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Greek Wine and Liquer Guide


Topical Wines

A large volume of wine is produced in Greece, both commercially and non commercially, the latter for family and friends. Families pride themselves on their homemade wine as they do on their oil and other produce. As wine grapes can be grown without water (after the vines are well established), anyone who has even a small plot of land, including in towns and villages, will have some grapevines, which are also very beautiful and decorative as they climb up and over trellises and balconies. Commercially grown wine is sold both bottled and in bulk ('sto vareli', which means, 'in the barrel'), the latter quite inexpensive and often excellent.

In Athens, there are some stores which specialize in Cretan products, which have good Cretan wine in the barrel, as well as the famous wines from Nemea, in the Peloponnese. Just about anywhere in Greece, however, tavernas sell bulk ('khima' in Greek) wine by the kilo, with different size carafes for varying amounts ordered by customers, and at almost every Greek village feast , one will see large (1 ½ liter) plastic Coke bottles filled with local wine, with more brought out as the meal proceeds. A liter of bulk wine can sell for as little as 3 euros in the villages, though one should always ask to sample the wine first, as quality ranges from excellent to undrinkable. Retsina (resinated wine) is not popular in all parts of Greece, though in tourist places one can always order some with a meal. Retsina is also sometimes available in bulk. As for bottled wines, there are some very good ones, and small wineries have opened in many places with advanced, state of the art equipment.

Raki (Tsipouro, Tsikoudhia)

This is the Greek equivalent of grappa, called by various names in Greece and with varying percentages of alcohol . Raki is made from the mash (strophila) left over after the wine making in a large still, called 'kazani' in some parts of Greece. On Naxos island, the place where the raki is made (often over a period of a month) is called a 'rakitzo' (pronounced, roughly 'raki-jo' and are often very much collective community affairs (like olive pressing), with people bringing their strophila to a family 'rakitzo' and sitting around evening after evening as the brew is being made, nibbling 'mezedhes' (snacks), drinking local wine, and sampling the fresh raki. Local musicians might come by and play a little, helping to pass the time. The older villages stills are often blackened with years of raki making, the hot fire under them fed with heavy olive tree branches). Raki, like ouzo (below), is also made and sold commercially. You can find raki sold in plastic bottles , often in the local 'hasapiko' (butcher shop), which is cheaper thanthe raki marketed in labelled glass bottles.

Raki is sometimes drunk by villagers along with a 'Greek coffee', or by itself with a little plate of peanuts, or some snack (bits of cheese and cucumber, etc.). It can also be served with a spoon sweet (above), or with a meal. 'Rakomelo' (from the combined Greek words, 'raki' and 'meli', which is honey), is raki heated with honey in a little briki ( small long handled pot used mostly for coffee), to be drunk on a damp winter day around the hearth or kafeneio (coffee house) table, to warm the innards and the soul. It's quite easy to drink a lot of this and end up pleasantly soused without realizing what's happening until it's too late.

Ouzo the 'ouzeri'

This popular drink is made from raki (above) flavored with aniseed or fennel according to special recipes, and can have up to 48% alcohol. Served with ice cubes, water is often added to it to dilute it, upon which it turns a milky white. There are numerous brand names for ouzo, the best said to be from Lesvos (Mytilini) and from Samos. The 'ouzeri' is a kind of bar where ouzo is served, along with a plate of 'mezehes' (plural of 'meze', which means a snack served on a plate-as opposed to tiropita and the like), though these days, some ouzeria will make you order (and pay for) them separately. Typical mezedhes include tomato, cucumber and cheese in small chunks, along with a few olives, though small fish or even octopus can be included. Fancier places, called 'mezedhopolia', serve elaborate mezedhes with the ouzo, which can amount a whole meal, though rather more expensive than eating at a taverna, especially with the ouzo, which is costlier than the local wine serve with most taverna fare.


The kitron is a large fruit that resembles a lemon, but is much larger, a paler yellow in color, and producing little juice. The tree achieved Greek fame on the Cycladic island of Naxos, where there were vast numbers of the trees up through the early 20th century, with a famous local liqueur made from the stems and leaves of the tree, having a delicate lemony flavor, and sold in varying degrees of sweetness. An historic kitron producer, run by the Vallindras family since the late 19th century, shows visitors around its kitron 'factory' in the lovely village of Halki (housed in a lovely old wooden building with the stills in an area in back, where ouzo and raki are also produced).


More and more popular in Greece in recent years, beer is often ordered with a meal at a taverna, or brought home by the bottle or can, and there are a few Greek brands, notably Mythos and Alfa, though many drink Amstel or Heineken foreign but made in Greece under license.

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