By Julia Bailey
Sheer cliff faces, cypress trees peppering the landscape and crystal clear azure waters. There are a lot of great things about Greece, and the wine is definitely ready to stand up and be counted as well. As a self-confessed wine geek, I love to go around and try weird and wonderful wines, and I had more than my share of both on a recent visit to the Ionian island of Corfu.
Winemaking is not a new concept to Greece; it has been made there by the ancients since approx. 5000 BC. Greek wine in the UK though, is a pretty new concept. It’s not a country that immediately springs to mind when naming wine producers, but it’s gradually gaining strength helped along by Greek restaurants such as The Real Greek, championing the cause with their mainly indigenous wine list.
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. If you really can’t get past the name barrier, I find it helps to think of them as an extension of some of their insanely confusing northern Italian cousins. You will never have heard of the grape variety before, you certainly won’t be able to pronounce it, you’ll have no idea what it’s going to taste like but you can pretty much guarantee that it’s going to be low alcohol (hovering around 11-12%) understated and very, very tasty.
Here are some of the wines I tasted (and drank) my way through:
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.
Moschato/Roditits – In general I found that the best wines I tried were from the Peloponessos – 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.
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 touch of cracked black pepper.
Thoroughly recommend: Jumping out of your comfort zone & trying something new. What have you got to lose other than a few Euros?
Really wouldn’t recommend: Buying international varieties as they are only going to be a watered down disappointment of the wines you know and love.