Greece has an ancient wine making history and some fine wines to rival the best Italian big names.
Nemea in the north Peloponnese is one renowned area, especially for the ‘noble’ grape Agiorgitiko, producing very likeable, spicy reds with racy freshness. The altitude keeps the vines cool and wind prevents disease.
The beautiful island of Santorini, famous for some of the most stunning sunsets in the world, produces delicious, substantial white wines from ancient vines of the Assyrtiko grape grown in baskets on the volcanic soil.
Two other high quality grapes are the red Xinomavro from Naoussa and the white Robolla from wedding and honeymoon hotspot island, Cephalonia.
The multi-talented Greek wine expert, engineer, jazz musician and writer Konstantinos Lazarakis MW, hosted a wine tasting in London for the Circle of Wine Writers. All 18 wines were superb examples of Greek fine wines, white, red and sweet. Just 3 top picks were:
Assyrtiko de Mylos 2009, Hatzidakis. If you’re a fan of structure in white wines, Assyrtiko is for you. A ‘red wine disguised as a white’, it is a ‘textural’ grape variety. At its apogee in Santorini, it can age superbly. Mineral, stony, linear and precise, this is a great white fine wine. Buy from Waitrose.
Grande Reserve, Xinomavro, 1993, Boutaris. ‘A punch in the face of globalisation’ and ‘a bitch’ is how Konstantinos describes this tricky, ‘sour’ red variety. With ‘red tea tannins’ and a Barolo-like character, acid hounds and fans of quirky romance in old wines will be in raptures. N/A in UK but try a Xinomavro from The Wine Society.
Labyrinth 99-06, Agiorgitiko / Cabernet Sauvignon, Domaine Skouras. It’s not often you discover a ‘new’ winemaking method. Konstantinos describes his wine as a ‘1 criadera solera’, using a 1000 litre foudre, drawn off and topped with Megas Oeneos up each vintage. Wild, interesting and jazzy, an intellectual wine lovers delight. Just 500 bottles a year.
To find any wine, see Wine Searcher.
To buy Konstantinos’ book The Wines of Greece, see Amazon.
For info on Greek wine producers and regions see New Wines of Greece.
(photo – Krista Photo / Flickr Creative Commons)