Are you looking for the best Greece wineries? Grab your gear and join me as we embark on a captivating road trip, unraveling the most outstanding Greece wineries this alluring region has to offer. You don’t have to be a wine connoisseur to dive into this world where unstoppable adventure meets the extraordinary wonders of Peloponnese, Greece.
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You’ll start road-tripping to the best Greece wineries like I did—at the Athens airport. The modern facility was built for the 2004 Summer Olympics. My new friend Manolis waits for me, and even though it is after 5 pm on this evening in May, the sun still lights the sky.
We would drive from the airport to the Nemea Valley wine region, the largest producer of red Greek wines. The first segment of my holidays to Peloponnese would be road-tripping in Manolis’ sporty Toyota.
“The easiest way to get around Peloponnese is to rent a car,” explains Manolis stashing my gear in the trunk of his black roadster.
“There are big firms at the airport. Credit cards make it easy to travel to Greece.” I was relieved to hear that since I’d just flown in from Morocco, where credit cards were rarely accepted.
It’s good to know these sorts of things.
New roads to Greece wineries for easier travel
“Here we have excellent highways which were built 20 years ago compared to those in Italy that were built back in the 1950s,” he says as we merge onto E94, one of Greece’s main expressways. I’m thinking these modern highways, too, were built for the Summer Olympics. The wide, three-lane highway is smooth. I could be on an Arizona highway.
In over 50 years of European travel, I’ve never driven—always proud to say that I use only public transportation when roving solo. But as Manolis speeds us down the three-lane express, I think I could comfortably take the wheel here in Greece.
I could comfortably take the wheel here in Greece
“I always thought I wouldn’t be able to read the highway signs,” I admit out loud to my friend. I’d been to Greece two times previously, but my last trip was in 2003 at the outbreak of the second Persian Gulf War when our cruise was diverted from Turkey. I can’t remember being able to read the signage then.
“Look! All the signs are in Greek and English,” Manolis points at the colossal highway signs sailing by on our way to Greece wineries. Maybe in 2004, they added English for all those Olympic Games fanatics, I speculate.
Book a wine tour in Nemea, our first stop on the way to top Greece wineries in Peloponese.
Always take toll roads to Greece wineries when driving from Athens
“Take the toll road in whatever season,” advises Manoli. He has all the excellent traveling advice since he drives a lot for his job as Operational Manager of the Wine Producers’ Association of the Peloponnese Vineyard (ENOAP).
“I’ve been in the wine business since 1989,” Manolis Giamniadakis says. “Since I love to talk about wine. And as you can see, I like to eat… and drink wine, too.” He pats his stomach. I imagine all the good Greek food we are about to eat.
Semeli Estates, One of the Best Greece Wineries in Nemea
Soon, within two hours of leaving the Athens airport, we arrive at Semeli Estates in Nemea.
Overnight accommodations are typically reserved only for corporate retreats, events, and such—we just missed Red Bull, which was here earlier in the day.
But Manolis had leveraged his connections to arrange dinner, an overnight and tastings with the winemaker for this travel writer.
I’d given him a list of wineries I was eager to visit for my assignment—a guide to the Peloponnese wine region for Winetraveler.com. So I’d hastily scribbled notes as we passed medieval monasteries and ancient Greek ruins on the highway to get here.
We arrive as the last light of the day plays with the tall mountain to the west and the amusing metal animal sculptures on the grounds of this splendid hilltop winery.
After freshening in my voguishly-appointed suite, winemaker Yiannis Flerianos joins Manolis and me for dinner of ingredients typical of the region in the winery’s upscale bistro.
Tasting wine with eminent winemaker Yiannis Flerianos
“This is the red wine you would drink on a hot day,” says Yiannis pouring the Oreinos Helios dry red wine. It’s made of 80% Agiorgitiko grapes, a versatile grape that we’ve already sipped in the earlier tasting of rosé. Agiorgitiko is native to the Peloponnese region and has been grown here in Nemea since ancient times.
Agiorgitiko is a mouthful for English speakers to pronounce, so many call it St. George wine. Geórgios is the Greek name for George; Ágios is a saint. Fortunately for me, I would run into this grape, which is also the name of the wine, so often throughout the region that I would soon be able to pronounce it. More on that later…
I’m duly impressed with how each of the eight wines we taste throughout the night has a different nuance. Each has a unique character that is true to the grape variety with which it’s made by Yiannis with the finesse of a master. Although I’m getting used to these late European dinners—Morocco was on the French timetable—after a flight of amply poured, elegant Greek wines, I’m ready to escape beneath the linens of my tastefully-dressed bed.
The next morning after a full and satisfying breakfast, we start tasting wine again. Semeli Estates’ stable of wines is large so you can’t taste them all in one sitting. “I am having culture shock,” I laugh to Yiannis. “I just came from Morocco where during Ramadan we could find no wine. Now I’m in Greece doing full tastings at nine in the morning!”
Reservations are necessary for winery tours and tastings any day but Tuesday. You may reserve lunch, private tastings and tours of the immaculate production facilities. “It’s special treatment, so you need reservations,” smiles Yiannis.
Semeli Estate is part of the VIP wine tour from Athens on TripAdvisor – book it now!
You won’t believe what we see next!
Vineyards grow right up to the edges of Nemea Ruins
On the way to our next vineyard visit, we stop at Nemea Ruins to see the Temple of Nemean Zeus.
Ancient ruins seem to pop up everywhere in Greece, so here in Nemea wine country, vineyards tuck up to the archaeological site.
Three of the limestone columns have been standing since around 330 BC, and six have been reconstructed.
Sure, it’s difficult to wrap your mind around three hundred years before Christ, but beyond that, the temple was built using architectural elements from a much earlier temple from—wait for it—the 6th Century BC!
Palivou Estate Organic Winery, one of the best Greece wineries in Nemea
I’m still trying to conceptualize that as we drive to Palivou Estate Organic Winery.
A friend recently said, “A winery tour is a winery tour. If you’ve experienced one, you’ve experienced them all.”
Well, I’m here to tell you that none of the four wineries I visited in Greece were even close to resembling another.
Although each was different, they had one thing in common: the wine was exquisite. And such was the case at the family-operated, organic vineyard we visited next.
With 98 acres of vineyards, Palivou Estate is the second largest private producer in the region. They only use their own grapes.
“All our grapes are handpicked,” says Elena proudly. “They were initially foot-pressed.”
How to pronounce Agiorgitiko?
“I know Agiorgitiko is difficult for you to pronounce,” she says, walking us out to see the rows of vines planted in terraces along the hillside.
“But I’ll give you a phonetic device to help.” She points to herself and says, “I.” Then she points at me, saying, “Your, it’s easy!” I – Your – Yitigo.
And since Yitigo could be considered Saint George, I suggest that you point heavenward when you say Yitigo.
Greece wineries use ceramic vats, wood barrels and more in the maturation process
Winemaker Geórgios Palivos and his team use clay pots in the aging and maturation process, and Elena brings us into the barn to take a peek.
She says the wine can breathe because the clay pots interact with oxygen, giving more secondary aromas. Then later, it is blended and left in oak barrels.
The Palivo Estate property is lovely and green, and Elena leads us to a table under a trellis.
A charcuterie platter of local hams, salamis, cheeses, figs and Corinthian raisins she’d prepared earlier is waiting for us. It’s an eye-appealing accompaniment to our tasting of eight wines.
(I’ll discover the history and importance of the Corinthian raisins at the fourth winery we visit, but you’ll have to wait for my next blog post to hear about that.)
Enjoy food and wine pairings at Greece wineries
I particularly enjoy the Vissino, created with 80% Agiorgitiko grapes. “It’s a solitary light red, not like Provence Rose. It’s a ruby rose with characteristics of red wine, somewhere between red and Rosé, so it keeps everyone happy,” explains Elena. “It’s good in hot weather but can also pair with food that typically pairs with red, and it has very good sales.”
Geórgios, the winemaker, sits down with us as we finish our tasting, and I tell him how much I’ve enjoyed his creations, especially the wines where he’s used wild yeast like the Diaselo made of the Assyrtiko grape. The Assyrtiko white wine grape is indigenous to the isle of Santorini but is now grown all over Greece.
Geórgios kisses me goodbye on both cheeks and then loads me up with goodies from the Palivos gift shop: wine, local honey, salt and candles made by his daughter.
I try to say no to all his gratuities, but that’s just bad manners in Greece. So I accept the gifts, determined to share them with the travel bloggers I’ll meet up with at a writer’s conference in two days.
As Manolis and I drive away, a fishmonger declares his wares over a loudspeaker atop his small commercial van. We are not far from the Aegean Sea.
Stay tuned for my next post to discover more about the Peloponnese Wine Region and Greece wineries.
One More of the Top Greece Wineries in Nemea
During the aforementioned travel writers conference, I had the pleasure of encountering winemaker Spyros Lafazanis and his son from Lafazanis Winery.
They graced the opening and closing festivities of TBEX in Kalamata, treating attendees to the delightful experience of savoring their exquisite wines.
Everyone I met from Lafazanis Winery was professional with the gift of Greek hospitality. So don’t miss their hip tasting room and winery tour in Nemea!
Hi, I’m Stacey
UNSTOPPABLE Stacey Travel is a travel blog focused on immersive travel that highlights food, wine and the spirituality of place. I also occasionally write about life as a Camino de Santiago pilgrim. I hope you enjoy what I post here. Feel free to leave comments! Read more…
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As is common in the travel industry, UNSTOPPABLE Stacey was provided with accommodations, meals, and other compensation for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the author believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.
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