Wine Lexicon

The Attica Wine Lexicon

The essential terms that will help you understand the PGI Wines of Attica.

Ageing capability: Most Savatiano wines are made to be drunk within a couple of years from the harvest. However, those with good structure – that is, a backbone of acidity, tannins, alcohol and concentration, made from old, bush, vines grown on limestone soils in various PGIs of Attica can evolve for at least decade. Through the process of ageing in the bottle they will develop a lovely honeyed, nutty, toasty character and a harmonious balance rewarding the patience of those who waited them for a long time.

Altitude: Altitude is not important in many of the regions of Attica. For example, the vineyards in the eastern part of the region, in the area of Mesogaia (for example PGI Markopoulo (ΠΓΕ Μαρκόπουλο), are grown in altitudes of 100-150m above sea level and they are located very close to the sea. However, the northern part of the PGI Attiki (ΠΓΕ Αττική) region (Mount Pendeli and Parnitha) and the western part of the region (PGI Slopes of Kithaironas – ΠΓΕ Πλαγιές Κιθαιρώνα) are higher in altitude and you can find higher vineyards. above sea level. This individuality of the higher-altitude terrains is directly reflected upon the individuality of styles of wine produced in these vineyards. So, the wines here are even lower in alcohol, they have a crispier acidity, and they are more perfumed and more elegant overall.

Assyrtiko: Compared to Savatiano, Assyrtiko has minor plantings in the area of Attica and covers just 2% of the local vineyard. However, this noble grape variety provides some excellent wines within the PGI Attiki (ΠΓΕ Αττική), PGI Slopes of Kithaironas (ΠΓΕ Πλαγιές Κιθαιρώνα) and PGI Markopoulo (ΠΓΕ Μαρκόπουλο) with a lovely backbone of acidity and layers of minerality. Somehow, the style is closer to the islandic Assyrtikos, rather than the fruitier examples produced in other regions of mainland Greece.

Athens: Athens is a coastal city in the Mediterranean and is both the capital and largest city of Greece. With a population close to four million, it is also the seventh largest city in the European Union. Athens dominates and is the capital of the Attica region and is one of the world’s oldest cities, with its recorded history spanning over 3,400 years and its earliest human presence beginning somewhere between the 11th and 7th millennia BC. The vineyard of Attica surrounds the city of Athens, and because of the city’s expansion someone can found vineyards even within the residential areas of the city’s suburbs.

Bush Vines: A gobelet-shaped vine of Savatiano is the most commonly seen feature in the vineyards of Attica, especially in the region of Mesogaia in the eastern part of the region. Most of this low-trained vines have been planted after the devastation of the Attica vineyard of phylloxera in the 50s and the 60s and their age can be calculated around 55-65 years old. Savatiano is a very resistant grape variety and this bush-vines have been extremely well adapted in the hot and dry climate of the region and provide low yields of concentrated grapes that display a beautiful aromatic complexity, mineral characters and long ageing potential.

Dionysus: According to Greek mythology, Dionysus was the god of the grape-harvest, winemaking, orchards and fruit, vegetation, fertility, festivity, insanity, ritual madness, religious ecstasy, and theatre. The Romans called him Bacchus for a frenzy he is said to induce called bakkheia. As Dionysus Eleutherios (“the liberator”), his wine, music, and ecstatic dance free his followers from self-conscious fear and care, and subvert the oppressive restraints of the powerful. His thyrsus, a fennel-stem sceptre, sometimes wound with ivy and dripping with honey, is both a beneficent wand and a weapon used to destroy those who oppose his cult and the freedoms he represents. According to the Attica myth, Dionysus found hospitality from Icarius and his daughter Erigone on the north-eastern slopes of Penteli, in the largest municipality of Attiki, Icaria, near the area that today is called Dionysos. There, the god taught Icarius how to cultivate the vines and produce wine from their fruit. This, according to the myth, is how cultivation of the vines began in Attica region.

Dry-farmed: Unirrigated bush vines of Savatiano dominate the region of Mesogaia in Attica. It’s not that there is not available water but this is a very fragmented and scattered vineyard, with a tiny average size-holding which makes irrigation a very costly procedure. The Savatiano is also a variety very resistant to dry conditions and so it has prevailed in the vineyard trained in low-shaped bush vines that limits the water needs in the vines.

Layers: Aromatic complexity is something that usually develops with age and Savatiano lays exactly in the category of wines that can age gracefully and develop a kaleidoscopic array of aromas. Talking about layers of complexity in Savatiano is like when you find something new every time you put your nose back in the glass. Think of a book that you have read so many times, however every time you notice something that you haven’t seen before. This is how the greatest wines of Savatiano develop in the bottle developing enormous layers of complexity.

Low yields: Savatiano is a highly productive grape variety and in very fertile soils it can easily yields massive tonnes of grapes. This can lead to undistinguished, bland, industrial wines that don’t bring any kind of excitement. However, in the Attica vineyard, and especially in the region of Mesogaia, the yields are almost naturally restricted as a combination of low density, old, bush-shapes vines grown in very poor limestone soils. These vines give less than 25-30hl/ha of very concentrated, excellent, mineral driven wines that can develop gracefully in the bottle for a decade or more.

Kithaironas: Kithaironas is a mountain and mountain range about sixteen kilometres (ten miles) long in the western part of Attica region and the range is actually the physical boundary between Boeotia in the north and Attica in the south. It is mainly composed of limestone and rises to 1,409 metres. The range was the scene of many events in Greek mythology and was especially sacred to the god of wine, Dionysus. In Euripides’ Bacchae, Dionysus carries out his dances and rites with his bacchants, his priestesses, on Kithaironas Mountain. This myth links Kithaironas with vine-growing since ancient times. Today, the PGI Slopes of Kithaironas (ΠΓΕ Πλαγιές Κιθαιρώνα) at 300-400m above sea-level is a distinctive designation and one of the most promising and upcoming areas for vine cultivation in the region of Attica. The region is very much influenced by the altitude and the proximity to the Korinthian Gulf, leading to a more continental climate and the production of elegant and crispier wines.

Old vines: Many old vineyards exist in the area, some dating back to the mid-20th century These vineyards should be cultural heritage not only of Attica but for Greece. These old vineyards are mostly Savatiano which is extremely resistant to the dry, warm climatic conditions of the region. Very often, such old vineyards display a great biodiversity among the vines, contributing to great complexity and enhancing the sense of terroir in the wines. The term old vines, vieilles vignes, or other similar terms, indicate an old vineyard on the label. According to the Greek wine law, the use of these terms in PGI wines applies only to ungrafted vines with a minimum age of 40 years old.

Limestone: sedimentary rock which consists mainly of calcium carbonate. It has excellent drainage properties and its calcium content prevents the uptake of potassium which neutralizes acids. This helps to maintain the acidity of the wines. The subsoil of the vineyards of Attica is mainly consisted of poor limestone rock that initiates roots to develop o long root system in order to find the essential nutrients and water uptake. If you cut through the rock, some old vines of Savatiano can have more than 10m deep root system which make them very resistant to the extremes of the hot and dry climate of the region.

Markopoulo: A sub-region of the broader Mesogaia plain and a historic area for the production of Savatiano which is nominated with a Protected Geographical Indication of its wines, PGI Markopoulo (ΠΓΕ Μαρκόπουλο). Some of the oldest Savatiano vines can be found in this area and this is a landscape that more or less remained uninterrupted for the production of wines for Millennia. There are very few places in the world that can claim such an amazing feature. However, during the last decades the vines have been shrunk due to urbanization and the built of the international airport of Athens in that area.

Mesogaia: Mesogaia means the Middle Land and the term refers the region that consists the central portion of East Attica, separated from the Athens basin by Mount Hymettus, and delineated to the north by Mount Penteli and to the south by the mountains of south Attica (Merenta, Panio, Laureotic Olympus). To the east the Mesogeia reaches the Aegean Sea, but is separated from the actual coastline by a line of low hills. The region is the heart of the Attica vineyards and it is responsible for 75% of the total plantings of Attica.

Malagousia: Α beloved variety of the Attica vineyard although plantings are still very low and it consists just 1.3% of total. The wines are very well known for their bursting aromatic profile full of lovely summery fruits and spiciness. On higher slopes with a slightly cooler climate such as in the PGI Slopes of Kithaironas (ΠΓΕ Πλαγιές Κιθαιρώνα), the Malagousia wines display greater elegance and freshness. The grape performs very well in cooler years because overall the climate of Attica is quite hot.

New Age Retsina: Unofficial term that is often used from wine experts in Greece in order to describe the quality comeback of Retsina in Attica, where the most important designation is the PGI Retsina of Attiki (ΠΓΕ Ρετσίνα Αττικής). These excellent new examples of the style are distinguished by their exceptional grape-growing techniques and masterful detailed vinification with significantly lower levels of pine resin that is freshly collected and a wonderful overall balance. The wines are elegant expressions of the pine resin aromas reminiscent of sage, rosemary, mastic gum, ginger and spices that complement and don’t dominate over the varietal expression of the wine.

Organic Farming: Someone could claim that the vineyard of Mesogaia is the most important organic vineyard in Greece, even if the grapes or the wines are not certified as that. The hot and dry climate, the resistance of Savatiano grape towards various diseases and the low prices that Savatiano has in the market, mean that the growers are eliminating any kind of treatments to the grapes in order to reduce their costs. Sometimes the vineyards are left almost uncultivated and as a result the grapes when harvested are free of any chemical interventions. It would not be an exaggeration to claim that this is almost a free of chemicals vineyard.

Protected Geographical Indication: Τoday, the Attica vineyard has only wines of Protected Geographical Indication out of which the most important are PGI Attiki (ΠΓΕ Αττική), PGI Markopoulo (ΠΓΕ Μαρκόπουλο), PGI Slopes of Kithaironas (ΠΓΕ Πλαγιές Κιθαιρώνα), PGI Retsina of Attiki (ΠΓΕ Ρετσίνα Αττικής).

Phylloxera: the loose that destroyed the European vineyard attached the Attica vineyard in the middle of 20th century. Most of the vines were replanted in the 1950s with Savatiano and a still a large number of these old vines are under production today.

Pinus Halepensis: Retsina is made by adding a special type of resin (of the Pinus Halepensis tree) before or during the fermentation of the must. (as long as no more than 1/3 of the original sugar content has been converted to alcohol). The species of Pinus Halepensis (or Aleppo Pine) is abundantly found in the region of Attica where it thrives in many different parts and its resin is used since antiquity in order to flavor the traditional Retsina.

Retsina: Retsina is a traditional Greek wine made all over Greece but Attiki is a center of its production. It is made by adding a special type of pine-resin (of the Pinus Halepensis tree) before or during the fermentation of the must. This adds intense herbal aromas of pine, sage, rosemary, mastic gum and ginger that complement or even better bring out the varietal fruit of the wine. The PGI Retsina of Attiki (ΠΓΕ Ρετσίνα Αττικής) is a specific Protected Geographical Indication for this traditional designation of wine.

Symposium: In ancient Greece, the “symposium” (meaning drink together) was part of a banquet that took place after the meal. Wine was at the center of these social events and drinking for pleasure was accompanied by music, dancing, recitals or conversation. It was a forum for men of respected families to debate, plot, boast, or simply revel with others. They were frequently held to celebrate social and family achievements such as victories in athletic and poetic contests. Some of the greatest ideals of philosophy and democracy were born through the “symposia” (plural for symposium) in important cities of the ancient world such as Athens, Elefsina, Megara and Marathon, all located in the Attiki prefecture. Many of the topics, often philosophical, discussed during symposia still represent some of the great ideals of the modern world.

Savatiano: Savatiano is the most planted grape variety not only in Attica but in Greece. The local vineyard is planted to 89% Savatiano which is indigenous in the region and it has been thriving here for hundreds of years. A new generation of winemakers in Attica have brought the grape in the forefront of the evolution that takes place in the Greek wine scene by producing high-quality, innovative wines in many different styles. The best expressions are very much praised for their great ability to age in the bottle developing great flavor and aromatic complexity.

Water stress: A dry region with extreme heatwaves during the summer can cause great stress to the vines. The lack of water can be an important challenge given that there is little or no irrigation water available. However, planting at low densities and bush vines that protect the grapes from the sun-burn and in combination with old vines with deep-root systems and a grape variety resistant to lack of water means that the Savatiano grapes can survive through the extremes and find available water and nutrients deep in the soils through a very deep developed root system that can exceed 10 meters long.