A Rainbow of Pink: Greek Rosés tout the Spectrum

A Rainbow of Pink: Greek Rosés tout the Spectrum

Tom Hall celebrates the resurrection of rosé wines from gimmicky to respectable and recommends a bit of island-hopping when it comes to stocking up on your Greek pinks.

I attended a fascinating talk recently titled The Age of Average. The argument of the talk was that, contrary to the seemingly endless options before us, modern culture is becoming increasingly homogenous. The presenter showed us twenty-five genre book covers next to each other that were indistinguishable, curly white writing on a blocky background in primary covers promised a heartfelt journey of travel and self discovery. Movie posters, fashion advertising, even faces, were demonstrated to be rapidly blurring into one, as people, places and things want to show their uniqueness but don’t want to stand out. The “rosé aristocracy” of  Provence (not my phrase, unfortunately) are particularly exercised about this issue as they rage that vast amounts of inferior, mass-produced “swimming pool rosé” is being produced with a focus on paleness alone, eschewing taste and complexity in favour of a Provençal camouflage and generally ruining the party for everyone. While this would make a great premise for a movie, (War of the Rosés, anyone), I think that this obsession with paleness means that people are missing a world of delicious, and deliciously colourful, wine. What follows are a selection of five Greek rosés, specifically from the Greek islands that proudly tout the spectrum of pink that this fascinating type of wine allows.

Terra Grazia, Fokiano, Naxos, 2022

Starting at the paler end of the Hellenic spectrum, this wine gives the Provençal classics a run for their money both in terms of look and taste. The Naxiote wine is made from 100% fokiano, a grape with a long and fine lineage. Initially from Ikaria, it is supposedly the grape that made “Pramnios Oinos” and which would be mixed with goat’s cheese, barley flour and herbs to produce “kikeonas”, a powerful potion that warriors would drink before heading into battle. I’m sure that gallons of “swimming pool rosé” has been the cause of many an after lunch conflict but how many of them can say that they’ve helped win wars. The shade is an enticing watercolour; a faint rusty blush or pale burnt orange which reminded me of the early days of certain photo based social media platforms when they were about filters rather than influencing. It had fun strawberry serbert quality on the palate with a tantalising faint smokiness and the salty sea breeze of the island also detectable. Perfect with some of it’s old friend, goat’s cheese, as an aperitif or it would pair well with lighter chicken dishes.

Where to drink wine on Naxos

Vassilarakis in Kinidaros has been described by one Greek artist as having the best meat in the Cyclades. A small but perfectly formed selection of Greek wines complement the hearty food. Expect to need a nap afterwards.

Hetero Wines, Anarch Rose,  Assyrtiko and Xinomavro, Crete, 2020

Next stop on the journey to the dark side is the Anarch Rosé from Hetero Wines. The wine is the union of two of the great Greek grapes (try saying that after a couple of bottles), Assyrtiko and Xinomavro, just as the winery is the brainchild of two Greek wine luminaries, Maria Tamiolaki and Dimitris Mansolas. The duo practice nomad or Gypsy winemaking meaning that they partner with local wineries to make specific wines that are true to the terroir and ethos of the area. The contents of this wine are as fun as the label with a meadow of Spring flowers on the nose surrounded by the edges of a pine forest. Fruit and citrus on the palate with lively acidity and a pleasing finish make this a great one to drink only or pairing with salads or light chicken dishes. Maybe a deconstructed Caesar salad to go with the iconoclastic nature of the Anarch brand.

Place to drink wine on Crete, La Bodega, Chania.

A recommendation from a very knowledgeable wine loving Cretan local for wine on the island is La Bodega in Chania. The restaurant serves tapas style food which I always think pairs well with rosé as it’s as difficult to keep track of the plates as it is the bottles. A glass of rosé with a plate of garlicky prawns would be quite high up my list of holiday pleasures.

Seiradi, Roze, Paros, 2022

This is a delicious, vibrant blush rose produced by the Paros Farming Community, a 100 year old collective that celebrates and renews the ancient agriculture of the beautiful island. Made from a 70/30 blend of indigenous grapes Monemvassia and Mandilaria, this is a lively potpourri of a wine with rose petal and melon on the nose with ripe peach and pomegranate on the palate. We drank it as an aperitif and it worked wonderfully. When considering pairing it with food my mind went immediately to orzo with crayfish which is a Paros staple. The tomato based sauce and the wine would be perfect visual as well as culinary companions.

Where to drink wine on Paros: Santa Pacou,

If you want to drink pink wine while looking out over Homer’s wine dark sea then the balcony at Santa Pacou on Paros is a good place to do it. Traditional Greek dishes and produce get treated with the respect they are due. The rosé would pair well with their shrimp spaghetti or the Kontsosouvli chicken.

Roseus, Limnios, Garalis Winery, 2023 90% Muscat of Alexandria, 10% Limnio

The story of the Garalis Winery is in some senses the story of modern Greece. Displacement, wanderings, reunions, hardwork and just a little bit of (much deserved) luck all feature in their backstory. The ancestors of the Garilis and Markakis families worked as viticulturists on Limnos for over a hundred years before starting their own winery in 2000. An early experimental bottle found its way into the glass of a respected New York reviewer and the rest, as they say, is history. Of course, when in Greece, all the stuff that came before the rest is history too. This rosé, part of their “conventional” production, is still on the complex and fuller flavoured end of the rosé spectrum. On the nose it runs the gamut from candied peel and peaches through to fresh flowers, with roses featuring prominently. The nose promises more sweetness than it delivers which I always find is a fun magic trick in a wine and particularly so in a rosé and definitely the right way around. This is a rosé to be enjoyed with food and can handle some rich and fuller flavoured dishes, or those in which acidity is the point. The makers suggest pairing it with a Nicoise salad and I can’t wait to do exactly that.


Place to drink wine on Limnios – Riza from the same people as Linou.

I will confess that I haven’t been to Limnos but I think of it fondly and often as it is the island home of one of my favourite Athenian restaurants, [Linou Et Zia, etc], with the Limnos outpost being called Riza. As with their Athenian sister, the ambition is simplicity which, as many celebrity children’s book writer will attest, is much harder than it looks. The winelist will inevitably be excellent.

Un Été Grec, Tinos, Domaine du Kalathas, 2021

I’m not 100% sure that this wine belongs in this article as it could easily be considered a light red. That said, distinctions be damned, I love the producer, I love the island and I love the wine. Produced by former graphic designer and antique dealer, Jerome Binda, this wine is made from 100% Koumariano, a rare grape indigenous to Tinos and representative of Binda’s quest to preserve and promote indigenous Tinian “treasures”. Very much the grown up end of rosé world in taste and appearance this wine is a deep pink, dusky strawberry colour which I love and always makes me want to liberate the liquid from the bottle as soon as possible. Berries, red fruits and herbaceous on the nose, with well balanced acidity and a hint of tannin, the wine has a wonderful structure and is a real pleasure. Drink as an apéritif with salty canapes or pair with simply grilled quail or even pigeon.

Place to drink wine on Tinos – Taxidi

Taxidi is a boutique gallery, shop, winebar, restaurant and no doubt many other things that brings French and Greek sensibilities together for the benefit of those who find it. Set in an old Greek house in the centre of town, enjoy a glass, or even a bottle, from their excellent wine list, on the patio as the sunlight dapples through the trees. And when you are sufficiently relaxed you can browse the thoughtfully curated selection of beautiful objects from some of the most interesting artists and craftspeople working in Greek today. Expect to need to return. Frequently.


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