It’s all Greek to me

Posted on: 9th March, 2018

Category: The Wine Buff

Contributor: Tony Eklof

Tony Eklof, originally from New England, has settled in Clonakilty after a career as a librarian at University College Dublin. His knowledge and passion for wine has been inspired by frequent visits to the wine growing regions of the continent, particularly Italy and France.

“Greece has many of the most original wine flavours in modern Europe.” Oz Clarke, ‘World of Wine’

Tired of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio, all of which are planted and grown all over the wine-growing world now? Want to try something completely different? How about a glass of Agiorgitiko, Roditis, Lagorthi or even Moschofilero? Yes, these are all indigenous Greek varieties, and will undoubtedly give you a new taste sensation.

Wine culture in Greece stretches back thousands of years, but had fallen in recent years into a bit of a slump. A new generation of wine makers, many of whom trained in France, California or Australia have breathed new life into the Greek wine industry admirably relying on traditional Greek varieties.

The variety of styles is impressive. The north of Greece makes powerful reds from the Xinomavro grape, sometimes compared to Italy’s great Barolo, while central areas produce the famous retsina, which many tourists to the Greek Islands will have sampled. Retsina is unique in that pine resin is added during its fermentation. Very popular with ancient Greeks, sales in recent times have dropped off.

The Peloponnese is home to Nemea, one of Greece’s most important wine-growing areas, while the Islands, Santorini in particular, produce some of the country’s most exciting whites. Crete unfortunately has a name for mass-produced dull wines, although even here there are signs of change.

Surprisingly it can be hard to source Greek wine although they are appearing more and more in good wine shops and forward-looking supermarkets. Marks and Spencer’s in particular have led the way in introducing a range of both red and white examples of Greek wine making.

At the time of writing LIDL, (Bandon, Clonakilty and Skibbereen) have a couple of Greek wines to coincide with their controversial Greek week. Controversial because there were heated complaints when the company airbrushed out the Christian cross on top of Santorini’s famous church on all their packaging in order to remain ‘religiously neutral’!

The white is Mantinia made from the Moschofilero grape and I found it to be floral, off-dry, and delightful. The red is Nemea 2016 and described as medium-sweet. Evidently this is the case with young wines from this region while the aged examples tend to be stronger and drier. Both are selling at €7.99 ‘while stocks last’.

If you wish to know more about Greek wine why not have a chat with someone much more expert than myself, namely Yiannis, the friendly wine manager of Scally’s SuperValu in Clonakilty. He is from Corinth after all!

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