in the sixties and came back 50 years later and wonder where all the retsina went. Most neighborhoods will have a kava (wine and spirit shop) and there will be wine from the barrel and probably retsina and you can taste it before you buy.

Retsina resinIn my neighborhood of Kypseli there is a basement kava called H Pigi Tou Dionysiou (photo) on a small street called Xanthis near the intersection with Lelas Karagiani a block or so north of Fokionos Negri and he has very good retsina in the barrel. For those of you pining for the retsina you remember in the good old days you can find it here. I bought two bottles with me to my favorite taverna on Kea and the owner liked it so much he has been ordering it ever since. To find the shop just walk up Fokionos Negri, turn left at Ag Zoni, take your first right and you first left and it is on the end of the block. You can even look at, smell, and even taste if you dare, the pine resin Adonis, the owner, puts in the Sabatiano wine he uses to make his retsina (photo). He also sells ouzo, tsipuro, raki, and several delicious wines from the barrel that you can buy in 1.5 or 2 liter plastic water bottles and take home with you.

Retsina from CreteMy current favorite bottled retsina is called Repsene, which comes from Iraklion, Crete and is sold in plastic water bottles at my local bakaliko. I have been drinking it every night since I came to Kea and even if I open a bottle of my favorite wines I end up going back to the retsina. Maybe it has ruined my subtle taste buds. I don't care. I wake up feeling fine and it tastes good with everything I have eaten. Rolando is thinking about carrying it in his restaurant and one day I saw Yannis buy two bottles for his taverna next door.

When I was in Athens with Pandelis Melissinos we discovered a retsina called Kexrimpari, from Thessaloniki, which was similar in taste. Their Tears of the Pine is considered one of the best retsinas. It was Stelios Kexris, owner of Kexris Winery in Thessaloniki, who kept retsina from dying out when most of the Greek winemakers and wine drinkers had abandoned it

One Saturday night though we went to Yiannis taverna because he roasted a whole pig and we drank the popular bottled retsina called Malamatina which we can get in the USA and for most people is the only retsina they ever tasted (along with Kourtaki) and it did not taste anywhere near as good as the other two labels. Karela Retsina comes from Patras and was sold in the USA in 4-liter bottles wrapped in a basket and more recently I have seen it in bottles. I don't know if you can find it where you live or in Greece but I have seen it advertised in the states and it has won some awards as the best retsina. Domaine Papagiannakos Retsina is made with Savatiano grapes from Attika. “Modern retsinas are very well vinified wines, and the resin is added to supply the wine with the aromas of the pine forest, not to cover bad wines. Chill it well and sip it with meze like dolmades, spanakopita, tzatziki and calamari,” says Owner/Winemaker Vassilis Papagiannakos. Gaia’s Ritinitis Nobilis is made from Roditis grapes and a small amount of pine resin and has a faint smell of eucalyptus.

For ordering Retsina, wherever you are, visit Greece and Grapes Retsina Page

Visit my Wineries of Attica Page


Greek Wine BookI have a new hero. Nico Manessis has written an amazing book on Greek wines called THE ILLUSTRATED GREEK WINES BOOK. The book is a labor of love and anyone with an interest in Greek wines should buy it and treasure it because not only will it be invaluable when confronted with a wine list in one of the more touristy restaurants, but you will end up spending a great amount of time reading the histories, descriptions and explanations of the world of Greek wine, a world that is just starting to be discovered and appreciated. Even now Greek wines are finding their way into wine shops and gourmet food shops all over the United States and this book will help you choose a Greek wine that is perfect for you. It is currently out of print but I found a few copies on and if you find it at an affordable price you should buy it because who knows if it will ever be reprinted? This is a very valuable book for anyone who buys, sells or drinks Greek wine. If you are interested in tasting the large variety of wines in Greece I urge you to purchase this book which reviews hundreds of wines in all different varieties. You may find a used copy on Amazon.

FACES OF GREEK WINE by Maria Tzitzi is a good stand-in while you wait for Nico Manessis book to be updated and reprinted. It contains most of the wineries in Greece with photos of the owners and autobiographical information and their philosophies of wine making. I recommend it to anyone interested in Greek wines or planning on doing a wine tour of Greece.

These are the bottled Retsinas which Mr. Manessis likes:

Boutaris: Light and fruity and lightly resonated.
C.A.I.R.: Low acidity and soft. Refreshing with a light touch and sweetness that sticks to the gums.
Cambas: Medium pungency and a good Savatiano finish.
Gaia: The most refined bottled retsina on the market. Traditionalists find it heretic but those new to retsina like it just fine.
Kourtakis: The market leader, medium to strong pungency and is sold world-wide.
Malamamatinas: Pungent and popular labels from northern Greece sometimes mixed with soda water to individual taste.
Thebes Co-op: Excellent, dependable and refreshing
Tsantalis: Medium pungent and popular with Germans
Tyrnavos Co-op: Faint muscat aroma, one of the finest retsinas on the market. They make two: Retsinaki and Ampelophyllo.

Visit Greece and Grapes Retsina Page

Matt's Favorite Wines

Kydonitsa WineI used to think that because my grandparents came from Lakonia in the Peloponnesos that maybe my love of the local Kidonitsa was more about pride of origin than the fact that it is a really good wine. But now I am not so sure after buying a case from Greece and Grapes last summer and comparing it to just about every other white wine in Greece. Then when Nicholas, the owner of Kylix Restaurant in Kea, known for its selection of Greek wines, began carrying Monemvasia Winery's Kidonitsa I thought that maybe I was onto something and that I, unsophisticated wine drinker that I am, had actually discovered a great wine that had flown under the radar of just about everyone. Well now the word is out and people are discovering that this indigenous grape from the south-east Peloponnesos is not just the poor man's version of Asyrtiko. It is better than most Asyrtikos, particularly those that you will find in your local wine store for under $20. Greece and Grapes carries 3 different Kydonitsa with the best being from Monemvasia Winery, and Ioannis Vatistas Winery. The others from Theodorakis Estate and Giannopoulos are also very good, (though you may not find them all unless you search for 'Kydonitsa' and 'Kidonitsa'). Recently I took great pride in going to my local wine store where the guys who work there know EVERYTHING about wine, and they had never heard of Kydonitsa. How did I describe it? "Like Asyrtiko but better" of course. What do you expect? I'm from Lakonia. Speaking of which the Monemvasia Winery's 300 is a mix of Kydonitsa and Assyrtiko and is one of my favorite wines.

Artspace Winery in Santorini
Artspace winery, SantoriniWhen we went to Santorini several years ago we went with a friend to Artspace, a small winery in Exogonia owned by Antonis Argyros that was also an art gallery, who only produced about a thousand bottles a year mostly from the local Assyrtiko grapes. We returned in 2012 to find that he had expanded to about ten thousand bottles and had added a few new wines and even raki, which for those who don't know is like ouzo without anise. The building, which contains caves dug into the soft stone of Santorini, was formerly a tomato paste processing plant, owned by his father and a winery back in 1861. Antonis has turned it into a museum with traditional wine-making equipment much of which he actually uses, and new modern equipment and he produces perhaps the best wine we had on the island. His grapes are organic too. If you can only visit one winery then I would suggest this one. Make sure to get a bottle of his Saint August and his Saint August Reserve which have become our staples after leaving the island with a suitcase full of them. These grapes are harvested in August, thus the name. Also his Nichteri is a wonderful dry red, maybe the best I have ever tasted. Unfortunately since I can't get Artspace wine in America I am forced to turn to other Assyrti
ko producers. Luckily, since nobody in Greece can afford good bottled wine, a lot of it is being sent to the USA. There are a number of Assyrtiko wines by Estate Argyros ranging in price from about $10 for their Atlantis to $100. If you can't find anything by Argyros then look for Costa Lazaridis, Gaia Estate, Sigalas or Hadzidakis. Or just look for the word Assyrtiko on the front and an address in Santorini on the label somewhere.

Read more about Santorini wines....

Varieties of Greek Wines

Malvassia Winery, Monemvasia

Malvassia is not a very well known wine at the moment, except to people who know wines well but it is currently my favorite after spending a week in my grandmother's village and the rest of the summer trying to find it in the supermarkets and cavas of Athens and Kea. It originates from the area of Monemvasia in Lakonia, a region of the Peloponessos, mostly from the Monemvasia Winery in the village of Vilies who put out all the wines in the above photo. Malvasia is the Venetian name for the fortress town of Monemvasia and the wine has been produced since the 13th Century, if not earlier. Most of the production moved to Crete in the 15th century and the purist form of the original Malvasia grapes are found in Paros and other Cyclades islands. The wine grown in Monemvasia now and sold under a number of different labels is a mix of various grapes, including Kidonitsa, a rediscovered variety that makes a delicious dry white that is on its way to becoming popular and can be found in shops in Lakonia for about 7 euros. If you like dry wines look for the Fileri Rose, Maleatis red and white, the Monemvasios Red Cava and White Dry and the organic Laloudi. For those outside of Greece, Monemvasia Winery makes an Akra Morea red and white of which I found the red to be OK but the white was so delicious that I bought another bottle just to make sure that I was not mistaken since the price was so cheap. Recently a small import company called Flying Olive Farms has been representing the Monemvasia Winery and introducing Americans to over a dozen of these very good wines, including the above mentioned Kidonitsa. (However their webmaster seems to have taken a leave of absence and their web site is pretty much unusable). 

Wine stand in the Argolis, GreeceThere are a number of other wines from the Peloponessos, some of them by small wineries, sold in shops and roadside stands in plastic bottles, that are better than what your local wine merchant might recommend in the twenty dollar and up range. If you are driving around Nafplion and the Argolis, Nemea or one of the other wine producing areas you will probably see one of these stands and you can stock up. They are not all first class wines but some small producers are rightfully proud of the wine they make even if it does not come in glass bottles with fancy labels. And since they cost about 4 euros a liter, if you don't like it, feed it to the cat and get something else.

Yiannis Argyros of Artspace Winery, SantoriniAssyrtiko is the indigenous Santorini grape that is used in some of the most popular white wines of Greece and is now grown all over the country. It is almost effervescent and has a crisp mineral taste because of the rich volcanic soil of Santorini and the fact that the island gets almost no rain. The best bets for Assyrtikos come from Santorini and include Argyros Estates, Boutari, Moraitis, and my favorite from Artspace Winery (photo). Also the Domaine Costa Lazaridi 2013 Château Julia Assyrtiko which comes from Drama, in Northern Greece and the 2007 Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko/Athiri which is a blend. Monemvasia Winery has an Assyrtiko/Kidonitsa blend that is called 300 and it is excellent. These are all available in the USA with the exception of Artspace which you have to go to Santorini to get. But you were probably going there anyway. Read more about Santorini wine from my Santorini Guide.

Nemea grape vinesAgiorghitiko comes mostly from the region of Nemea but is also grown in Attika and Macedonia.and is the most widely planted grape in Greece. The wine can be a dark and fruity red similar to a Merlot, or it can be light and rose like. Called the Wine of Saint George, it is also known as the Blood of Hercules based on the legend of the Greek hero slaying the Nemean lion. The best are the Tselepos 2011 Driopi Classic Agiorgitiko from Nemea, the Gaia Wines 2008 Gaia Estate Agiorgitiko, also from Nemea or the more economical Voyatzis 2011 Kyklos Agiorgitiko from the Peloponessos. If you can find it get the Megapanos Nemea aged in oak barrels for a year, though you may have to go to Greece to get it. Monemvasia Winery exports an Agioritiko to the USA. You can read about the Wine Roads of Nemea on my Nemea Page.

Limnio is the wine from the island of Limnos which like Santorini is also volcanic and makes excellent wines usually either a dry white or a sweet red using the Muscat of Alexandria grape variety. Homer praises the quality of the island's wines in the Iliad. Though the highest rated wine from Limnos according to American wine experts is their sweet desert wine I prefer their dry whites, in particular from the Xatzigeorgiou Winery whose Ambelourgos has won the gold and silver medals several times at the Thessaloniki International Wine Competition as has their sweet Muscat of Limnos. Their Μοscato d’ Ifestia is a semi-sparkling white wine and their Lagopati is another highly rated dry white. Other wineries on the island include the Association of Agricultural Cooperatives of Lemnos (photo), Kremydas Winery, P. Chonas - P. Vastardos Winery, and the Limnos Organic Wines made by Yiannis Savoglou and Pandelis Tsivolas. I expect that in the next few years people will be talking about and drinking Limnos wines.

Moschofilero is the grape from Mantinea in the Peloponessos and is made into a crisp white wine. The best wines include the Spiropoulos 2013 Organic Moschofilero as well as the Boutari, Semeli, Skouras, Antonopoulos and Voyatzis, all well known winemakers from Mantinea or other areas of the Peloponessos. Skouras Zoi is a rose made from Moschofilero and Roditis that is widely available in the USA as is the Skouras Moschofilero which is also very good. We drink Moschofilero a lot. The white Akra Morea by Monemvasia Winery is a good one that is available in our area.

Roditis comes from Attica, Macedonia, Thessaly and Peloponnese and the best thing about it besides the taste is that it is usually cheap. Tetramythos 2009 and 2010, from Patras is considered one of the best wines you can buy under $20 by the Wine Enthusiast. Other good wines using these grapes include Mercouri Estates, Kouros, Pavlidis, Lafazanis and Oenoforos, all from the Peloponessos.

Savatiano is the grape grown most around Athens in the region of Attica and the product is generally well balanced white wines and of course the mother of all Greek wines: Retsina. Among the best is Papagiannakos 2003 Savatiano, and though I have never seen it in Greece, My Big Fat Greek Wine 2009 Private Label White Savatiano which is probably called something different in Greece. But if you can find it buy the Megapanos White Savatiano from Mesoghia which may or may not be available outside of Greece.  

Malagousia is an ancient grape that was brought back from extinction that originated in the region of Nafpaktos above the Corinthian Gulf and is now grown in Macedonia, the Peloponessos and in Attika and made into a fruity, crisp white wine. Try Domaine Gerovassiliou which has a sort of grapefruity taste to it similar to Vino Verde as does the Porto Carras 2003 Regional Wine of Sithonia Malagousia which comes from Halkidiki in Northern Greece. Thymiopoulos Boarding Pass Malagousia is available in the USA and I think it is very good.

Athiri is an ancient grape from Santorini that is often combined with Assyrtiko, also from Santorini, and Aidani, which is from the Cyclades. In fact it is rarely if ever used by itself but it is so easy to grow and yields high quality grapes that are soft enough in flavor to enhance, or at least not hurt, the flavor of whatever grape it is mixed with.

Xinomavro is a dark wine from Macedonia and is grown mostly in the wine region of Naoussa and is sometimes combined with Merlot, Syrah or other grape variaties though by law or decree or holy edict, the wines of Naoussa are all 100% Xinomavro. Popular and recommended wines are the Thymiopoulos 2012 Young Vines Xinomavro, Kir-Yianni 2010 Ramnista Xinomavro, Cavino 2011, Chrisohoou 2010, Vaeni 2006 Grande Réserve, Boutari 2008 Dry Red Xinomavro, Domaine Kardas 2001 and the Tsantali 2006 Reserve Xinomavro. 

Robola is from the island of Kefalonia made mostly by three companies: Domaine Foibos, Gentilini, and the Robola Cooperative of Kefalonia. It is a fruity, minerally white wine that tastes best in a seaside taverna in Kefalonia.

Douloufakis Winery in Dafnes, Crete have been exporting a delicious dry white wine called Dafnios that is my main go-to wine when I am in the USA. They also have a dry red that is very good. The grapes are called Liatiko, though he does use others, and they are certified organic. If you see a bottle buy it.

Vatistas Petroulianos is a unique indigenous white grape from the Peloponnesos with yellow-green color, balanced taste and pleasant aftertaste, leaving traces of green apple, peach and sweet almond. Suitable accompaniment to seafood, shellfish and fresh vegetables. Yes I took the description right off the bottle but I couldn't describe it any better and it is one of my all-time favorite Greek wines along with their Kidonitsa. They also make a Malagousia which I have not tried yet but I will as soon as I find it. See their website.

Cyclades Islands Wines: There are several wineries on the island of Syros, two of which are exceptional in my opinion, Fabrika which uses Monemvasia and White Kountoura grapes, and Fatman Sherriff which uses the indigenous Serifiotiko grape, are both crisp white wines similar to my favorite Kidonitsas. Another excellent island wine is the Moriatis Paros which uses Monemvasia grapes (That is the variety. They don't buy the grapes in Monemvasia). There are wineries on many of the islands including Naxos' Santa Anna Winery, Manalis Winery on Sikinos, Red Tractor Farm Winery on Kea who make a delicious local red called Mavroudi and who also make Retsina!

Where to get Greek Wines if you are not in Greece

Greek Wine ShopChances are that your local cool wine store, gourmet foods shop or even your Whole Foods or other contemporary supermarket will have one or two of these Greek wines listed above. If they don't you should go every day and ask someone who works there to carry it. If you speak to a different person each day they will think a lot of people want it. If their distributor does not carry Greek wine for some odd reason then you can google Greek Wine Wholesalers and find the one in your area and give the information to the store. In my area there are a couple Greek wine distributors. The previously mentioned Flying Olive Farms which carries the Monemvasia Winery line from the Peloponessos, which have enough variety that you may not need to look any further. CHL Trading out of Charlotte, NC, distributes well known Greek wine to restaurants and shops in North and South Carolina. Total Wine has a number of popular Greek imports on their website but you have to use their search option since they don't list Greece with all the other wine producing countries, so they don't even get a link from me. But if you are a single or family of wine lovers who wants to buy a few bottles or a few cases then visit Greece and Grapes for what has to be the best selection of wines, ouzo and Greek beers anywhere.

Wine Tour in Nemea
Grape vines in GreeceLive the ultimate wine experience! Join us for a full-day private tour that takes you step by step inside the world of Greek wine and its secrets. We will be visiting the architectural marvel that is the Corinth Canal and proceed to Nemea, the most famous wine region in Greece. There, a winery tour will expose you to the full wine production experience, from harvest to bottling. The fluent in English, driver/guide that we use for these tours, holds a degree in wines from the "Oenology and Technology of Alcohol Spirits" University of Athens with many years of experience in the wine business (production, tasting and selling) that included working in the wine and alcohol industry in San Francisco, California. To complete a wonderful day, you last stop will be the romantic coastal city of Nafplio, the first capital of Greece, where you will have the opportunity to enjoy a traditional lunch. Click Here for More Information

George the Famous Taxi Driver does a similar wine tasting tour which also stops at an olive farm and press. See his website

Wine Bars in Athens

Wine Bar in AthensThere is a great wine bar called Oinosent on Voulis Street in the Plaka where you can buy delicious Greek wines by the glass or the bottle and they have very nice food that goes with it. They also have wines from France and other countries. Another nice little wine bar is Wine Oclock on Lempessis Street in Makrianni. Right around the corner is Wine Point at 2 Porinou Street right by the entrance to the Acropolis Metro station. Fabrica de Vino is at Fokionos Negri 57 in Kypseli and has over 200 Greek and international wines by the bottle and many also by the glass, as well as delicious food. Vintage at 66 Metropoleos Street a couple blocks up from Monastiraki Square has over 300 different wines and an impressive food menu as well. But wine bars are popping up in every neighborhood and any decent cafe will have a nice selection of wines by the bottle or the glass. If not just move on to the next one. Cinque Wine Delights at 10 Voreau is a little hole in the wall in Psiri, owned by a cooperative of 11 wineries. They have tasting flights of reds and whites and offer marvelous platters of Greek charcuterie and cheeses, paired with fruits and chutneys, all Greek. They have another cafe bar across Athinas Street called Cinque Wine and Deli Bar at 15 Agatharou Street. You do need reservations.

See also Athens’ New Groove – Wine And Cocktails In The Cradle Of Civilization

See also Wineries of Attika

The Rubaiyat of Melissinos

Stavros MelissinosIn the neighborhood of Psiri in Athens, on Agios Thelkas Street just off Ermou by the Monastiraki train station is the tiny workshop of Greece's great poet Stavros Melissinos. Workshop of a poet? Well, yes. You see Melissinos profession is as a sandal-maker, and in fact he is the most famous sandal-maker in Athens, which is a lot easier to make a living at than writing poetry. His greatest work is his Rubaiyat which is a series of poems that I would describe as a spiritual exploration of the pain and sufferings of mortal life and on the joys of drinking wine, the cure to the pain and suffering. Here are a few of my favorite verses from the Rubaiyat of Melissinos. There are 127 verses in all and it has been translated from the original Greek into English, French, German, Italian and Spanish.

Apollo's horses: in a splended dawn ascending
Breathe their flames and another night is ending
Praised be the sun ripening the grapes with his light
For the grapes yield wine putting our pains to flight

Oh you who light the silver moon every night
You whose grace grants desire, with me don't fight
Please, listen to my innocent and humble wish
Turn the oceans into wine and make me a fish

Before Old wounds have adequate time to clear
New wounds in the tormented soul appear
because nature like a doctor somehow sly
Wants you her medicine in big wine bottles to buy

The grapes sweet blood is life-giving
When inside you, you become forgiving
I have the greatest time in the wine's embrace
Because then I adore the whole human race

As our dreams fly through time space and air
Sometimes they touch success, sometimes despair
Too often though they fly after red wine supplies
That make one live immortal before one dies

The blasphemer's tongue and lips I wish them dry forever
If they say I found another friend besides the jug ever!
And if someone someday says I betrayed wine
I'd like to see his body torn by dogs and swine

For More on the poet-sandalmaker Stavros Melissinos see

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