The Epirus route in Ioannina Prefecture spans an area in the northwest corner of the country that’s known for its mountain ranges, picturesque lakes and serene gulfs. Its Metsovo and Zitsa wine-making regions have three wineries, each of which produces a variety of bottles. A tranquil and scenic place to try the finest wines alongside local dishes, the Epirus route is also home to plenty of year-round attractions to complement the wine experience, from winter sports and cultural landmarks to natural beauty spots.
As the first winery cooperative in northwest Greece, Zoinos was established in 1974 in the sloping village of Zitsa at an altitude of 2,296ft. Though it’s now made using innovative methods, Zoinos wine retains the original unique character that comes from the debina white grape variety and the Zitsa microclimate. Aside from high-quality dry whites, Zoinos also produces orange wine, dry rosé, pink sparkling and aged tsipouro, a grape distillate similar to Italian grappa. Worth visiting nearby is the crystal Kalamas River and green valleys at the site of the Theogefyro, a natural stone arc bridge that collapsed in 2018. Wine tastings and guided tours start from €3 (£2.60) per person.
Visiting times 9am-2pm Monday to Friday; weekends by appointment
Zoinos Winery, Zitsa, 440 03, Ioannina
Founded in 1978, the 145-acre Glinavos winery not far from Zoinos fulfilled a dream for Lefteris Glinavos, who became one of Greece’s first oenologists after studying in Bordeaux. A tour starts in the vineyards with an introduction to the grape varieties and continues through the wine-making areas, cellars and bottling facility. In the tasting salon, visitors can try the wines paired with local delicacies, such as debina with barbecued eel. The tasting room terrace has a stunning view of the vineyards framed by the imposing Pindos Mountains, and the nearby chapel in the Prophet Elias Monastery is worth visiting for its rare paintings.
Open daily from 10am to 2pm; weekend tours by appointment
Domaine Glinavos, Monastiri, Zitsa 44003, Ioannina
Located in the listed mountain village of Metsovo, 3,610ft above sea level, Katogi Averoff is a winery and hotel close to the village square. A 30-minute guided tour includes a visit to the cellars of the historic winery and video screenings of the production process. Food pairings can be requested in advance to sample with Katogi Averoff’s well-known whites, reds and rosés. There’s also a wine bar and restaurant with food by chef Nikos Karathanos, who was at the helm of Athens restaurant Hytra when it was awarded two Michelin stars. The surrounding mountains make this a great place to combine a wine tour with a ski trip, and Metsovo is also known for its excellent local dairy products.
Open daily from 10am to 3pm by prior appointment
Katogi Averoff Hotel, Metsovo, 44200
Beyond the vines: four more experiences to try in the region
Like Greeks themselves, the wine routes are laid-back in nature, allowing travellers to craft their own adventure or just go with the flow. Here are a few top picks to complement the wine-tasting experience.
1. Sample the local gastronomy
No wine tasting is complete without a side of nibbles, and the Epirus route has plenty to offer. Its mountainous terrain makes it home to a large variety of cheeses made with goat or sheep’s milk, with feta coming up tops. Homemade pies are typical of the region and can be savoury or sweet and filled with anything from macaroni to mushroom. Try a pie in the Zagori villages or snack on cheese in small local eateries called koutouki.
2. Lake Pamvotida
Right beside Ioannina city, Lake Pamvotida is the centre of many a legend. Ideal for canoeing, water skiing and rowing, it’s also home to an historic castle, towering minarets and the Byzantine Museum of Ioannina. The lake's central island is the only one in the whole of Europe, and while it has no official name, it is known as the island of Ioannina. Take a trip on a small boat and sample local snacks including carp, eel and frog’s legs.
3. Trekking in Valia Calda
Work off the food and wine with an walk through the spectacular Valia Calda National Park, where mountains collide with forest in peaceful and unspoilt harmony. Starting from Ziákas, take a four-wheel-drive vehicle past the Grevená villages and panoramic view from Stavrós crossroads. At the end of a dirt road is the start of a trail that takes in lush green meadows and the beautiful Flégkas lakes. Brown bears, wolves and rare birds can be seen en route.
4. Art and culture tour
The village of Zitsa, home to both Glinavos and Zoinos, is worth visiting for its art gallery, Prophet Elias Monastery and the remains of the Theogefyro bridge. Ioannina city is also a cultural hub that includes the Archaeological Museum, designed by renowned architect Aris Konstantinidis, which is home to a collection of vessels, coins and other treasures.
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