Every year, the number of visitors to Greece seems to increase, with predictions indicating that this year will set yet another record.

Moreover, it looks like tourists are starting to arrive earlier each year, particularly in popular destinations such as Santorini and the rest of the Cyclades, and, of course, Athens. The tourism industry is thriving, bringing with it both advantages and disadvantages for a country that welcomes millions of visitors annually.

During our visit to Santorini in early May for our article focusing on the island’s distinctive terroir and exceptional wines, we discovered that the tourist season there had already commenced. The narrow alleys of Oia were bustling with activity, and the wineries we explored were already open to visitors eager to taste the unique Assyrtiko wine and indulge in Santorini’s local delicacies.

The Cycladic islands have always been synonymous with the Greek summer, offering their visitors deep blue waters, wonderful beaches, plenty of sun, great hospitality, and excellent food. Perhaps less well known is the fact that they also produce very good wine; in fact, they’re home to some of the most important Greek varieties.

Most of the wineries on these islands are open to visitors, offering their guests the opportunity to try some really excellent wines, often in places that allow them to enjoy stunning views of the Aegean, too. The wines are usually complemented by an array of local agricultural and dairy products, making the Cyclades a true haven for food and drink enthusiasts seeking the authentic flavors of Greece. After all, the local cuisine is based on centuries-old recipes which have been passed on from generation to generation.

The Aegean islands might be top of the list for anyone who wishes to enjoy a classic Greek summer, but Greece has a lot more to offer than its beautiful islands.

The region of Messinia in the southwestern part of the Peloponnese has become a favorite destination. Thanks to one man’s vision, the entire area is now attracting visitors searching for an alternative to the Greek islands, and offering those interested in exploring the region’s rich history a variety of attractions from which to choose.

This is a region with a rich culinary tradition that celebrates outstanding local products and has recently claimed its own spot on Greece’s wine map, with the appearance of a number of wineries, most of them open to visitors.

If you’re traveling to the north of Greece, you really should visit the region of Epirus, in the northwestern part of the country. This area’s wild mountainous terrain, its many gorges, stone bridges and beautiful traditional villages – the most famous of which are in the Zagori area – attract a slew of visitors who enjoy hiking its trails or rafting in its rivers. The local cuisine is absolutely delicious – Epirus is famous for its savory pies, but one can also enjoy a number of other delicacies, ranging from gulfraised shrimp in the vicinity of the town of Arta to smoked eel and even excellent fish roe; the latter, too, are locally produced.

Not known to the wider world for its wine, this region is, in fact, home to some of the rarest Greek indigenous varieties; a trip here is a rare opportunity to taste wines that are really unique.

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“Greece is a true cornucopia of genetic material, an inexhaustible collection of historically significant and, in certain cases, increasingly rare grape varieties,” writes Grigoris Michailos, Dip WSET. “It only takes a 20-minute drive from downtown Athens to reach a hardy patch of head-trained Savatiano vines to verify this fact.

Greece grows many different exciting varieties in every corner of the country. As tempting as it is to dismiss these grapes in the presence of the ‘king’ of Greek grapes, the amazing Assyrtiko, these other varieties are important here, too, having been grown in their places of origin for centuries.”

From the sun-drenched beaches to the cool cel- lars of its wineries, Greece promises an unforgettable journey. Raise a glass of Assyrtiko on a Santorini terrace – or a glass of any other Greek wine of your choice wherever you may happen to be – and let the flavors transport you through centuries of winemaking tradition as you toast to the beauty and the richness of what you’ll find here in Greece.

In the words of the ancient Greek poet Homer, “Wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile.” This summer, let the wines of Greece beguile your senses and create memories that will linger long after the season has passed.

Cheers to the magic of Greek summer and the timeless allure of its wines!

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