Athens Wine Bars
By Maria Dimou
Photos by Sissy Morfi
At last, Greece's capital has a wine bar scene worthy of the country's wines. Spurred on by Athenians looking for a less expensive way to dine out, more and more wine-friendly spots and dedicated wine bars have been opening, allowing locals and visitors alike to explore moschofilero, agiorgitiko, xinomavro and assyrtiko.
Wine Point, next to the Acropolis Museum, is where locals in their early forties mingle after 6 pm. Xenofon Stavropoulos has curated a list of almost 200 exclusively Greek wines, with a rotating selection of 25 served by the glass. Check out Stavropoulos's "producer of the month" page, or take a wine flight with a selection of native varieties, including rarities like Muses Estate Mouhtaro, accompanied with local delicacies like kavourmas, a meaty pâté. Smoking is allowed.
Wine Point, A. Diakou & Porinou 2, Syntagma; +30 210 922 7050
By the Glass
Standing out in the midst of the art nouveau architecture of Syntagma Square, there’s a high-ceilinged building from the 1800s, home to By the Glass, the newest entry on the Athens wine map. Here, Fotini Pantzia offers more than 40 wines in 25-ml, 75-ml and 150-ml pours, and more than 150 selections by the bottle, most of them Greek. Pair the velvety Gaia Agiorgitiko with a traditional onion-filled phyllo pie, or the expressive Techni Oinou Malagouzia with the spicy chicken with ginger and orange zest. Whether you stop in for a snack or a full dinner, Pantzia's team of sommeliers can guide you through a list rich with roditis, mavrotragano and other indigenous Greek grapes.
By the Glass, Georgiou Souri 3, Syntagma; +30 210 323 2560
Heteroclito, a vibrant, cozy French-style bistro, straddles the border between the shopping district and the historical center of Athens. It's the perfect place to take a break while you walk around the city. Madeline Lorantos and Dimitris Koumanis have packed the wine list with intriguing finds from all over Greece, pouring 20 of them by the glass and offering all 150 selections at outstanding prices. Every month they highlight two steals, selling them at 2.5€ a glass (150 ml). When you're sitting there with a glass of spicy Rossiu di Munte Vlachiko and nibbling on local charcuterie like salami from Lefkada and mezes such as dakos, a barley rusk with finely chopped tomato, caper and cream cheese from Zakynthos, Heteroclito feels as Greek as it gets.
Heteroclito, Fokionos 2 & Petraki, Syntagma; +30 210 323 9406, heteroclito.gr
Oinoscent, attached to an active wine shop, was one of the first places to spark interest in wine bars, attracting wine lovers as soon as it opened in 2008. Run by the Agapitos brothers and a well-informed team of sommeliers, it boasts more than 700 labels from around the world, a monthly selection of 35 wines served by the glass and a wine flight that changes weekly. Among the Greeks on offer are many sought-after wines from indigenous varieties such as the floral Bosinakis Moschofilero, as well as some international varieties done well, like the crisp Pavlidis Estate Chardonnay. Settle in and order some snacks—maybe crunchy chip-like lazania leaves, charcuterie plates and Greek cheeses such as Arseniko from Naxos.
Oinoscent, Voulis 45-47, Syntagma; +30 210 322 9374, oinoscent.gr
One of the newest entries on the Athens wine map, Harvest may not have the most extensive list of Greek wines in the city, but its location—on a busy corner not far from the downtown Central Market—and inviting tapas-bar ambience indoors and outdoors makes it a terrific place to stop for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up. There are always some good choices among the 25 wines Irene Limtsiouli pours by the glass, like Gerovassiliou's Malagousia, a fragrant, bright white that echoes the Mediterranean breeziness of the place.
Harvest, Evripidou & Aiolou 64; +30 213 025 2284
Fabrica de Vino
In the winter, Fabrica de Vino is an industrial space defined by a long bar, the showcase for the 500 wines on the list. Most of those are Greek, and almost 80 are served by the glass, in 75-ml and 150-ml portions. In the summer, Nektarios Kefalas and his team take the bar to the beach, with the tabletops sitting on oak barrels, the sand ten feet away. In either place, Kefalas wants you to fall in love with Greek wines, and encourages you to seek out a somm and tell him your interests; maybe he’ll pull the Voyatzi Estate Tsapournakos or Hatzidakis’s mineral-rich assyrtiko from Santorini for your chicken wrapped in vine leaves. Depending on the evening, there may be live music playing, making Fabrica a vibrant spot to conclude your wine-bar hopping.
Fabrica de Vino, Emmanouil Benaki 3; Summer Location, Fabrica de Vino in the Sand: Akti Ilios, Alimos, Cabana beach; +30 210 321 4148
Note: Most spots close for a couple of weeks in mid-August.