This week Times Drinks Editor James Viner chooses four delicious drops from a country whose wines are enjoying something of a renaissance…
This week, I raise a toast to the brilliant wines of renascent Greece! The country’s winemaking history goes back thousands of years, but its revival only began in the early 1990s, when old vineyards, modern wineries and a new generation of brilliant young winemakers were brought together.
This makes Greece a fascinating destination for wine enthusiasts who want to explore the rich history and innovative techniques of its great wine industry.
Here are my fab four affordable, easily found, dry still Greek wines.
- 2022 Filos Estate Greek Chardonnay, PGI Florina, Macedonia (£8.99, Aldi, groceries.aldi.co.uk)
I largely eschew international varieties when it comes to Greek wine but this one delivered at last month’s Aldi press tasting. It’s a rich, stone-fruited, quite buttery Chardonnay from PGI Florina in Macedonia, one of the coolest and most mountainous regions in Greece, with an altitude reaching up to about 700 metres above sea level. Nab it now and serve with white fish in a parsley sauce or roast chicken.
- 2022 Domaine Papagiannakos Savatiano Old Vines, PGI Markopoulo, Attica, Central Greece (£15.95, Slurp, slurp.co.uk; The Good Wine Shop, thegoodwineshop.co.uk)
Put drought-resistant, herbal-scented, low-yielding Savatiano, Greece’s most common white grape variety, at the top of your must-try wine shopping list. The grape goes into Retsina but when grown at low yields and crafted by a top winemaker using 50-year-old, unirrigated grapes, as Vassilis Papagiannakos does, it can make haunting citrusy, herbal, dry whites such as this sensational unoaked, medium-bodied, tangy, dizzyingly energetic bargain. Seamless and simultaneously sophisticated and effortless. Lovely drinking.
- 2019 Nemea Grande Cuvée Agiorgitiko, Domaine Skouras, Peloponnese (£21, The Wine Society, thewinesociety.com)
Delectable and versatile Agiorgitiko/St George is Greece’s most widely planted red wine grape, often producing very impressive, full-bodied, age-worthy wines in Agiorgitiko-only Nemea PDO in the northeast of the Peloponnese. What makes these wines truly special is the altitude of the vineyards, which are situated in this case at over 1000 metres, about as high as Snowdon and higher than most red wine vines in Italy and France. Founded in 1986 by Burgundy-trained winemaker George Skouras, Domaine Skouras is one of Greece’s most distinguished wineries. This oaked Agiorgitiko is soft, supple, earthy and redolent of redcurrants, blackcurrants, plums, black pepper and spice, with a twine of black liquorice.
Delicious stuff from The Wine Society, where Greek wine sales match those of Argentina. Try it with roast lamb.
- 2022 Assyrtiko, Argyros Estate, Santorini (£27.21, Lay & Wheeler, laywheeler.com)
Yiannis Karakasis MW’s brilliant book, The Wines of Santorini, confidently states that vines, such as the high-priced, high-acid superstar Assyrtiko grape, have been thriving on this windy, volcanic island – a massive blackened crater in the Aegean Sea – for more than three millennia. Despite this, they are currently in a battle with developers trying to uproot them due to the island’s bustling tourism industry and rolling infrastructure expansion.
This textbook, delectable, full-bodied, assertive Assyrtiko from Santorini’s biggest vineyard owner is sourced from 100 to 120-year-old ungrafted, low-yielding vines distinctively trained in round shallow baskets on the ground, and captures the grape’s trademark high acidity and mineral profile.
Think lemon verbena, peach, sea spray and grapefruit, with a saline spurt of zesty acidity pulsing long. The finish tears away, leaving an empty glass. Hello seafood and grilled fish. Don’t miss out on Argyros’ intensely sweet ‘Vinsantos’ made from sun-dried, mostly Assyrtiko, grapes. They cellar well too.
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