Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Wines of North Greece: The physical environment

Greece for me has historically been confined to the beaches of Mykonos and Vouliagmeni; the sheer cliffs, sunsets, and Assyrtiko of Santorini; and the timeless cultural artifacts of Athens. But no more. My horizons have been expanded significantly to now include the wine, foods, and people of Northern Greece thanks to a Wines-of-North-Greece-sponsored Pre-Conference Press Trip designed to introduce nine bloggers, and their readers, to the region's offerings. I will share my experiences and learnings in a number of posts on this blog over the coming weeks.

Bloggers with Vasilis Ioannou of Alpha Estate at front left.
Alpha Estate visit.
In this post I will describe the physical environment within which the wineries operate. That will be followed by a post on the built environment and cultural practices. The third post in the series will cover the winemaking practices in the region while the fourth will delve into the actual wines produced. I will present my observations, learnings, and recommendations in the fifth and final post of the series.

The Press Trip, as mentioned previously, was sponsored by Wines of North Greece. The map immediately below shows the distribution of wineries visited by region while the second map shows the specific locations of the wineries visited, the day on which each winery was visited, and the agenda at each winery.

Distribution of wineries visited, by region
Route of North Greece Wine Trail Press Trip

Macedonia is the largest geographic region of the Greek territories with its 34,000+ km² accounting for 25.7% of the country's land mass. The region is mountainous, with 29.4% being mountainous, 25.9% hilly, and 34.7% flat land. The climate is Mediterranean at the coast and more continental inland.

The table below summarizes the physical environment of the regions within which the wineries we visited are resident.

Table1. Physical environments of wine regions visited
Cold Mediterranean
150 - 450 m
  • Limestone, loam, sand, clay
  • Low levels of organic matter
  • Coldest winemaking region in Greece
  • Great diurnal temperature variation
  • Constant north winds from adjacent mountains
570 - 750 m
Poor sandy soils
150 - 250 m; gentle southeast-facing slopes
Free-draining soils with high limestone content

Slopes of Meliton

Mediterranean; moderated by ocean influences; strong diurnal effect; 500 m annual rainfall

200 - 400 m

Finely broken schist
Temperate Mediterranean; modified by oceans and mountains to the north
250 - 750 m
Iron-rich schist
  • Fertile loams at lower altitude
  • Rocky, low fertility soils at higher altitudes
  • Transitional

High levels of sand and clay


  • Mediterranean


For the most part, the climate is Mediterranean, in some cases moderated by oceans and/or mountains. The highest vineyard altitudes can be found at Amyndeon, where altitudes range between 570 and 750 meters. Rapsani tops out at similar altitudes as does Amyndeon but starts out at much lower levels. Schist, sand, and clay are the predominant soils.

The built environment will be covered in the next post in this series.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme


  1. I just want to point out that you have Alpha Estate and Katogi Averoff swapped round on the map. I did a very similar trip earlier this year, and am looking forward to seeing what you have to say about your visits. Feel free not to publish this comment if you wish, I would have emailed it but could not easily find your address.

    Best wishes, Steve

    1. Thank you for bringing it to my attention Steve. I have made the correction. I look forward to your reading the upcoming posts and providing feedback. Thanks again.

  2. This is such great information in one spot. I'll be referencing this in the future for sure.
    Btw, that's Angelo Iatridis in the group shot picture.
    When will you be highlighting Crete? We could use such thorough data in one spot.

    1. Thank you Anna. I hope to do a similarly comprehensive assessment of Crete in 2017.