Before the advent of fast food joints and fancy restaurants, Athenians were partial to koutoukia, small taverns-cum-wine bars that served white wine from the small viticultural communities north-east of Athens. A good koutouki’s trademark was an impressive collection of casks containing different wines and the habitués always had their favorite one. Wine was served by the kilo in coloured pewter jugs, which are still used by many Greek tavernas.
Mesogaia is considered the birthplace of retsina. The local grape, the sturdy Savatiano, can produce excellent resinated wines, as well as a large range of non-resinated, dry whites. Over the past 30 years, there have been so many successful experimental vinifications of the Savatiano, that it is now considered one of the most interesting grapes Greece has to offer. It is still the number one crop in the prefecture of East Attica, which is also famous for its royal figs and high-quality pistachios. Two other areas on the outskirts of Athens have important vineyards: one to the north, extending from Stamata to the village of Afidnes, and one to the west, centered around the town of Megara.
At the turn of the 20th century, there were thousands of hectares of grapes planted all across Attica, which was Greece’s most important wine-producing region. Sadly, most of them have now disappeared as the city expanded in all directions, especially from the mid-sixties onwards. In Attica, the problem is compounded by the fact that land ownership is divided into thousands of plots, making it all but impossible for grape-growers to realize economies of scale, leading many of them to abandon viticulture altogether.
When Athens airport relocated in 2001 from the western suburb of Glyfada to its current location in Spata, more than 1,800 hectares of vineyards were sacrificed in the process. However, this was offset by a decree ruling that all the surrounding land will remain farmland indefinitely. This has saved a large part of Attica’s vineyards, which have always been centered around Spata, Markopoulo and Koropi.