In my early days of wine drinking I didn’t know much about Greek wines. Greece was a country with strange sounding grapes and mysterious wines. Terra incognita is the most appropriate phrase to describe my state of mind in those times.
At the moment, I am still just scratching the surface about greek wines. Greek wine culture goes back to as early as 4000 BC when the first wild vines were domesticated in the northern region. Greece has more than 200 native wine grapes that include Xinomavro, Assyrtiko, Agiorgitiko Savatino and Roditis. This really makes Greece an unique and special place for the production of amazing wine.
The last two decades or so have been extremely beneficial for the greek wine industry. There are more than ever artisanal wine producers with a biodynamic and biological approach. This is a far cry from the retsina big co-op mentality of the 70’s and 80’s. It was about time for the change to happen. Greece is blessed with a rich and varied terroir, from mountains to lush valleys and volcanic islands. The soil is quite healthy and the temperature is quite clement , with plenty of sunshine in the summer and warm autumn.
My introduction to fantastic Greek wine was thanks to Oenopole. The brainchild of Theo Diamantis, this importer brought to my attention artisanal producers such as Hatzidakis, Thymiopoulos and Argyros. This dynamic Montreal agency has done a great service to Greek wine and they have my everlasting gratitude.
My love for Greek wine was cemented in my latest trip to Greece. In 2003, I visited the greek Islands of Santorini, Mykonos and Greece. It was my honeymoon and I had the pleasure of visiting Harimidos Hatzidakis in Santorini, a winemaker that blew me away with its piercing Assyrtiko white wines. Sadly, Harimidos passed away but his legacy continues with his wines.
It was the beginning of a love affair with Greek wine that continues today. A few years after my trip, I discovered the varietal Roditis via the amazing Tetramythos producer in the Peloponnese region. Roditis can be used to create light white wines with notes of citrus, almonds and minerals. The wines can be light to medium bodied, quite modest but in the hand of talented winemakers such as the Spanos brothers, it can reach greatness.
Thymiopoulos wasn’t new to me. It had a cult following among the natural wine cognoscenti of Montreal. Back in the day, his rose from Xinomavro used to sell privately and always was selling out fast.
Sclavos was a relatively new producer that I discovered. However, this family traces its roots back for centuries in Cephalonia. Today, this winemaking dynasty still carefully tends their vineyards under a biodynamic philosophy. The mantra of the winery is to craft wines that are a reflection of the terroir of Cephalonia, with fauna, flora, soil, and micro-climate all adding to the diverse influences on the vine and cultivars.
Diversity is Greece biggest wine asset
Three Greek whites wines for your consideration
100% Roditis – Very fragrant with soft aromas of pear, lemon blossom and a hint of apricot. Medium body and crisp with mineral notes. Long and lingering finale recalling green apple. For $15, it is unbeatable in amazing quality. Perfect for poultry BBQ dishes.
50% roditis, 10% vostilidi, 10% zachyntino, 10% tsaousi, 10% moschatela et 10% robola – A beautiful exotic white perfect for a warm summer evening. Floral with nuances of orchard fruit and a ravishing minerality. On the palate, is quite ample enveloping your palate with its citrusy undertones. Very long aftertaste.Lots of quality for under $20. This wine should be great with grilled fish or oysters.
70% xinomavro (blanc de noirs), 30% malagousia
This is quite the wine for under $15. Beautiful tropical fruit undertones combined with sensational mineral and floral tones. On the palate, it is light to medium body with lots of citrus character. Incredible mouthfeel and elegance. This is the wine to have with Krudo fish.