Wine Lexicon

Wine Lexicon

The essential terms that will help you understand the PDO and PGI Wines of Western Greece.

Ageing capability: The best versions of Roditis, the most important variety in Western Greece can age at least up to 5 years. They develop a lovely toasty, waxy and honeyed character with hints of lanolin and nutty finish. However, simpler wines from lower-lying, flat and fertile land, which can give quite high-yields are made as everyday wines and they will not benefit from extra agein in the bottle.

Aigialia: Aigialia is a municipality and a former province in the eastern part of the Achaia regional unit, Greece. The seat of the municipality is the town Aigio. And the main towns are Aigio, Akrata and Diakopto. The municipality Aigialia stretches from the south coast of the Gulf of Corinth to the mountainous interior of the Peloponnese peninsula. The main rivers of the municipality are the Selinountas and the Vouraikos. This is a spectacular high-altitude terroir for vine-growing, with unique characteristics.

Altitude: More than 70% of the Greece in total is covered by high peaks. So, there are regions, suchs as the PGI Slopes of Aigialia (ΠΓΕ Πλαγιές Αιγιαλείας), in Achaia, Peloponnese, that benefit from a number of unique microclimates, shaped by the high altitude, the poor mineral-rich soils, the proximity to the sea, the northern exposition of the vineyards and the “wild” topography. These conditions embody the archetype of cool-climate viticulture and create a perfect spot for cultivating the pink-skinned Roditis, a grape variety that thrives in high-altitude areas. Here Roditis finds its ultimate expression; fine, mineral, energetic and full of bright and vibrant fruit, all kept laser-sharp by high acidity.

Assyrtiko: Compared to Roditis, Assyrtiko has minor plantings in the area of Western Greece and covers a small percentage of the local vineyard. However, this noble grape variety provides some excellent wines within the PGI Achaia (ΠΓΕ Αχαΐα), PGI Ilia (ΠΓΕ Ηλεία) and PGI Slopes of Aigialia (ΠΓΕ Πλαγιές Αιγιαλείας) with a lovely backbone of acidity and layers of minerality. Τhe style can be very mineral and bursting with acidity freshness.

Avgoustiatis: Avgoustiatis is a black grape variety found on the western shores of Ilia and is responsible for soft and elegant wines with ripe red fruit, classical structure and some peppery elements in the PGI Ilia (ΠΓΕ Ηλεία). It is used both for the production of varietal wines as well as blends with other grape varieties and it’s the most popular red grape variety among the region’s producers. It’s considered as a local specialty but it is also found in the neighboring Ionian Islands, especially in Zakynthos, to the west.

Black of Kalavrita: Black of Kalavrita (or Mavro Kalavritino) is an almost forgotten grape variety of Achaia that was brought back from extinction quite recently. Plantings are still very low. It offers wines with elegance, spice and savoury nuances over a frame of freshness and delicate tannins. It is used in the PGI Slopes of Aigialia and PGI Achaia

Bush Vines: A gobelet-shaped vine of Roditis is a commonly seen feature in the vineyards of Western Greece, especially in the eastern part of Achaia in the mountainous Aigialia. Most of this low-trained vines have age that exceeds 60 or more years and they can be field-blended with other local grape varieties. These bush-vines have been extremely well adapted in climate of the region and provide low yields of concentrated grapes that display a beautiful aromatic complexity, mineral characters and long ageing potential for Roditis wines.

Dionysus: As son of Zeus, Dionysus was celebrated in all different parts of ancient Greece. 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. In Ancient Aigeira (Achaia region) there was a myth related to the production of wine that indicates Aigeira as a producer of high-quality wines since that era. It is the myth of “the ephemeral vine”.

Diurnal range: The high-altitude mountains of Achaia are very close to the sea-shore. The difference in temperature between the mountains and the sea is big. The air-currents that blow through the Corinthian gulf to the vineyards act as a natural air-condition for the vines and prevent the development of diseases. The high diurnal range difference between day and night in the vineyards of the mountains, help the wines to retain acidity levels and fully develop the aromatic and flavor characteristics of the wines.

Dry-farmed: Unirrigated bush vines of Roditis can be found in the region of Slopes of Aigialia in Western Greece. 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. Roditis is also a variety 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 Roditis lays exactly in the category of wines that can age gracefully and develop a kaleidoscopic array of aromas. Talking about layers of complexity in Roditis 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 Roditis develop in the bottle developing enormous layers of complexity.

Low yields: Roditis 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, higher altitudes, poor soils and older vineyards result in lower yields of very concentrated, excellent, mineral driven wines that can develop gracefully in the bottle for quite a few years.

Mavrodaphni: Mavrodaphni is an important black indigenous variety not only in Achaia but also the Ilia region. Well-known for producing the exquisite sweet fortified wine PDO Mavrodaphni of Patra (ΠΟΠ Μαυροδάφνη Πατρών), the red Mavrodaphni grape is now being explored from a different angle and is increasingly vinified for the production of dry reds. Dense aromas of prunes and blackcurrants, angelica flowers and a dense palate, with a characteristic finish that’s slightly bitter, are among its excellent characteristics. The less celebrated (compared to the sweet wines) dry versions are broadly considered as the “next big thing” in the Greek vineyard. As dry it participates in the PGI Achaia (ΠΓΕ Αχαΐα), PGI Slopes of Aigialia (ΠΓΕ Πλαγιές Αιγιαλείας), PGI Ilia (ΠΓΕ Ηλεία) and PGI Letrini (ΠΓΕ Λετρίνοι).

Malagousia: Α beloved variety of the Achaia vineyard although plantings are still very low. The wines are very well known for their bursting aromatic profile but in the high-altitude vineyards of Aigialia Malagousia gains an extra spiciness and herbal quality. In this terroir, Malagousia preserves its freshness and higher acidity levels than elsewhere in Greece and its very elegant, aromatic and charming character.

Minerality: Mineral, fresh styles are back in fashion. Roditis can make very attractive cool-climate white wines at moderate alcohol levels. And there are quite a lot of older vineyards that with age are producing some of Greece’s most interesting, contemporary styles of wine. Crisp, mineral with high tension.

Mountains of Achaia: The Prefecture of Achaia is largely covered by hills and mountains which are accompanied by legends, myths, traditions but also a rich history as they were the strongholds of the uncompromising inhabitants of the area who made it their life’s goal to see Greece free. Both during the Turkish occupation and during the German occupation, these mountains hosted the unquenchable passion of the Achaeans to liberate their country. The mountains of Achaia, however, constitute a wonderful “mosaic” of flora and fauna as well as a field of expression of an interesting traditional architecture. Many of the greatest vineyards of PDO Patra (ΠΟΠ Πάτρα), PGI Achaia (ΠΓΕ Αχαΐα) and PGI Slopes of Aigialia (ΠΓΕ Πλαγιές Αιγιαλείας) are located in the slopes of the mountains. The three highest mountains are Helmos (2355m), Erimanthos (2.224m) and Panachaiko (1926m.)

Norther orientation: The vineyards of the PGI Slopes of Aigialia (ΠΓΕ Πλαγιές Αιγιαλείας) are characterized by their northern aspect and benefit from the cool northern winds. The mountains on the back of the vineyards shelter the warmer southern winds blowing from Africa. This is a very unique terroir for the Greek standards with cool-climate characteristics.

Old vines: Many old vineyards exist in the area, some dating back to the mid-20th century These vineyards should be cultural heritage for Greece. These old vineyards are mostly Roditis but there are also other old indigenous varieties (almost forgotten). 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 PDO or PGI wines applies only to ungrafted vines with a minimum age of 40 years old.

Patra: Patra is Greece’s third-largest city and the regional capital of Western Greece, in the northern Peloponnese, 215 km (134 mi) west of Athens. The city is built at the foot of Mount Panachaikon, overlooking the Gulf of Patras. Dubbed as Greece’s ‘Gate to the West’, Patra is a commercial hub, while its busy port is a nodal point for trade and communication with Italy and the rest of Western Europe. All of Western Greece’s PDO appellations bear the word Patra in their names such as the PDO Patra (ΠΟΠ Πάτρα), PDO Muscat of Patra (ΠΟΠ Μοσχάτος Πατρών), PDO Muscat of Rio Patra (ΠΟΠ Μοσχάτος Ρίου Πατρών) and PDO Mavrodaphni of Patra (ΠΟΠ Μαυροδάφνη Πατρών).

Protected Designation of Origin: Greece registered its first appellations in 1971. However, if someone takes a closer look into the nation’s history, he will be able to understand that Greeks used to protect their most famous wines since antiquity. Perhaps in these wines someone could search for the early forms of wine protection and legislation. There are 33 different zones producing wines of Protected Designation of Origin in Greece and four of them are in the regional unit of Achaia, Western Greece. These are PDO Patra (ΠΟΠ Πάτρα), PDO Muscat of Patra (ΠΟΠ Μοσχάτος Πατρών), PDO Muscat of Rio Patra (ΠΟΠ Μοσχάτος Ρίου Πατρών) and PDO Mavrodaphni of Patra (ΠΟΠ Μαυροδάφνη Πατρών). In the case of PDO wines the quality or characteristics of the product are essentially or exclusively linked to the origin (natural and human factors such as climate, soil conditions, topography, local know-how etc.); and all stages of the production must take place in the defined geographical area. Also, 100% of the grapes have to come exclusively from the geographical area where the wine is actually made. A Protected Designation of origin is the true expression of what land can give and brings identity to the wines produced.

Protected Geographical Indication: Wines that bear a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) in the label emphasize the relationship between the specific geographic region and the name of the product, where a particular quality, reputation or other characteristic is essentially attributable to its geographical origin. At least one of the production steps must take place in the defined geographical area. If a grape variety is stated, at least 85% of the wine should be made from this grape variety. A PGI wine, although geographically defined, is a more versatile wine and more easily adapts to the market needs. The rules governing production are more flexible and producers can use even non-traditional varieties under a PGI scheme. For example, a PDO Patra as regulated by the law should be made from 100% Roditis grape. However, under the PGI Achaia (ΠΓΕ Αχαΐα) a local producer can use a number of other grape variety as well to make a vast array of different wine styles within the broader geographical unit of Achaia.

Phylloxera: the loose that destroyed the European vineyard attached the vineyard of Achaia and Ilia in the middle of 20th century. Most of the vines were replanted in the 1960s and many old Roditis vines are still under production today.

Refosco: Regarding international varieties, Refosco of north-eastern Italy was introduced in Ilia in the late 19th century and it is now considered to be a “local” grape variety. It has also earned a nickname among the local growers (Mercoureiko).

Rio: Rio is a suburb of the municipality of Patra and the northernmost municipal unit of the Peloponnese peninsula. It stretches along the southeastern coast of the Gulf of Patra, about 7 km northeast of Patra city Centre. The nearby Strait of Rio, crossed by the Rio–Antirrio bridge, separates the Gulf of Patras from the Gulf of Corinth to the east. The town is dominated by the Panachaiko mountain to the southeast. The PDO Muscat of Rio Patra extends mainly in the area of Rio while a small area is in the northeast part of the area of Patra.

Sideritis: Pink-skinned Sideritis is one of the rarest gems of the Greek vineyard. It is used for the production of delicate white and rose wines. It is local to Achaia and very exotic as it is very rare and vinified only by a handful of wineries in the area. It is used in the PGI Slopes of Aigialia (ΠΓΕ Πλαγιές Αιγιαλείας) and PGI Achaia (ΠΓΕ Αχαΐα)

White Muscat (Moschato Aspro): Τhe superior clone of the Muscat family is only second to Roditis in terms of plantings to the region of Achaia. It offers lusciously sweet, alluring white wines that are considered to be among the top examples produced in Greece. The grapes can either be sundried or the sweetness may derive from the fortification of the must. There are also some rare, yet beautifully crafted, dry Muscat whites, with a strong identity. These are bursting with intense grapey and floral aromas, freshness and great sophistication. It is found in the PDO Muscat of Patra (ΠΟΠ Μοσχάτος Πατρών) and PDO Muscat of Rio Patra (ΠΟΠ Μοσχάτος Ρίου Πατρών) as well as PDO Achaia (ΠΓΕ Αχαΐα), the last one for the dry versions.