04 Jul Summer in a bottle
The glorious Greek summer is here! A beautiful orange sun warming my back in Byzantine Monemvasia, a walk through Lefkes village in Paros, the dry, salty wind mixing with the aroma of indigenous flowers, a plunge into the tropical waters of Halkidiki, a coffee in the shade of Mount Olympus, a unique sunset at Oia in Santorini.
Am I missing something?
A cool glass of refreshing Greek white wine, full of aromas from the earth, the sun and the sea, knowing that nothing else can quench my wanderer’ s thirst, nor quite much the grilled seafood I’ m about to devour.
The 300 plus indigenous grape varieties make wines that are delicious and perfectly appropriate for a wide array of foods. In spite of the heat and the sea, and in some cases, as a direct result of both, Greece has been producing incredibly well-balanced, clean, brilliant wines.
I find it particularly difficult to name only a few of my favourites, so I thought I would begin my list by order of geography, beginning from Northern Greece and making my way south.
In the last 25 years Northern Greece has developed a reputation for its aromatic white wines. Starting from Thrace, on the dry hills near the ancient city of Avdira, Anatolikos Vineyards produces Fine Asyrtiko, a blend of Asyrtiko and Malagouzia grapes, with an elegant touch of oak, rich mouth and a complex bouquet of citrus and stone fruits. In the Pangeo mountain region near Kavala, Ktima Vivlia Hora’ s Ovilos is an outstanding blend of Asyrtiko and Semillon grapes with hints of mango, apricot, vanilla and honey. Heading towards central Macedonia, the Gerovasiliou Winery with its numerous prizes is praised for producing fine wines. The Asyrtiko-Malagouzia blend is the absolute must for summer. In nearby Halkidiki, Malagouzia of Porto Carras Estate reveals the unique floral aromas of the variety.
In the Amynteon region Karanika Brut, a sparkling wine from the local Xinomavreo variety according to the Methode Traditionnelle, surprises with its fruity character and crispy acidity. On the slopes of Mount Olympus, Thanos and Louiza Dougos combine Asyrtiko with a dash of Sauvignon Blanc and ferment it for 9 months in acacia barrels. A wine bursting with aromas of flowers, tropical fruits and sweet vanilla.
In Thessaly, at the foothills of Meteora Rocks organically grown grapes in the vineyards of Theopetra Estate produce a fresh and fruity blend of Assyrtiko and Malagouzia. Don t miss the oak fermentation of the same blend offering spicyness, complexity and a rich body.
Epirus is the land of Zitsa, where the famous Debina variety is cultivated. Glinavos Brut with citrus blossoms, apple and pear is a sparkling wine produced with the Champagnoise method. Savatiano is the local variety of Attica and famous for its Retsina wines, the best accompaniment to the strong flavours of Greek cuisine . Taste the new generation of Retsina from Papagiannakos, Mylonas and Markou Wineries. Crispy, elegant, refreshing like the sea breeze.
Peloponnese is famous for its history, archaeological sites and quality wines. Mantinia, at an altitude of 1.900 to 2.500 feet produces the Moschofilero variety, an amazing versatile, food-friendly wine. A glass of well-chilled Amalia Brut by Tselepos Estate is just the ticket. Amalia Brut boasts long lasting bubbles, rose and honey aromas with a hint of yeast.
In ancient Nemea, the Palivos Estate, Petrines Plagies, a rich wine with peach and melon, particularly suited for summer drinking. In the south, near the Byzantine castle of Monemvasia, lies the long established Monemvasia Winery. Owner George Tsibidis is dedicated to cultivating local varieties of the region like Kydonitsa, Asprouda and Monemvasia, that trace their roots back to the 12th century. From nearly extinct Kydonitsa variety is considered one of Greece’ s dynamic grape varieties. Sit at one of the terraces of the old castle, uncork a bottle of Kydonitsa and let it take you on a journey through the ages.
Cephalonia: Off to the west, the Robola variety is the pride of the island. The Gentilini Robola is a noble, floral wine with nice acidity, that brings the Ioanian breeze into your glass. The dry Muscat from Haritatos Winery is a delicious wine combining freshness and complexity.
Limnos: The island produces excellent aromatic wines from the Muscat of Alexandria variety. Taste the aromatic richness of Lagopati from Chatzigeorgiou Estate and find the reason why Limnos was well known for its extraordinary wines from antiquity.
Santorini: The volcanic island of Santorini has a unique terroir and a centuries-old history of vinification. The sun, the wind and the volcanic lava work magically together. The wines from the local variety of Assyrtiko have a dense, complex nose, bright acidity, savoury minerality and are considered the new trend worldwide. I recommend Santorini by Sigalas and Gavalas Wineries and Wild Ferment from Gaia Winery.
Crete: The cradle of Minoan civilization is home to a wine press dating back to 1500 B.C. Vilana, Vidiano, Thrapsathiri, Moschato Spinas, Malvazia di Candia are a few of the many grape varieties of Crete.
Paterianakis Estate produces Melissinos, a pleasant summer wine from an organic grown vineyard, an ideal companion for seafood and Asian cuisine as well. Douloufakis Winery produces Aspros lagos, a white wine from Vidiano variety with aromas of white flowers, citrus and apricot, rich flavor and long aftertaste ageing magnifically.
So wherever you are headed this summer, make sure you have a glass of a Greek wine to escort you through your holidays.