Vineyards are a mainstay in these parts of Attica, the birthplace of retsina. The sturdy Savatiano grape here can produce well-resinated wines but also a range of non-resinated dry whites. The mountainous north of Attica, including the Penteli and Parnitha mountains, offers a cooler terroir and allows grapes to ripen more slowly. These conditions give wines a more delicate taste.
1. Zenginis Winery
The ancient Greeks believed that the god Dionysus gave mankind knowledge of winemaking. That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but the grape has certainly played a major role in Greek culture throughout the centuries. And it is the country’s oldest wine region, Attica, where viticulture first took hold.
While Attica’s vineyards aren’t as famous as Madrid’s Heurige region, the Mesogaia valley on the outskirts of Athens is bursting with over 650 hectares of vines. The sturdy Savatiano (pronounced “sa-viti-anoh”) is the dominant variety in this area, producing retsina and a range of non-resinated dry white wines.
In the north, extending up to Mount Pendeli and beyond to the village of Hymettus, is a cooler climate zone with more continental characteristics. These conditions allow the grapes to ripen more slowly, maintaining their acidity and delicate aromatic potential. The northern zone is also the home of Greece’s most important white grape, Assyrtiko, a powerful wine with intense minerality and flavors of lemon brulee and flint.
And, a few years ago, a new star was born with the introduction of the Malagousia grape. This white offers a richer style of wine, tasting like a cross between Viognier and Chardonnay with its orange blossom, peach, lime, and melon aromas and flavors. Many Attica wineries now blend these native grapes with Sauvignon Blanc and other imported varieties to make their wines more familiar to an international audience.
At Zenginis Winery, Dimitris Zenginis and his wife Sofia continue the family tradition with their privately owned vineyards in the northern Attica village of Ramnounda. Here, the rocky, red clay soils are perfect for the cultivation of Assyrtiko, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Agiorgitiko.
The family also grows Moschofilero, a light and fruity grape that pairs beautifully with the fresh seafood found on the shores of the Aegean Sea. These wines are aged in a combination of stainless steel tanks and French oak barrels. The winery also produces a PGI Attica rosé from Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon and the varietal “Kivelis” range of wines from the estate. All of the wines are bottled at the winery.
2. Nikolou Winery
The Nikolou Winery is a family vineyard with an extensive history of cultivation in Attica. It’s one of the most popular winery tours in Athens and a great place to explore how Greek wines are made.
The property features a winery and cellar, and hosts wine tastings for visitors with an appointment. The estate produces two labels: Savatiano Zeginis and Velanidia, both PGI Attica certified red wines based on Agiorgitiko. There is also a rosé wine, Mon Rose, which is a blend of Chardonnay and Merlot.
At the vineyard, vines are grown organically, and the grapes are fermented with natural yeast. The estate has been a pioneer of this technique in Greece and their wines have a unique aroma, rich flavors and balanced structure.
A winery tour of the property includes a walk through the wine cellar, which is impressively spacious and filled with antique oak barrels. There is a small museum that showcases the history of the winery. The staff will give you a detailed description of the wines they make and answer any questions you may have.
The terroir of Attica is ideal for making white and sparkling wines. The region’s mild winters and hot dry summers allow the grapes to mature properly, and the rocky limestone soils make for complex wines. The vineyards are primarily planted with the Savatiano variety, but there are also other indigenous grape varieties like Malagouzia and Assyrtiko that are used in their wines.
In addition to the winery, Nikolou produces and sells bottled water as well. The winery also has a restaurant, rehearsal space and gas station, all surrounded by traditional folk architecture. It is a great spot to spend an afternoon tasting wine.
The wines of Greece pair perfectly with Mediterranean cuisine. The acidity of the wine and the spice of the food balance each other, bringing out the best in both. With over 77 native grape varieties, it is easy to find a perfect wine for any meal at one of the many restaurants in Athens or at home. It’s a good idea to try as many of the different wines as you can, so that you can experience the diversity of this beautiful country.
3. Kostas Kotsanas Winery
One of the wineries worth a visit to during a visit to Attica is Kostas Kotsanas. The museum features working reconstructions of brilliant but little-known ancient Greek mechanical inventions, and it won the “European Museum of 2019” award by the European Museum Forum in January 2020.
Kostas Kotsanas was a mechanical engineer from the village of Seliana in the Peloponnese, and the 145 exhibits that make up his museum are all working replicas he built himself. His goal is to bring these ancient technologies into the modern world. The museum is also home to a research center, a workshop and an art gallery. Kotsanas is also planning to open a third museum at the site of ancient Olympia and another in Katakolo.
The museum is housed in a three-story building in the trendy Kolonaki neighborhood of Athens. Its non-profit status aims to offer experiential guided tours by the museum’s specialized scientific staff and organize educational programs for schools. It is currently Athens’ only pet-friendly museum!
Many people travel to Attica specifically to pay homage to the athletes of the original Olympic Games at ancient Olympia but there is much more than that to discover in this beautiful part of Greece. There are great beaches, lush forests, quaint villages and rolling countryside that is reminiscent of Tuscany. The region is dotted with olive and grape farms and many of these offer tours where visitors can see the production facilities and taste the wines produced on the premises.
A tour of the wineries of Northern and Northeast Attica can be combined with a visit to the museum, shopping in the area or a day trip to the mountains for hiking and sailing. It is a great way to experience the Region of Attica and to understand why it has been chosen as a short break destination all around the year!
Alexia Amvrazi is an experienced travel writer and a passionate advocate for the beauty of Greece. She has a strong interest in the country’s gastronomy, holistic living and culture. She has been writing about Greece and her experiences there for over 20 years. She is a certified sommelier and enjoys tasting the local wines. She is a member of the Greek Tourism Board’s Professional Blogger Network.
4. Pyrgos Vassilissis Winery
The vineyards of Attica are famous for producing crisp white wines like Moschofilero, rose wines made with the Agiorgitiko grape, and full-bodied reds including Savatiano and Roditis. But there’s more than just a lot of sunlight here—there is a special quality to the light in Attica that impacts both grape maturation and winemaking. That is perhaps why the resulting wines are so highly prized in Greece.
For visitors to Athens, the vineyards of Northern and Northeast Attica are an easy day trip from the city center. Several travel agencies offer wine-focused day tours from Athens that combine stops at local vineyards with visits to nearby archaeological sites.
In particular, the winery of Pyrgos Vassilissis is a good choice for anyone looking to experience the region’s vineyards in an interesting setting. The property, which is surrounded by ancient ruins, has its own museum and an impressive collection of Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman art. It also features stables that once housed giraffes, as well as a pond with water lilies and Asian parakeets. The estate is cultivated using organic practices and produces five types of wine, which are paired with homemade pies, smoked cheeses, and chocolate.
A wine tasting is included in the tour price and a small buffet is served as well. Among the wines you’ll be able to try are the Kivelis range—which includes Moschofilero, Sauvignon Blanc, and Syrah—and the Hatzidakis winery range, which is made with grapes such as Assyrtiko, Aidani, Mavrotragano, Voudomato, and Mantilaria.
Vradiano is an old-world grape that was saved from extinction by a single vintner, and it’s often blended with Savatiano to create the local wine called Retsina. The grape is a popular crop on the island of Samos, which has been making muscat wine since antiquity and is known for its royal figs and pistachios.
Visiting the vineyards of Northern and Northeast Attica is a great way to see Greece in spring, when its landscape explodes with brightly colored flowers, olive trees, and cypresses. And it’s also a chance to learn about the art of winemaking in a part of the world that has been cultivating vines for centuries.