Ionian Islands

The seven Ionian Islands sit off the westernmost part of Greece enjoy a mild climate with abundant rainfall in contrast to the arid climate of Cyclades. The islands of the Ionian Sea have their distinct cultural identity with marked Italian influences, as they escaped Turkish conquest and remained instead under Venetian rule. The undisputed star of this region is Cephalonia. The largest and far reaching Ionian island in terms of viticulture and the only one to possess three different PDOs. Mountainous and steep, with the imposing figure of Aenos mountain sitting in the heart of the island, Cephalonia is a ‘Noah’s Ark’ for grape varieties with a prodigious vine biodiversity. From all the grape varieties grown in the island the elegant and refreshing Robola produces some of the finest whites in Greece especially on the high-altitude, rocky, limestone slopes of Mount Aenos. Its style is floral and fat with character and herbal undertones yet possessing high level of complexity and moderate ability for aging.  Other notable local grapes are Tsaousi, Vostilidi, Zakinthino, Moscatela and Tsigelo the small-berried clone of Mavrodaphne increasingly vinified in exotically perfumed dry versions with some bottlings from prephyloxera vines being absolutely exquisite.

For the rest of the Ionian Islands things are more quiet but a wine enthusiast has many gems to discover. Zakynthos is best known for its Verdea, a traditional –multi varietal dry white that is aged for several years. Lately however significant strides are also being made with the Avgoustiatis variety. Corfu and Lefkada have limited presence with Kakotrygis in Corfu and Vertzami in Lefkada yet deserve a mention.