The wine bar scene of Athens is quite a recent development, and its introduction has been extremely successful and unique. One could characterize it as phenomenal. Prior to that dynamic explosion, spending an evening savouring top Greek and foreign wines meant going to fancy and expensive restaurants and paying equally impressive bills. But the recent growth of wine bars around the city has made tasting good wine more accessible to a broader public.
What makes Athenian wine bars so unique and popular is the clever synergy of wine with Greek culture, and, needless to say, food. Greek wines – the sheer variety and quality is something that cannot be ignored- have been introduced along with international labels on extensive wine lists that are sprinkled in the feel- good attitude of Greek culture.
The owners of the bars are people who not only love wine, but are devoted to the whole concept of bringing the public closer to wine, in bars with a modern look, laid-back atmosphere, well-informed wine lists, light dishes and budget friendly prices. You see, they are people that truly love their trade!That brings good Greek wine closer to an even younger crowd, but also tourists and foreigners. Wine bar owners wish to treat a glass of wine as a daily use product and not as something rare and exquisite, thus they strive to offer their clients a lot of qualitative and good priced choices in a chilled out, or occasionally party atmosphere. People start to get to know wine better and learn what to ask for when in wine bars, they become more demanding in a good sense and that automatically sets the standards higher.
Greece has over a 4000-year history of wine production. The region of Attica, to which Athens belongs, has a variety of wine makers that have shown that the region exhibits all the necessary qualities to produce world class wines. It is one of the oldest winemaking areas of Greece and where Dionysus, the God of Wine, introduced the culture of wine to the Greeks. The Greek historian Thucydides once wrote:
“The peoples of the Mediterranean began to emerge from barbarism when they learned to cultivate the olive and the vine”.
Let’s have a look at what mezes are. Mezes are small dishes- appetizers to the international traveler’s vocabulary- that are served with food in what is not considered as a proper meal but light, small dishes that accompany different types of wine and make the whole process a typically Greek experience. Wine bars have invested in that concept and hired culinary staff and informed sommeliers that are trained, knowledgeable and capable of looking around for new trends in wine-food pairing, which is clear from the bar menus. All this makes up the phenomenon of wine bars that has conquered the centre of Athens and made the wine bar category one of the top choices among all age groups when it comes to spending a beautiful evening out with friends.
Here’s a short selection of top Athenian wine bars!
Heteroclito: a wine destination in the historical centre of Athens, where one can get to know and taste the Greek vineyard and the Greek Wine Brands. Follow the wine routes around Greece, discover the best out of all local varieties –known, famous, special, rare, different, unique and unknown ones- try a glass of wine made by Greek producers, find your favorite labels among known brands and expand your wine horizons tasting wines from new, promising producers who recommend new wine experiences.
*30 Petraki Str., Athens
By the Glass: “By the glass” carries one of the most distinct, updated and exciting wine lists in Greece. It is the spot to be for every wine lover that may choose from 250 different wine labels which include Greek and international grape varieties, unique magnum bottles, old vintages and rare collectors’ wines. More than 50 of them are served by the glass.
*3 G. Souris Str. & Philellinon, Athens
Cinque: A wine and deli bar. The wine list contains approx 30 wines from the greek vineyard, all in a glass of 150 ml. They offer free wine tasting of traditional and local Greek grapes so you can choose which wine is your favorite. The food menu contains sandwiches, toasts, plate with Greek cheeses or charcuterie, greek sausage, pastrami some authentic greek recipes and salads.
*15 Agatharchou Str, Psyri, Athens
Oinoscent: Dishes wisely selected to pair wonderfully more than 700 labels from all over the world. They regularly host wine tastings with local and foreign producers.
*45-47 Voulis Str. Syntagma , Athens
Kiki de Grèce: Tiny but cute wine bar right in the heart of Athens with a seasonal list of 35 labels all served also in glass. Selective menu with tastes full of Greek colors. They organize thematic “aperitivo” evenings. You can sit outside.
*38 Voulis & Ipitou Str. Syntagma, Athens
But let’s hear more about Kiki’s from oenologist Matina, in these short Q&As.
1. How would you describe kiki de Grece in a few words?
Kiki de Grece is a wine bistro in the center of the city, with a special love towards food and wine combinations. Kiki’s chefs prepare with care and creativity simple dishes accompanied with a wide variety of wine labels in a glass. Kiki is found in a hidden neoclassical pedestrian street in the heart of Athens, with tables on the outside area and a nice cozy living room inside the bar.
2. Have you discovered some Greek wine lately that has really impressed your palate?
Recently, the whole service team of our wine bar has been intrigued by Attiko Ampelona and the revival of Retsina, we’ve been trying out wines from local wineries. The latest surprise has been Pine Forest from Gikas winery located in the area of Spata, a brilliant variety of asyrtikos wine that had the most pleasant aroma of masticha and pine (qualities of good retsina wine). All of our clients that were served this wine without knowing it’s a retsina, were quite impressed by the high quality of wine. ***
***Note: During the past retsina was associated with poor wine quality.
3. Which wine variety is first in preferences of foreign visitors this summer in your wine bar?
Foreign visitors usually ask for white wine from Santorini, but we, on our part, try to communicate all remarkable varieties as for instance a glass of Vidiano or Malagouzia. It is also worth mentioning that they don’t hesitate to try red wines that usually impress them with their velvet character, like Nemea variety achieves that, and also their maturity and nerve like a dry Mavrodafni glass of wine can offer.
4. Please suggest us an ideal combination of food and wine for a hot August summer night.
Depending on the occasion and the season the term “ideal” differs…Picturing in my mind a hot August night there is always a wine cooler filled with ice on the table and inside it a frozen sparkling Assyrtiko wine from the wineries of North Greece, with nerve, volume and lively refreshing bubbles. Next to that image I’ d place seafood with some character. From our menu I would definitely choose octopus carpaccio with taramosalata mousse (the salted and cured roe of the cod, carp, or grey mullet mixed with olive oil, lemon juice, and a starchy base of bread or potatoes) and also croaker fillet in olive, lemon and caper sauce combined with greens.
(Kiki de Grece will be open daily during August from 4 pm)