Central Greece is a very large department, including the important viticultural areas of Thessaly, the island of Evia (Euboea), Viotia (Boeotia) and Attica. There are very few places in Greece where the shift of attitudes in viticulture, which has been taking place in the last few decades, is more evident than here. In the past, vine growing in Central Greece was dominated by large-scale vineyards, in flat, hot and fertile areas, like Anchialos in Thessaly, the Viotia plain, Lilandio plain in Evia and the vast area of Messogia in Attica. The predominant grape varieties were Roditis and Savatiano. Producers of that era were focused on bulk wine and cheap prices, with respectable, but not inspiring, quality.
The 80s saw a strong wind of change in wine-making philosophies. The young generation of wine growers questioned the established vineyard areas, the traditional varieties and cultivation techniques. First, they opted for cooler areas – in the foothills of Mt Olympus, in the Atalanti Valley, in Dirfi or Ritsona in Evia, or on mountains further south, like Kitherona, Gerania or Penteli. All these areas are much colder than expected and altitudes range from 200 to over 700 metres (650-2,300ft). The second stage was selecting the correct new varieties to plant. Three trends developed swiftly and concurrently – planting native varieties from other parts of Greece, mainly Assyrtiko and Malagousia, going for internationals, principally Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, or resurrecting forgotten local grapes, like Limniona in Thessaly, Mavrokoundoura in Evia or Mouhtaro in Viotia. Many producers adopted one, two or all of these different approaches, with stunning results, making many of the New Wines of Greece triumphs.
Rapsani is the most important appellation of the zone, located on the lower parts of Mt Olympus. Of course, “lower” does not signify low altitude, as vineyards reach up to 700 metres (2,300 ft) in altitude. The varietal composition of Rapsani is defined as equal amounts of Xinomavro, Stavroto, and Krasato. At its best, it shows balanced oak, ripe –but not overly sweet– fruit, modest herbs, silky tannins, extract and presence. Réserve and Grande Réserve bottlings can be stunning and deserve keeping for many years.
Other appellations in Central Greece include the lesser known Messenikola and Anchialos. Messenikola is located in Karditsa, very close to the stunning Lake Plastira, and produces red wine from the local Mavro grape, blended with Syrah and Carignan. Anchialos is close to the Volos port in Thessaly, producing white wine from Savatiano and Roditis.
Finally, Attica is the general area of Athens and, in terms of volume, the most significant area of Greece. Attica is extremely important for Greek wine, not only for vine-growing reasons, but also for being the location of Athens, Greece’s capital. Athens is the wine trade’s capital and many fashions are born here first. However, the importance of Athens is a double-edged sword for neighbouring viticultural areas, since increasing urbanisation makes the maintenance of vineyards uneconomical or just unwise. However, the possible vanishing of the Attica vineyard and its rich heritage would be a great shame.