Greek Sparkling Wines

14th March 2024


With its spellbinding landscape, a variety of terroirs, an enchanting array of indigenous grape varieties, and a fascinating recorded history of winemaking since the 7th century BC, Greece remains the place where one of the deepest wine cultures in the world was born, thrived throughout ancient times and is still thriving. Today, Greek winemakers, particularly those committed to organic winemaking, offer outstanding wines of high quality and affordable prices.

When it comes to sparkling wines, Greece may not be the country we are thinking of. And yet Greece does have a number of areas with a tradition of sparkling wines – αφρώδης οίνος, pronounced afrodis oinos. Though they are on the rise and being produced all over Greece today, they remain less well known than other sparkling wines from the Old World’s producing countries.

The main traditional PDO areas are Zitsa, Amyntaio, Rhodes and Mantineia.


The early Greek masters of sparkling wines were in Zitsa, a city located in the central and western part of the Ioannina district, in the mountainous region of Epirus (western Greece). Epirus sits on the Ionian coast and is bordered by Albania to the North. Considered as the most remote viticultural region of Greece, it is also its smallest PDO area, which was established in 1971. The vineyards are located at an average altitude of 700 meters on the steep sides of the mountains. The soil there is essentially limestone. The climate is cool and humid and benefits from the moderating effects of the winds blowing from the Ionian Sea. The indigenous grape varieties are the red vlahiko and bekari as well as the white debina, used to produce sparkling white wines. Production methods for sparkling wines range from the traditional method for PDO Zitsa wines to carbonated ones. The styles are fully sparkling, petillant or perlant for dry, off-dry or semi-dry wines. Following his stay in the area in October 1809, Lord Byron1, a dedicated philhellene, poet and strong advocate for the Greek War of Independence of 1821, was a great admirer of Zitsa and its wines.

A gem: Domaine Glinavos

Their sixty-hectare vineyards are located around the old town of Zitsa and planted at an altitude of 650 meters where a continental climate dominates. Two of their outstanding sparkling wines are Lefteris Glinavos Brut and Paleokerisio.

– Lefteris Glinavos Brut is produced with the traditional method and made with debina. Its rich foam, the complex aromas of citrus blossom, apple, pear, peach, white spices, yeast and brioche and its rich palate are just stunning.

– Paleokerisio, meaning ‘old-fashioned’, is made of 97 percent debina and 3 percent vlahiko. It is one of the most unexpected semi-sparkling wines: an off-dry orange wine in a 50-cl brown bottle with a crown cap. This traditional, local style has been revived by the Glinavos family and offers wonderful aromas of apple, candied orange peel, cinnamon and cloves with a palate of orange marmalade and ginger.


Shielded by Mount Vermio, with lakes nearby, Amyntaio is located in eastern Florina, in western Macedonia. It is the coldest wine region of Greece, with harsh winters and cool summers. Altitude ranges from 570 to 750 meters and alluvial soils prevail. Established in 1972, the PDO status consecrates the dark xinomavro, the ancient indigenous Macedonian grape variety, revered as the noblest red grape of northern Greece. The styles range from dry, semi-dry, sweet, semi-sweet, still and sparkling rosé wines. Most of these sparkling wines are made with the Charmat method (tank method) with a few exceptions preferring the traditional one. Amyntaio is named after Alexander the Great’s grandfather, Amyntas III, father of Philip II of Macedon and king of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedonia (circa 393 to 392 BC and again from 387 to 370 BC).

  • British poet (1788-1824). Byron joined the Greek War of Independence to fight the Ottoman Empire and died during that war after the siege of Missolonghi.

A gem: Domaine Karanika

The winery and one of their vineyards are located in the area of Levea where a sandy lime soil with a marl underlayer is similar to the terroir found in Champagne. The other vineyards are located in different villages, each with a specific terroir and ungrafted vines. Laurens Hartman and Annette von Kampen, the owners of Domaine Karanika, are leaders in Greece for sparkling wines with the traditional method. Their hand-riddled and disgorged sparklings are truly amazing. Both are dedicated to organic and biodynamic vine growing. The domaine is tractor-free!

– Rosé Brut: it is a velvet pink-gold sparkling, made of 98 percent xinomavro and 2 percent limniona – a grape variety thought to be originating from Thessaly and cultivated today in a number of Greek areas. This wine has fragrant aromas of wild strawberries, raspberries and yeast, a rich and high-quality foam achieved with a second fermentation in the bottle.


The largest island of the Dodecanese, known as the ‘Knights’ island’ for its occupation by the knights of Malta, celebrated for its famous Colossus – one of the Seven Wonders of the World – Rhodes has one of the longest wine histories in the world. Back in ancient times, its wines were highly appreciated and constituted a large source of revenue. Rhodes’ amphorae were distinctive and had a special seal.

As regards sparkling wines, the island was the main producing source for decades. Considered as the Greek ‘Champagne’, Rhodes’ sparkling wines were famous and ever-present at all kinds of celebrations across the country…

Rhodes has a Mediterranean climate that benefits from the cooling effect of gentle sea breezes. The soil is a mixture of sand, gravel, and clay, with higher levels of limestone in some areas. Phylloxera never landed in Rhodes and own-rooted indigenous grapes are a real treasure. The grape dedicated to sparkling whites with PDO designation (created in 2011), is athiri, mainly cultivated at a high altitude on the slopes of Mount Atavyros. The styles range from extra brut, brut, dry, semi-dry to semi-sweet and sweet wines.

A gem: CAIR

Founded in 1928 by Italians, CAIR – Compagnia Agricola Industriale Rodi – was bought up by the Agricultural Bank of Greece in 1947, after the reunification of the Dodecanese islands with Greece.

Historically, CAIR was the first company to produce sparkling wines with the traditional method. It also made viticulture financially viable for local vine growers and played an important role in the development of local sparkling wines.

– CAIR Brut Sparkling Dry: made with athiri, it is a pale gold wine with a complex bouquet of tropical fruits, kumquat, chamomile, and bread crust. Mouthfeel is balanced with flavours of quince, bergamot and lemongrass. It has light and tiny bubbles with a lingering foam.


It is located in Arcadia in the heart of the Peloponnese. A prestigious city of ancient times as a witness and player in the Peloponnesian wars, Mantineia is famous today for its production of fine PDO sparkling white wines. The absence of vine diseases in the area makes organic viticulture easy. The soil is a mixture of rocks and clay. The grape variety used in the production of traditional or tank-method sparkling wines is moschofilero, a pinkish aromatic grape in the PDO Mantineia for 85
percent, the remaining 15 percent being covered by a white grape variety named asproudes.

Moschofilero is grown at an altitude of 600 to 800 meters, thus enjoying a cool climate resulting in a slow and even ripening of the grapes.

A gem: Domaine Tselepos

Yannis Tselepos rescued the moschofilero grape from oblivion and started to vinify it in a mono- varietal way in order to highlight its unique characteristics. Domaine Tselepos focuses on terroir, and indigenous grape varieties as well as sustainability and a minimal environmental impact.

– Tselepos Amalia Brut NV is made with moschofilero, following the traditional method. It has a light lemon colour with hints of gold, and delicate flavours of rose, citrus flowers and biscuit. On the palate, it displays an array of refreshing citrus and green apples. It has a balanced acidity, a long aftertaste, fine and persistent bubbles.

The Pet-Nat phenomenon!

THE charismatic rebel of the sparkling wine world, Pet-Nat, pronounced ‘pet-naa’ and short for Pétillant Naturel, simply means ‘natural sparkling’. Dating back to the days when wines were often bottled before they had completely finished fermenting, thus predating the traditional method, this authentic, no-fuss process, known as the ancestral method, has been rediscovered and is gaining popularity in today’s natural winemaking movement. Technically speaking, Pet-Nat undergoes a simple bottle fermentation with natural yeasts. Nothing is added during the process, nothing is filtered out at the end. The wines have a low pressure – 2.5 to 3 bar compared to 5 to 6 bars for Champagne -, a lighter perlage and a low alcohol content. They often come in small quantities and are drunk young.

They offer a wide ‘funky’ range of unusual flavours and aromas and are festive and easy to drink.

Throughout Greece, from Thrace to the Ionian islands, winemakers have embraced this resurgence with many indigenous grape varieties such as assyrtiko, malagousia, savatiano, agiorgitiko, negoska, xinomavro, etc., with impressive results.

Historically associated with luxury and nobility, a symbol of status, sparkling wines have always been linked to celebrations and festive moments. Today’s Greek winemakers offer outstanding, sought-after sparkling wines that will take the wine-lover on a most enjoyable and timeless journey through mythology and history and will provide a heightened sensory experience.

*The following companies import all the wines mentioned in this article in the UK:
– Maltby and Greek:
– Southern Wine Roads:
– Agora Greek Delicacies:
– Cava Spiliadis :


Image Credit

Florence Tilkens Zotiades

Wine writer, conference speaker and international wine judge. Born and raised in France, she is an MA graduate in languages and business.. After 25 years in France, she returned to London and in 2016 became a certified sommelier. Recently she has become a course instructor in geo sensory tasting. She focuses on organic and biodynamic wines from Greece and France.