Grape growing and wine production is a common activity on all of the islands, regardless of size, while on some of them, it has become quite organised, chiefly in Rhodes of the Dodecanese.

Kos, which is the third largest of the Dodecanese islands, is the first stop for wine tourism in the Southern Aegean. After an extensive decline which almost led to their disappearance, the revived vineyards of Kos now produce Protected Geographic Indication (PGI) Kos wines.

Rhodian wines are considered unique. The mainly wine producing regions are the mountainous areas of western Rhodes and particularly the villages Embonas, Hagios Isidoros and Siana. The vineyards cover 600 hectares of land and the varieties grown are Athiri and Muscat, which produce white wine, as well as Mandilaria (or Amorgiano), which produces red wine. Rodofili (white fume), Chevalier de Rhodes (red wine), Zacosta and Archontiko (red wines, aged in oak barrels), Granrose (rose wine) and the white wine Muscat de Rhodes, produced from Muscat grapes, are worth a try.

In the Dodecanese, there are some opportunities to try locally made wines in Leros and in Lipsi. Patmos, where the Monastery of St John the Divine is a world monument (Unesco), will soon also be on the wine list.
It is said that Rhodes was the first island in the Aegean where a vineyard was cultivated and wine was produced. What is certain is that the Rhodians as early as the 7th century BC were the greatest wine merchants in the Mediterranean.

Thanks to Rhodes’ pivotal location near the mainland of Asia as a point of contact for the Greeks and the civilizations of the Orient, its importance to trade in the Hellenic world was enormous, considering it size.

Rhodes was known to be one of the first islands in the Aegean to adopt the cultivation of the grapevine and the vinification process. Aided by its powerful naval forces, Rhodes became the foremost merchant of wines and crops by the middle 7th century BC, which brought incredible wealth to the island.

Archealogical discoveries, inscriptions and literary sources are the main sources of information about wine trade of ancient times. Thanks to this wealth of evidence we know that amphorae, earthern storage vessels, were mainly used in transporting and trading Rhodian wines. Amphorae were also used to transport other products such as oil, olives and dried fruit. In Rhodes less than 5% of the stamped handles from the amphorae found were foreign, an indication that local containers and products prevailed and the island was self-sufficient.
The time of the day when Greeks gather around the table to enjoy a meal or various hors d’oeuvres (mezedes) with ouzo or wine is a tradition that every Greek maintains with reverence. A deeply entrenched social custom is when Greeks share a meal with friends at home, in a restaurant or a tavern. The Greek word “symposium” -a word that is as old as Greece itself- literally means “drinking with friends”.

The atmosphere in an ordinary Greek restaurant or tavern is relaxing, simple and informal. The preparation of the food on the other hand has its own sacred rules. Good amateur cooks are highly respected in their social circle, while a good housewife in Greece mainly signifies a good cook. And a good cook can spend days preparing a meal for his/her friends.

Sip a glass of ouzo or wine with grilled octopus or any other Greek dish while sitting under the shade of a tree in a small tavern by the sea on an island in the Aegean. When you return home, try to repeat this experience by preparing the same meal and serving the same drink. Wherever you try to repeat this, you will soon realize that it does not taste the same. It’s not that something is wrong with your palate or your culinary skills; it’s that the Greek ritual when eating a meal –mainly a combination of what you are eating and where you are eating it- cannot be repeated, extracted or copied. It is simply something you can only find, taste and enjoy in Greece.
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