Due to the unique geography of Greece, the country presents a remarkable range of micro-climates and local variations. From alpine and mountainous microclimates, to hot, arid and volcanic islands.
Greece is the third most mountainous country of Europe, covered in mountains by 80%. It features a rugged terrain, with steep cliffs, deep gorges, and jagged peaks. Its average terrain altitude compares to Alpine regions.
Central and Western Greece are the most mountainous, with many canyons and karstic landscapes, such as the Meteora and Vikos gorges. Vikos is the deepest canyon in the world as a proportion to its width, and third deepest in the world in general.
The main mountain range of Greece, the Pindus range, is an extension of the Alps. Pindus divides the country in the more humid and green West side, and the more arid and dry East side.
At the same time, Greece has the longest coastline of the Mediterranean basin (8,350 miles), and 10th longest in the world. A highly convoluted coastline, which wraps around approximately 6,000 islands approximately, and is itself mountains with multiple cliffs that rise out of the sea.
Greece mainly features a Mediterranean climate, with certain parts of volcanic (certain islands), continental (northern inland), or mountainous (high altitude around the country) climates.
Diurnal temperature variation is significant, with high temperatures during the day, and colder nights with mountain & sea breeze at night.
Annual rainfall varies greatly between the different geographical sections. In some of the islands and part of the mainland in the western part of Greece, the rainfall is about 46 inches, while in the region around Athens it is only about 13 inches. In the greatest part of the country, however, the average annual precipitation is considerably above 20 inches.
The soils of Greece are supposed to be among the oldest in the world. A large majority of them have never received any commercial fertilizers or green manure and very little, if any, animal manure. The productivity of most of these soils is at present quite low (the average yield of wheat for instance, is only about 11 bushels to the acre, and this yield is produced only once every two or three years). The system of farming that most farmers follow consists of cropping the land one year and leaving it idle, or fallow, one or two years.
The Greek soil mainly consists of solid infertile limestone rock (mountains). This limestone is remarkable for its uniformly high purity. In about 50 samples collected from different parts of the country and analyzed, the relative purity ranged from about 90 to 100 per cent with most samples showing about 98 per cent calcium carbonate.
There are also pockets of volcanic soil (islands of Lemnos, Santorini, Milos, Nisyros), clay in the few plains (Thessaly, Macedonia, Thrace), alluvial along the coast, and igneous in the North.
In terms of texture, the greatest majority of the soils of Greece are of fine texture, consisting of clays, silts, and loams. There are practically no pure sandy soils in Greece. Even on most of the mountain tops, mountain slopes and hills where stones and boulders are very abundant, the fine earth consists usually of clay. This fine texture of the soils may be partly indicative of their long age.
Places rich in clay are the ones that developed a more significant amphora-making tradition.
CONDUSIVE TO NATURAL FARMING
The main agricultural industries of Greece are grapes, raisins, olives, and citrus.
The mainly dry and windy climate, with rugged and steep slopes, and lack of large arable land, is conducive to small-scale natural and organic farming, and part of the reason that Greece never developed a mass-scale modernized farming foundation.
Elevation, northern winds, and proximity to sea, mitigate the extreme heat of the Greek climate. This leads to stressed vines with impressive phenolic ripeness, which also maintain their aromatic intensity and acidity.
Due to the dry climate, Greece developed a particularly long tradition of dessert wines from sun dried grapes (botrytis posing no threat).