Greek Wine Deciphered

Greece

Sheer cliff faces, cypress trees peppering the landscape, crystal clear azure waters, taramasalata… there are a lot of great things about Greece, and the wine is definitely ready to stand up and be counted as well.

Winemaking is not a new concept to Greece; it has been made there for approximately 7000 years. Greek wine is still a pretty new concept for most UK drinkers, however. It’s not a country that immediately springs to mind when naming wine producers, but it’s gradually gaining recognition.

There is still a long journey ahead though, and one of the main issues is that the names of the wines don’t exactly roll off the tongue to the average Brit in a bar, ‘Agiorgitiko’ being a prime example of this.

I find it helps to think of Greek grapes as an extension of some of their insanely confusing northern Italian cousins.  You may never have heard of the grape variety before, you almost certainly won’t be able to pronounce it and you’ll have no idea what it’s going to taste like, but you can pretty much guarantee that it’s going to be relatively low alcohol, understated and brilliant with any food from the same region.
Here are some of the wines I tasted (and drank) my way through on a recent trip:

The unique local style: Retsina

A holiday in Greece would not be complete without sampling this local speciality; it’s the kind of thing that serious hangovers are made of in clubbin’ capital Kavos. Sold in huge plastic 5lt containers this wine is certainly popular with the locals, most tourists (myself included) would probably politely describe it as ‘unique’.  

The wine is quite a basic white with hints of citrus fruits, white flowers and all that jazz, with a distinct resinous flavour in the mid-palate. The unusual added flavour comes from the pine resin which was historically used to seal the wine vessels, and it gradually became a desired feature rather than an unwanted side-effect.

Approach with caution.

A brilliant white grape: Roditits

In general I found that the best wines I tried were from the Peloponnese – a large peninsula in the south, famed for its beaches – and this crisp white was no exception.

Ripe peach notes on the nose, refreshing citrus on the palate, and a twist of bitter almond on the finish. This wine was deliciously elegant – perfect for sitting on the terrace after a long, hard day at the beach.

A fantastic region for reds: Nemea

This was by far my favourite wine that I tasted, and by far the most superior in quality. It actually comes from one of the few Greek certified appellations. Made from 100% Agiorgitiko, it was deliciously soft, not dissimilar to a Merlot in both texture and body, with attractive notes of chocolate, cherries and a touch of cracked black pepper.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to Greek wines, I thoroughly recommend jumping out of your comfort zone and trying something new. But stick to the local grapes. Greece also has its fair share of international varieties – from Syrah to Sauvignon – but I’m yet to be convinced that they bring much to the party. With so many new things to discover, why play safe?

Author:
Julia Bailey
Date:
2nd July 2012


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