Summer in a Bottle
Eleni Kefalopoulou raises a glass to Greece’s indigenous whites.
The glorious Greek summer is here! A beautiful orange sun warming my back in Byzantine Monemvasia, a walk through Lefkes in Paros, the dry salty wind mixing with the aroma of indigenous flowers, a plunge into the tropical waters of Halkidiki, a coffee in the shade of Mount Olympus, a syrtaki dance in Crete and the unique sunset at Oia in Santorini. The only thing missing is a cool glass of refreshing Greek wine, full of aromas from the earth, the sun and the sea, knowing that nothing else can quench my wanderer’s thirst, nor quite match the grilled seafood I’m about to devour.
The 300 plus varieties of indigenous grapes make wines that are delicious and perfectly appropriate with a wide array of foods. In spite of the heat and the sea, and in some cases, as a direct result of both, Greece has been producing incredibly well-balanced, clean, brilliant wines.
I find it particularly difficult to name only a few of my favourites, so I thought I would begin my list by order of geography, beginning from Northern Greece and making my way south.
In the last 10 years, Northern Greece has developed a reputation for rich aromatic white wines. Starting from the Pangeo mountain region near Kavala, Ktima Vivlia Hora produces Ovilos, a blend of Assyrtiko and Semillon matured in oak barrels with hints of mango, apricot vanilla and honey. It is an absolute must this summer, as is Magiko Vouno from Nico Lazaridis. From the same region, Roditis from the Simeonidis winery is a fresh choice with lemon and citrus aromas and a floral taste, while Idisma drios from Techni Oenou Estate is an aromatic green-yellow Chardonnay with a rich chestnut aftertaste.
Heading towards central Macedonia, the Gerovassiliou winery has won several prizes in local and international competitions for its wines and produces the Assyrtiko and Malagouzia varieties, both with impressive aromas and a lemony aftertaste. In nearby Halkidiki, Malagouzia of Porto Carras Estate reveals the unique floral aromas of the variety. In the Amynteon region, Alpha Estate produces one of the best Greek Sauvignon Blancs with a well-balanced fruity flavour and a long-lasting aftertaste. On the slopes of Mount Olympus, Dimitris Katsaros bottles an excellent golden-coloured Chardonnay, bursting with the sweet aroma of fruits, nuts and vanilla.
In Thessaly, organically grown grapes of the Karipidis family produce a rich and crispy Sauvignon Blanc which is allowed to mature in oak barrels for seven months before it reveals its complex combination of citrus fruits.
Epirus is the land of Zitsa, where the famous white variety Debina is cultivated. Poeme from Glinavos winery is a natural sparkling semi-dry wine. Crystal clear in colour, the elegant bubbles and lemon tang zest create a unique combination and a great accompaniment to local Greek cuisine. Uncork a bottle of Eva, a delicate fruity sparkling wine by Domaine Efharis and take in the unspoilt beauty of Central Greece.
One third of all Greek vineyards are in the Peloponnese, famous for its history, archaeological sites and quality wines. Mantinia, at an altitude of 1.900 to 2.500 feet produces the Moschofilero variety, an amazingly versatile, food-friendly wine. A glass of well-chilled Amalia Brut by Tselepos Estate is just the ticket. Following classical champagne production methods, Amalia Brut boasts long lasting bubbles, rose and honey aromas with a hint of yeast. In ancient Nemea, the Palivos Estate makes Petrines Plagies, a rich wine with hints of watermelon and peach, particularly suited for summertime drinking. In the south, near the Byzantine castle of Malvasia lies the long established Monemvasia winery.
Owner G. Tsibidis is dedicated to cultivating local varieties of the region like Kidonitsa, Asprouda and Malvasia, varieties that trace their roots back to the 12th century! From nearly extinct, to a darling of sommeliers worldwide, Malvasia is a floral, aromatic yet structured variety and is considered by many as Greece’s most dynamic entry into the international marketplace. Sit at one of the terraces of the old castle, uncork a bottle of Monemvasios and let this golden libation take you on a journey through the ages.
Cephalonia: Off to the west, the Robola variety is the pride of Cephalonia. The Robola of Gentilini winery is a noble, floral and balanced wine that brings the Ionian breeze right into your glass.
Limnos: Limnos produces excellent aromatic wines from the Moschato Alexandria variety. Try Limnos of the Limnos Union for a rosy hint.
Paros: From Paros, try the Monemvasia-Assyrtiko by Moraitis Estate, a surprising blend of the two varieties.
Santorini: The volcanic island of Santorini has a unique, centuries-old history of vinification. The sun, the wind and the lava work magically together and the local variety of Assyrtiko produces strong, crispy white wines. I recommend the Santorini by Sigalas and Thalassitis by Gaia wines, both100% Assyrtiko wines and Santorini by Gavalas from Assyrtiko and Aidani.
Crete: Crete, the cradle of Minoan civilization, is home to a wine press dating back to 2000 BC. Vilana, the main variety, produces fruity white wines and also Thrapsathiri, Vidiano and Malvasia contribute to their floral palate. Paterianakis Estate produces Melissokipos, a fresh fruity summer wine, from an organically grown vineyard that is the ideal companion for seafood and grilled vegetables. Boutari’s Fantaxometocho (named after a local Cretan legend about a haunted cottage) is a robust white while its Kritikos wine is full-bodied yet frothy – a fail-safe bet for all occasions.
So wherever you are headed this summer, make sure you have a glass of traditional vintage to escort you through your holidays.
Stin ygeia sas!!!