In Greece - between Peloponnese, Macedonia, and the shores of Crete - we find that the delectable art of wine creation is as seductively simple as its native cuisine, which allows the heavenly flavors to shine through
By: Niyoshi Shah
Posted on: July 16, 2018
During my recent visit to the dreamiest island-like resort at the Athenian riviera, the Grand Resort Lagonissi, a member of the Leading Hotels of the World, I had the good fortune of savoring some of the most charming wine varieties from well-known vintners any aficionado like me would appreciate. The robust landscape provides the perfect terroir for red, white, rose and even sparkling wines, creating a rich, but lesser-known history of wine-making in Greece. Though odd, but authentic Greek wines have only just started to gain international acclaim.
The pallid soil produces frosty, bone-dry wines with excellent minerality and high acidity. The lavish vineyards in the north-western regions, meanwhile, produce velvety smooth reds which pair beautifully with food. Greek wine producers, largely reliant on their national market, make wines that cater to inherent local preferences – flavorful, refreshing and light. Unlike the dominant international alcohol levels of 14% or more, resulting in an almost flabby, hot and heavy, even saturated textures on most occasions, Greek wines like the Thymiopoulos Xinomavro or the Thea Mantinia 2016 Seméli, are relatively lighter and complement food instead of dominating the palate.
We catalogue the best wines coming from the hands of Greeks. Oh yes, I did try most of them, if not all!
GREEK WHITE AND PINK GRAPE VARIETIES
Aidani: A steely, elegant and floral wine with fresh acidity and round texture, Aidani is used mainly in Santorini in blends to round off and soften the austere, crisp and often high-alcohol Assyrtiko variety. The rare bottlings of pure Aidani are exquisite and worth hunting for. It is mainly found in Cyclades.
Assyrtiko: Broad on the palate, with fresh, crisp acidity and high levels of alcohol, the Assyrtiko wine was the strongest dessert wine variety for me. On the flavor profile, there are distinctive citrus fruit aromas and intense minerality. The aged wines reveal a more solid structure and increased aromatic complexity.
Debina: Lemony aroma, light bodied and usually low in alcohol, the Debina is very elegant. It can be still and dry or semi-sparkling. The effervescent variations can be excellent.
Muscat of Samos: Outstanding complexity of fragrant rose petal, ripe fruit and bergamot flavors are rich and dense with a solid structure and ageing ability. When aged in oak, sweet versions of the Muscat of Samos gain an intricate spiciness while retaining a remarkable freshness.
INTERNATIONAL WHITE GRAPE VARIETIES CULTIVATED IN GREECE
Chardonnay: Intense, ripe and rich fruit aromas and flavors. The Chardonnay is coupled with a structured palate, is full bodied with moderate to high alcohol levels and moderate acidity. It is often aged and fermented in oak.
Sauvignon Blanc: The Sauvignon Blanc is very intense, full of freshness and character and emanates aromas of grass, lemon and more tropical fruit. Some oak fermented examples are excellent and can be better when aged.
Other international varieties planted successfully in Greece include Semillon, Viogner, Trebbiano and Traminer, while lesser known – but by no means inferior in quality – Greek white varieties include Dafni, Fileri, Lagorthi and many others.
GREEK RED GRAPE VARIETIES
Agiorgitiko: When aged in oak, it displays a deep colour, concentrated character of red fruits and aromatic complexity. Rich in body, with high quality and ripe tannins. When bottled young, it is an easy drinking wine with refreshing aromas of fresh fruit.
Kotsifali: Pale coloured, a truly Mediterranean variety with intense red fruit aromas and moderate acidity. Kotsifali needs a blending partner that can add colour, acidity and tannins, for which usually the Mandelaria is a popular choice.
Liatiko: The Liatiko wine, with moderate colour intensity on a linear palate, is a local favourite. When sundried, the variety displays a different character, has a higher concentration while flavours become more powerful and complex.
Xinomavro: Producing wines that rise to prominence with ageing, it displays a bright red colour, fine grained but firm tannins, solid structure and elegance. A complex aromatic character with distinct scents of red fruits, tomatoes and olives makes the Xinomavro stand out. It usually has aromas of oak, with subtle hints of spices, dried prunes, tobacco and nuts.
INTERNATIONAL RED GRAPE VARIETIES CULTIVATED IN GREECE
Cabernet Sauvignon: Deep, opaque-hued, with a vibrant scent, the black ripe fruit aroma and hint of cedar makes this my favorite Red Wine variety. Firm, tannic and structured on the palate, it is a wine best when aged.
Merlot: Deep red hued with aromas of ripe cherry and red berry fruits, together with sweet notes of chocolate, toffee and coffee. The Merlot is a variety that is full on the palate and deeply succulent.
Syrah: Showcasing a profound opaque-hue, intense aroma full of black fruits, leather and spices, dominated by black pepper. The Syrah is firm but with ripe tannins on the palate, full and broad, high in alcohol and moderately acidic.
Other international varieties produced successfully in Greece include Cabernet Franc, Cinsault, Grenache Rouge while the less popular but very promising red varieties include Krasato, Mavroudi, Negoska and Vertzami.
For a truly authentic wine tasting experience, a profound human element is crucial. Hospitality in Greece lies at the heart of their everyday life. And in the heart is exactly where the Greek keep their wine.
Coordinates: 40th. K.M. Athens Sounion Avenue, 19010 Lagonissi, Attica, Greece
Seasonal Hotel: Hotel usually closes from end October to May.