THE REGION OF IONIAN ISLANDS
The Region of Ionian Islands, often called Heptanesos (“Seven Islands“) is one of the thirteen regions of Greece. It is divided into the Regional Units of Corfu, Kefallinia, Lefkada and Zakynthos. It also includes other small islands such as Paxoi, Othoni, Ereikoussa, Mathraki, Meganisi, Kalamos, Skorpios.
The headquarters of the Region are located in Corfu Island.
The Ionian Islands are located along the western mainland coast of Greece, and the Regional Units are: Regional Unit of Corfu, Regional Unit of Kefallinia/Ithaki, Regional Unit of Zakynthos, Regional Unit of Lefkada
The Regional Governor of the Ionian Islands since 2019, is Mrs.Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou, MEP and ex Vice-President of the European Parliament.
- The Region stretching south from the Albanian coast to the southern tip of the Peloponnese, is a popular tourist destination
- Strategic maritime location between the Greek and Italian mainlands, intervention from outside has affected the islands and their people since classical times
- The Ionian Islands produce olive oil, wine, citrus fruit, honey, various dairy and cheese products
- Their exports include currants, wine, salt, olives, and fish, and the islands are largely self-sufficient in grains. Their harbours are superior to those of the west coast of Greece and more conveniently located for international shipping.
The Ionian islands, are nothing if not privileged. With fertile soil, plenty of rain and just the right amount of humidity, anything you plant here takes root and grows. This arability shaped the islands’ rural customs as well as their cuisine, but they were also influenced by the Western powers that held sway here, particularly the Venetians.
Kefalonia produces one of the best feta cheeses in Greece – although legally it cannot be marketed as such, but as “white cheese in brine” – and Zakynthos’ ladotyri (cheese preserved in oil) is just incredible, tangy and robust.
You can’t beat Lefkada’s salami, Corfu’s noumboulo (smoked cured pork) or Zakynthos’ pork shoulder. And then there’s the rich butter, the raisins, the top-quality olive oil, wines from at least 20 different grape varieties, crackling fragrant breads made with local grains, potfuls of honey and a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables.
FOOD AND AGRICULTURE
Despite the tourist development of the Ionian Islands the inhabitants are still involved in agriculture and continue the traditional activities related to the fertile land.
Within a rich portfolio of local products of the Ionian land, the local gastronomy and the products of the Ionian land constitute:
– a dynamic element of the local culture and an element of distinction for the islands of the region.
– a strong advantage for the attraction of tourists and for tourist experience
– a driving force for the economy through the production of competitive local products
Ionian cuisine consists of hearty, rustic gems and sophisticated dishes and sweets once reserved for the nobility, such as sofrito (thinly sliced veal in a delicate garlic sauce),pastitsado, bourdeto, pastaflora, melounia, kaltsounia. It’s a voluptuous cuisine, filled with sauces and rich with flavor and scent.
Look for the local “feta” in Kefalonia, sold in supermarkets, grocery stores and tavernas, and for Prentza, a spicy cheese flavored with summer savory.
Don’t leave Lefkada without some of its peppery salami and a bag of local lentils.
The stars of Zakynthos are its ladotyri, a cheese aged in olive oil, and its PDO sweet and fleshy raisins. Kythira is known for its olive oil rusks and its amazing thyme honey.
Corfu’s jewels include noumboulo – a cured pork or beef coldcut – as well as kumquat (in a liqueur or as a sweet preserve). Search here for spetseriko, a fiery 12-spice blend whose secret recipe dates back centuries. Everywhere, you’ll find traditional sweets such as pasteli (sesame-and-honey snaps), mandolata (nougat with nuts and merengue), and mandoles, made with almonds, honey and sugar.
OLIVE OIL TRADITION
When Greeks refer to oil, they mean olive oil. Ionian islands have a great long history and tradition of olive cultivation. International studies show that the olive variety is the essential factor determining the quality of the olive fruit and its oil. You can find extra virgin olive oil from Corfu, Kefalonia, Zakynhtos, virgin olive oil, olive oil enriched with aromas of herbs and organic oils, most of them derived with mechanical methods and cold pressed.
Corfu is covered by 3-6 million olive trees, some of them over 400 years old, and 3% of the world’s olive oil comes from Corfiot olives!
Local families and workers from the Ionian Islands usually harvest the olives around November and work hard to preserve the oil’s organoleptic characteristics by using traditional or centrifugal olive mills to pressing and processing it.
The Ionian Islands have a rich winegrowing history. Most wines are made from native and local grape varieties such as Robola, Vertzami and Kakotrygis. The Ionian island of Ithaki is thought to have been the home of Odysseus in Homer’s epic Odyssey and wine from both Cephalonia and Corfu is mentioned in the story. This would suggest that viticulture here dates back at least 2500 years.
Vineyard locations on south-facing mountain slopes provide ample sunshine during the day and cooler nights. This helps the grapes to retain acidity as they ripen
There are only three PDO-level appellations in the Ionian Islands, all of them on the central island of Cephalonia: Robola of Cephalonia, Muscat of Cephalonia and Mavrodaphne of Cephalonia. These appellations all produce single-varietal wines, and the dry whites of Robola of Cephalonia are by far the most famous wines of the Ionian Islands.
There are a handful of PGI appellations across the islands and these have a variety of different requirements for production. PGI Corfu wines call for a minimum of 60 percent Kakotrygis, while the PGI Verdea wines of Zakynthos have very specific vinification
Most popular wines in Ionian islands are:
Corfu: Ktima Theotoky, Grammenos, Nikolouzos, Goulis, Leivadiotis
Zakynthos: Goumas, Ktima Grampsa,Mercati Gaetano
Kefalonia: Robola, Orealios Gaea, Gentilini Galliga Rubis
INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES: FOOD & BEVERAGE
- Rural Development Programme (RDP) 2014-2020 focuses mainly on strengthening farm viability and competitiveness, preserving and enhancing ecosystems and fostering the local development in rural areas.
- Investments in unique products such as the local production of globally famous wines (the wines produced are V.Q.P.R.D.: Robola of Κefalonia, Mavrodaphne of Kefalonia and white Muscat of Kefalonia. Also the Regional Wines of: Slopes of Mt Enos, Metaxata, Mantzavinata, Lefkada, Corfu, Halikouna and Verdea, a Traditional Appellation wine. Mavrodafni etc).
- Investments in the dairy industry (the famous Kefalonian and Zakynthos cheese )
- Further Investments in the organic/bio livestock industry.