It's time to discover Greek Wines
By Master of Wine, Christopher Burr
Many will have holidayed in parts of Greece, and may remember the days when the most popular white wine was Retsina, white wine macerated with pine resin which was an ancient preservative. It was most peculiar wine, and after fairly regular consumption, one eventually got used to it!
There was also a big brand of red, white and rosé call Domestica, a sort of Greek version of Hirondelle, sound but not particularly exciting. But that was all a very long time ago!
I am delighted to say that around the islands and regions of Greece, they kept their ancient grape varietals, and nowadays with good winemaking technology, they are making fine wines.
After all, Greece is one of the founding "homes" of wine making. The ancient Greeks with a very sophisticated culture of theatre, philosophy, politics, also taught the World, some 3-4000 years ago about wine making, the use of saffron and resin as preservatives, the use of clay amphora to ferment and age wine, and even transport their wines to other parts of their Empire. The Roman Empire learnt much of their wine-making and growing from the Greeks, and spread it around Europe.
The most interesting and fascinating white grape from Greece is called Assyrtiko. It is now grown in many parts of Greece and the Islands, but it originally comes from the island of Santorini, where it is grown high up the mountains in cooler spots, and trained as bushes, with the leaves curled around to protect the fruit from too hot sun.
Majestic wine have an excellent Skouras Assyrtyko 2020 from Santorini at £12.99 for a mixed six bottles. Indeed Majestic have the best range of Greek wines with several Assyrtiko, but the Skouras is by far the best. In my view good value, as it has the quality and class of good white Burgundy (although a different flavour profile) which would be two to three times more expensive.
One of the most interesting red grapes is called Xinomavro. Grown a lot up in the North of Greece in Naoussa, it has delicate fruit , a bit like Pinot Noir, but firm skins which gives its wine some firmness. Waitrose Cellars have the excellent ATMA Thymopoulos Xinomavro for £11.99, a version of which Majestic also stock.
Of course, like most Mediterranean Countries, Greece also makes lovely sweet wines, delicious with cheeses or at the end of a meal. One best value sweet wines is called Mavrodaphne of Patras, an historic wine stocked by Waitrose, Cameo £6.95, also in Asda a version, NYX Mavrodaphne £6.50, and both Tesco and Sainsbury have this wine at £6.25.
Another great sweet Greek wine is the Muscat from Samos, in Waitrose for £8.99. A gorgeous, luscious rich muscat.
These are just a few, but many more wines are starting to be imported, and as these wines are not yet famous, or have lost their fame hundreds of years ago, they are great value for money.
Enjoy discovering what Greece is now doing.