logo graperoverPlease see HERE the Ionion Islands wineries.

The Ionian Islands are a group of islands in the Ionian Sea, off the west coast of Greece. While not as famous viticulturally as the islands of the Aegean Sea, where Santorini and Samos make some of Greece’s most famous wines, the Ionian Islands have a rich winegrowing history. Most wines are made from native and local grape varieties such as RobolaVertzami and Kakotrygis.

The archipelago stretches for 170 miles (275km), with the northernmost island, Corfu, running parallel to Albania, and the southernmost, Zakynthos, sitting off the coast of the Peloponnese peninsula. Lefkas is the closest to the mainland, separated only by a thin canal. Only 65 miles (105km) separates Corfu with Puglia, Italy, to the north-east.

The Ionian island of Ithaki is thought to be the home of Odysseus in Homer’s epic Odyssey and wine from both Cephalonia and Corfu is mentioned in the story, suggesting that viticulture here dates back at least 2500 years. However, the most important period in the viticultural history of the region is the Middle Ages, when the Ionian islands were ruled by the Venetians. The widely planted Robola grape variety is the same as the Italian Ribolla, and the Vertzami grape planted extensively on Lefkas shares parentage with the Marzemino grape variety of northern Italy.

Along with planting vineyards, the Venetians also introduced currants and olive trees to the islands, both of which now far surpass wine as the chief agricultural output of the region. In the 20th Century, a major earthquake, an outbreak of phylloxera, immigration and more recently, the bustling tourism industry, have spelt a significant reduction in the size of the Ionian vineyard.