Unexpected treasures from Greece - Richard Esling June 1
One of the world’s most ancient wine producing countries, Greece has been going through a winemaking renaissance in recent years, leaving retsina far behind in dusty tourist guides.
The vast majority of Greek wines are made from some of the 300 indigenous grape varieties, most of which are very difficult to pronounce. The flavours are thus quite different but can make an interesting change from the plethora of chardonnays, rieslings and sauvignon blancs.
With winemaking going back to at least 3000 BC, until recently, most of the wines produced were unremarkable, to say the least, being made in bulk by co-operatives and with little character, unless spiked with pine resin to produce retsina, which has had a love-hate relationship with tourists over the years, mainly being the latter.
However, the past 30 years has seen a remarkable change, with estates making their own wines, rather than sending grapes to the co-ops, thus taking care and pride to produce wines which can stand up to the competition on the international stage.
Much of this renaissance has been galvanised by the younger generation winemakers. Growing-up on the wine estates, they have then travelled the world to experience modern winemaking techniques in other parts of Europe, the US, South America and Australasia. The results are remarkable, with fresh, crisp whites and fruity reds of great individuality and character, produced from ancient terroirs and little-known grape varieties.
Over many centuries, the Greeks and the Romans have traded and influenced each other in terms of winemaking, both Greece and Italy having a great number of unique, indigenous grape varieties. Greece is also largely mountainous, meaning that vineyards are relegated to the mountainsides, rather than the small amount of land available for agriculture. But here they thrive in the poor, rocky soils, the deep roots sucking up minerals and producing fabulous flavours in the grapes.
The Wine Society has been championing the new wines of Greece for some while, and under the guidance of their wine buyer Matthew Horsley, now stock well over 30 different Greek wines. Together with some interesting articles on the wine regions, food and wine pairing and hints as to similar grape varieties in terms of flavours, this is a great place to dip into wines which are little known to most of us and explore the many flavours.
Here are two white wines I recommend trying, neither of which will break the bank. The first is Mitravelas White on Grey 2020, made from 100 per cent Moschofilero grapes from low yielding vines. Fresh and fragrant, with a zippy acidity, it has a distinct spicy character, with citrus and stone-fruits on both nose and palate. Delicious summer wine and remarkably good at only £7.50 per bottle.
The second is Lafazanis Geometria Malagouzia 2019 from the Peloponnese on mainland Greece. Made from 100% malagouzia grape variety, it is fabulously refreshing, with a mouth-watering salinity. Green apple, peach and lime aromas and flavours mingle, with a medium body and crisp finish. Perfect with a salad of red onion, black olives, ripe tomatoes and feta cheese. £10.95.