Thessaly is a wine region located on the mainland of Greece and bordered by Greek Macedonia, the Aegean Sea, and Central Greece. Thessaly covers a region of approximately 14 000 square kilometers and has a thriving viticulture industry. Most of the wine industry of Thessaly is located in the mountains surrounding the region. The reason for this is that grapes grown on the mountain slopes are superior in quality due to the area’s heavy and rich organic soils. The wines of Thessaly of packed with flavor and a wonderful taste of the wonders of Greek winemaking.
High-Quality Greek Wines from the Mountains of Thessaly
The mountainous wine region of Thessaly is perfect for Greek viticulture thanks to the rich and fertile soils that are found on the mountain slopes.
The climate of the region is perfectly Mediterranean with warm and dry summers followed by rain-soaked winters. Despite this, many of the parts of the region that are located more inland have more continental climatic influences, particularly in the higher mountain regions. In these high mountain areas, the vines are exposed to cold mountain winds and snow melted water that help keep them cool during the growing season. This contributes to the development of the perfect level of acidity in the grapes.
The soils of the Thessaly wine region are very diverse depending on the area within the region. In some areas the soil is sandy with deposits of clay that provide for excellent drainage. In other regions the soil is comprised of iron rich schist. Other soil types found in the region include fertile loams along the lower altitudes and well drained rocky soils on the mountain slopes.
Distinct Territories from Mountain Areas to Lower Laying Lands
Within Thessaly, there are three PDO areas: Rapsani, Mesenikola, and Anchialos. Rapsani is considered an up-and-coming region and is located near to the valley of Tempi alongside the mountain of Ossa. The vineyards in Rapsani are planted so that they have a southeast exposure to the sun. The grape varietals that are grown in Rapsani include Xinomavro, Krassato, and Stavroto – all of which are red. Mesenikola is located in the lower lying lands of Thessaly. Mavro Messsenikola wine is produced here, which is a blend of local and international grape varietals. In Anchialos the vineyards are planted along the Pagassitikos Bay coastline. This area is known for the growth of white grape varietals and the production of white wines.
The diverse wines produced in the Thessaly region range from dense red wines made with Messenikola and Xinomavro grapes to aromatic, light, and fresh white wines made using the Roditis grape varietal.
Most of the red wines produced in Thessaly are blends made using Xynomavro, Krasato, and Stavroto grapes. In some regions, some red blends are made to include Syrah and Carignan grapes. When producing blends, Mavro Messenikola grapes are normally paired with international Syrah and Carignan grapes. These wines have a distinct dark red color with intense aromas of sour red cherries. They are medium-bodied and easy on the palate. It is a requirement that Rapsani wines are a combination of equal proportions of Xinomavro, Stavroto, and Krasato grapes. These grapes must also be vinified together. Rapsani wines carry aromas of raisins with hints of fresh raspberries. The palate of these wines is medium-bodied with smooth touches of vanilla and caramel, finished with rich fruits.
In the Achialos POD of Thessaly, the red wines that are produced are made using the Rhoditis and Savatiano varietals. These white wines are young, light, dry, and have low levels of alcohol. They are also well balanced with citrus and grass aromas.
The Meteora Monasteries in Thessaly are considered by many to be the miracle of Greece. Just outside of the town of Kalambaka, rise the impressive Meteora rocks from the plains of Thessaly. These imposing rocks reach to over 600m above the earth and are also home to one of Greece’s most important monastic communities. Meteora is the perfect place to explore the impressive natural landscape and learn more anout the Byzantine culture in the monasteries perched on the steep rocks. Today there are six active monasteries at the Meteora, which in 1988 were declared UNESCO World Heritage sites. Meteora is also home to a range of local flora and fauna to further impress nature lovers.
Skopelos – The Mamma Mia Island!
The picture-perfect island of Skopelos is best known for being the main filming location of the Hollywood movie Mamma Mia. This island is located between Skiathos and Alonissos and is the perfect tourist destination for all who visit. The two main villages of Skopelos are Town and Glossa, which both boast breathtaking views of the surrounding Aegean Sea. The beaches at Skopelos cannot be beaten anywhere else in Greece. The best way to access Skopelos is by ferry from the ports of Volos or Agios Konstantinos on the Greek mainland.
Kalambaka – The Town that Guards the Meteora
Kalambaka is known as the town that guards the holy and impressive nearby Meteora. The town has a long and rich history and was burned to the ground by the Nazis in World War II. The current town is an entire reconstruction after this tragedy. The highlight of Kalambaka is its location immediately in front of the imposing Meteora. It is also home to one of the most magnificent Byzantine churches and some very interesting and informative museums. Not to be missed is the weekly Friday Kalambaka market.
The Breathtaking Natural Scenery of Thessaly
A visit to Thessaly is a true journey through the wonders of nature. Thessaly has a very varied and diverse natural landscape that includes islands, gulfs, mountains, plains, rivers, oceans, and lakes. This natural paradise provides the perfect snapshot of all of what natural Greece has to offer.
The natural paradise of Pelion
Pelion is often described as the most perfect corner of Greece. This secluded stretch of coast is dotted with quaint fishing villages and deserted beaches where one can spend house swimming and cutting off from the outside world. Pelion has a range of activities and sites that can provide joy to any traveler. Besides the beaches, another site not to be missed in Pelion is the balconies of Pagasitikos. These rocky outcrops provide wonderful views of the Pagasitikos Gulf. For adventure lovers, Pelion is home to the Agriolefkes ski resort that sits at 1470m above sea level. They have four slopes to accommodate advanced skiers and beginners. After all the excitement of the ski slopes and the beaches be sure to unwind while exploring the local villages and their wonderful local cuisine.
Alonissos – The Hidden Gem of Thassely
Although Alonissos is often left off the main tourist itineraries to Thessaly, it is without a doubt the hidden gem of the region. Alonissos exudes the laid-back atmosphere of Greece with its stretches of pristine beaches and bright blue ocean waters. The locals are well known for their warm and friendly hospitality and welcome visitors with open arms. Alonissos is a true example of untouched Greece away from the tourists and the crowds. The island is the perfect place to recharge and relax while enjoying the local environment and delicious fresh seafood.
Plastiras Lake – Little Switzerland in Greece
Lake Plastiras is Thessaly is also known as Little Switzerland thanks to its idyllic scenery. This lake is the largest artificial lake in Greece and is where the Tavropos and Achelous rivers meet. The beauty of the lake is created by its alpine peaks, snowcapped mountains, narrow rivers and luscious green hills. Along the scenery there are a number of quaint villages as well as a botanical garden. Lake Plastiras provides a number of activities and attractions including water sports, walking and hiking, skiing and swimming.
National Marine Park – The National Marine Park of Alonissos and Noerthern Sporades
The National Marine Park of Alonissos and Noerthern Sporades was the first marine part that was ever established in Greece. Today it is the largest marine protected area in all of Europe. This Marine Park was established in 1992 in order to protect the local area and its marine and land animals. Visitors to the park are welcome to enjoy taking pictures, swimming, diving, sightseeing and walking through the reserve to observe the wildlife.
The Taste of Thessaly
The Thessaly region is a smorgasbord of tastes and flavours for everyone to enjoy. The cuisine of the region is characteristically rustic and often includes plenty of meat. The area is well known across Greece for its excellent cold meats and sausages. Thessaly is a wonderland for foodies and offers something for everyone to enjoy.
Skopelitiki Tiropita – The Savoury Pastry of Skopelos
Skopelitiki Tiropita is a local dish of Thessaly that is a cheese filled pastry, traditionally prepared on the island of Skopelos. The cheese used in this dish is local goat milk feta cheese which is mixed with local olive oil. The dough for the pastry is made with all-purpose flour, water, salt, vinegar and olive oil. This dough mixture is worked until it has a soft and elastic consistency. It is then rolled out, drizzled with olive oil, filled with the feta cheese and made into a spiral shape. The pastry is then deep friend until golden brown and crispy. For a healthier option, it can also be baked in the oven. Skopelitiki Tiropita is normally enjoyed as an appetizer accompanied by a freshly brewed coffee.
Kouneli Stifado – Traditional Greek Stew
Kouneli Stifado is a traditional Greek stew that is made with rabbit meat that is cooked with tomato paste, onions, fresh tomatoes, garlic, red wine, red wine vinegar, olive oil, and chicken stock. These ingredients are flavoured with local herbs such as oregano, rosemary, cumin, black pepper, salt and cinnamon. Kouneli Stifado is best-eaten piping hot with a slice of crusty bread and a local Greek red wine. Soul warming food at its best!
Galotyri – Deliciously Soft Greek Cheese
Galotyri is a soft Greek cheese. This cheese gets its name from the Greek words ‘galo’ meaning milk and ‘tyri’ meaning cheese. Galotyri is a milky cheese that is made from both milk and yoghurt. Traditionally, Galotyri is made in Thessaly using sheep or goat milk, or a mixture of the two, as well as a bit of salt for flavour. The cheese is produced mainly in August when the milk of the sheep and goats is thicker and fattier. Galotyri is a creamy, rindless, soft cheese with a fresh flavour. It has a slightly sour aroma and is often used as a replacement for feta cheese.
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Soil: Sandy clay, iron rich schist, fertile loam and rocky soils