Greece and her islands were the cradle of Western Civilization: they gave the world astronomy and philosophy, painting and sculpture, literature and music… and the science and art of winemaking.
In antiquity, the wines of Greece were traded throughout the Mediterranean and beyond. And when Greek explorers ventured west and colonized Italy, they brought with them their grapes and viticulture and in doing so, they established a tradition of winemaking that endures in continental Europe to this very day.
Today, Greece has once again returned to the forefront of the world of wine and the historic Boutari winery has paved the way as a leader in the production of quality wines, the revival of native Greek grape varieties, and the face of Greek wine tourism and hospitality. From its flagship winery in Naoussa (the first Greek winery to bottle red wine) to its state-of-the-art hospitality center and interactive multi-media screening room in Santorini, Boutari represents the past, present, and future of fine winemaking in the Mediterranean.
When Yiannis Boutari first opened a winemaking facility more than a century ago Naoussa, where Boutari’s flagship winery continues to produce the group’s most collectible wines, Greek wine was predominantly white and until that time, no Greek winemaker had shipped red wine in bottle (it had traditionally been sold locally in bulk). In answer to a call for quality Greek wines by the community of ex-patriot Greeks living in the south of France, Yiannis became the first Greek winemaker to bottle and ship his red wines abroad and the first Greek winemaker to bottle red wine.
“The first red wine bottled in Greece was Naoussa Boutari,” says Dr. Yannis Voyatzis (above), who has served as Boutari’s chief enologist for more than three decades. “When Boutari first bottled it in the early twentieth century, it was produced from [the native grape variety] Xinomavro in majority and some other local varieties. From the beginning, Naoussa Boutari has always been perceived as a top-quality Greek red wine in exports and in the domestic market as well.”
The next phase of major development at Boutari began in the 1960s, when Yiannis Boutari’s grandchildren Yannis and Konstantinos replanted a 60-hectare vineyard, replacing the traditional “bush” or “basket” training method with contemporary techniques (to this day, however, Boutari employs bush training in its historic vineyards on the island of Santorini; see below). During this period, Boutari became one of the first Greek wineries to introduce temperature-controlled fermentation and it build large cellaring facilities where its winemakers began to age the wines in oak casks.
In the 1980s, the Boutari family began to expand its enterprise, acquiring new vineyards and taking advantage of the many diverse and distinct terroirs of Greek and her islands. This period also saw the creation and development of Boutari’s pioneering program for clonal research and the revival of native Grape varieties.
“In Naoussa,” says Dr. Voyatzis, “the company preserved the local variety Xinomavro when it had almost been abandoned. In Mantinia, it save Moschofilero from extinction Moschofilero, today the most popular Greek variety.”
Today, Boutari’s six estates offer the contemporary wine lover and enthusiast a wide variety of flavors through a happy balance of international and native grapes and traditional and modern winemaking styles.