When I think of “wine countries”, I immediately think France, South Africa, Chile, Australia, California… Greece doesn’t even spring to mind. Strange, because after all, during the antiquity, the Greeks were one of the largest wine producers in the region and their ancient techniques still form the bases of modern wine culture today! Greek mythology and history show us that wine played an essential role in ancient Greek civilisations. The Greeks even worshiped a wine god, Dionysus.
I knew all this from history and Latin classes in high school yet I still found myself surprised that there was such thing as good Greek wine. I guess it’s just not much promoted internationally.
Curious about this Greek wine, I decided to join a wine tour in Corinth to taste what was originally known as the nectar of the gods. I’m usually not a fan of bus tours, but this one was leaving from Athens, making a few stops in the old city of Corinth and finishing off in the countryside taking us to two wineries. Since it was quite far from Athens and you can’t possibly drive after a wine tasting, I thought I’d give it a chance.
On our way to the winery, our guide Stella fascinated us with some of the myths taking place in the region. She topped off the storytelling with some personal anecdotes. She remembered that in the 70’s the farmers of this region were running low on food resources. Since they were using so much energy working the land, they looked for alternative ways to bump up their daily calorie intake. The answer: adding wine to their milk. Even children were given this concoction before staring their mile long walking journey to school.
We arrived at the Seméli winery. Gorgeously set on a hilltop with incredible views over the Peloponnesian countryside. First, we got the wine estate’s grand tour, we say it all: the vineyards, the wine making process, the bottling, labelling and storing. By the time we got to the storage cellar, all we could think about was: “Wine. Must. Taste. Now.”
Wish granted. We started with the lightest white wine and ended with a more mature, robust red wine. Now I’m absolutely not a connoisseur, so I don’t think it would make much sense for me to try to tell you how the wines tasted, would it? I can confidently say though, that I found them to be exquisite. My tour mates agreed. I bought their most expensive bottle as a gift, the reserve -which was a steal at only €8- and I would have bought a bottle of white and rosé for myself, were I not backpacking and flying out of the country the next day.
After the tasting, a light lunch was provided. Deliciously fresh and simple Greek staples.
On our way to the second winery, our guide received a call informing her that the second winery could no longer accomodate us due to an unexpected event. What a bummer! Especially because we could have stayed longer in Seméli.
Loosing flexibility is one of the reasons why I’m not too fond of tours. So we started our journey back to Athens, a little disappointed. However, that disappointment was soon forgotten when we managed to convince Stella and the bus driver to stop on the way so we could enjoy some more of the countryside.
I LOVED the whole wine tasting experience, just like I thought I would. I will definitely be doing it again in the next wine country I visit. Tours are still not my cup of tea, but because the other participants were fun and interesting, I did very much enjoy the arranged excursion. Besides, as said earlier, there is really no other way to do a wine tasting than to be driven around unless you’re spending the night at the winery.
You can visit Seméli independently though, just make an appointment by contacting them. Order lunch with them or bring your own. If you would like a day tour from Athens (including wine, lunch and a visit to ancient Corinth and Nemea), there are several companies offering the same tour with prices ranging from €77 to €100 per adult.