There is undoubtedly irony in Greece being known for wines for current drinking, and for being a country that rarely produces wines that will age. After all, this is the country that invented wine, and in ancient Homeric texts, aged wine is celebrated and seems almost commonplace. The rest of the world would take millennia to catch up.
But from the days of the Roman conquest until just the last ten years, Greece has not been able to break into the international marketplace; ageworthy Greek wines had no international customers. Without a marketplace, where is the incentive to make these sorts of cellar ready wines? Even Vinsanto, the brilliant, traditional and nearly eternal sweet wine of Santorini, was quickly supplanted by Vino Santo, Italy’s pale imitator. Vinsanto remains less known than it should be, and even less known than Italian Vino Santo.
So with only a few years in which Greece’s winemakers have had any motivation to make ageworthy wines, which wines are in fact ageworthy? Amongst the white wines, the dessert wines stand out, and Vin Santo is one of the most stable wines that a cellar master will ever purchase; some people believe the wines last a century. But Santorini’s Assyrtiko based dry white wines are surprisingly long-lasting as well. These wines have already proven that they can last a decade or even more.
With red wines, the two best known indigenous grapes, Xynomavro and Agiorgitiko, have already shown their abilities, albeit from only a handful of producers. Agiorgitiko has been combined with other grapes such as Syrah to offer some newer blends that many of us believe are eminently ageable. Xynomavro seems not to need helpmates; it has already shown its cellaring abilities all by itself. Are there other grapes that can do as well? That remains to be seen, and we should hope to see soon, now that Greece’s great winemakers believe that there are international buyers who will reward them for making those sorts of wines.