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Wine Classification: Naming Wines in Greece

Greece implemented appellation laws in 1971 and 1972. Utilizing criteria similar to France and most European countries, the technical aspects of the legislation were established by the members of the Wine Institute, a department of the Ministry of Agriculture. A number of factors play a role in the determination of qualifying areas and products. These include: the suitability, pedigree and historical role of grape varieties; soil composition; vineyard elevation; yield per stremma (1 stremma=1/10th of a hectare); sugar levels, the effect of oenological practices such as barrel aging and any additional factors likely to affect the quality of wine within regions under consideration. Currently Greece has are four appellation designations:

O.P.A.P.

O.P.A.P. (Onomasia Proelefseos Anoteras Piotitos) is equivalent to ‘Appellation of Origin of Superior Quality’ or the French ‘V.L.Q.P.R.D.’ There are currently 25 designations for this appellation, almost all of them for dry red and white wines. This list has been growing slowly since the inception of the laws—too slowly for a number of producers who feel justified in receiving qualification on the basis of the consistent production of wines of quality equal to or greater than those produced in some previously authorized regions.

O.P.E

O.P.E (Onomasia Proelefseos Eleghomeni) is equivalent to ‘Controlled Appellation of Origin’ or the French ‘V.Q.P.R.D.’ There are currently seven qualified regions or products, all of them for sweet wine (including Samos).

Reserve and Grande Reserve

Producers of OPAP and OPE wines have the option to use the term Reserve for white wines that are aged for two years (spending a minimum of 6 months in barrel and 6 months in bottle) and red wines that are aged for 3 years (same minimums). Grand reserve can be used for white wines that age for three years or more (spending a minimum of one year in barrel and one year in bottle) and red wines that are aged for 4 years (spending a minimum of two years in barrel and two years in bottle). Naturally, the white Reserve and Grand Reserve are almost exclusively the domain of producers of what we in America would call dessert wines.

Topikos Inos

Topikos Inos (Local wine) is the Greek equivalent to the French Vins de pays. There are currently 139 qualifying appellations. This middle ground provides the greatest relief for individual producers hoping to gain an appellation on the basis of more innovative, original or, in some cases, traditional combinations of cultivar and location. Labels are permitted the use of confidence-inspiring domaine names, including, Domaine or Estate (Ktima), Monastary (Monastiri) and Chateau (Archondiko) and Villa so long as the requirement of sufficient locality is met. The guidelines are less strict and proposals for new designations are always under consideration. Within this category is a special designation, Appellation by Tradition, which includes Retsina and Verdea, and is designed to insure the quality and survival of distinct ethnic genres.

Epitrapezios Inos

Epitrapezios Inos (Table wine) is equivalent to the French Vin de Table. Not surprisingly, in Greece as in France and Italy, winemakers, frustrated by the limitations inherent in conforming to exisiting appellations, are increasingly opting out of the appellation game. Knowing full well that export markets tend to evaluate products on an individual basis, if not on the reputations and abilities of the winemakers themselves, many have chosen to simply opt out of the system. So many outstanding products began appearing as ‘Table wine’ during the last decade that for Americans deeply familiar with Greek wine, this designation has nearly become a mark of superior quality.

Kava

Producers of Table wine have the option to use the term Kava (rough translation: cellared, which in Greece is a qualititative association) for white wines that are aged for two years (spending a minimum of 6 months in barrel and 6 months in bottle) and for red wines that are aged for three years (spending a minimum of 6 months in new barrels).