By Zeus! This stuff is worthy of a Greek god
Greece is still my favourite wine-producing country. Has been for years. I’ve been visiting since I was 19 pretty much annually, and every single time I go I find new flavours, varieties, know-how, tradition, quiet pride and wine-making excellence. It’s no longer a nose-wrinkler to give Greek wine as a gift – in fact I’d say it’s sheer love.
Greece has a deep tradition in wine that makes most other nations look like toddlers tottering in the shallows. Homer talks about it so we know that by the Eighth Century BC it was well established, but it also traces its way back into the myths and roots of the first inklings of civilisation. And with an array of unique grape varieties each with their own character, it’s not too far-fetched to say these are some of the most ancient wines still in continuous production.
From the mainland to the islands, the common thread is boutique production, with star grapes including Agiorgitiko (one for lovers of Rioja) and Xinomavro (Greece’s answer to Nebbiolo) on the reds. When it comes to white wines there is incredible poise and range. Malagousia is peachy and scented as jasmine. Moschofilero can be as intoxicating in its scent as a rose bush jumping into your soul, but the most famous white, whose realm is principally Santorini, is Assyrtiko.
Assyrtiko has the poise of Chablis, the intensity of Rocky Balboa’s training regime and I’d say it is probably the most consistently delicious grape variety on the planet. It tends towards a style that embraces the impact of a dirty dry martini: think a whiff of green olive, a pinch of salt on the breeze, but all the while you’re riding a lemon the size of a motorbike down a razor edge of volcanic potency. Sure it’s amazing with shellfish, Greek salad and anything tomato-based.
But on its own it shows somehow that while we on Earth may have forgotten the gods, they are very much alive, and the way they show their love is in the echoes of civilisation laid down in rows of vines across the lovely land of Greece.