Greek wines are coming up in the world. Start off with these four

If your memories are of cheap retsina on holiday, you’re in for a pleasant surprise

The country has been quietly reinventing itself over the past decade or so

The country has been quietly reinventing itself over the past decade or so

 

Even before the grapes are harvested, it seems obvious that 2021 has not been a good year for grape growers around the world. Already we know that the Sauvignon Blanc crop in New Zealand is down 20 per cent (although quality is exceptional, apparently).

In France, severe spring frosts followed by a wet summer means that the annual harvest could be down by as much as 30 per cent, the lowest figure since 1977. Vineyards in California, including Napa and Sonoma, which were hit by fires last year, are now suffering from drought, with irrigation banned in many regions. Fires have raged in Greece, and it is certain some vineyards (as well as homes and wineries) have been destroyed. 

This could not come at a worse time for Greece, as the country has been quietly reinventing itself over the past decade or so. If your memories are of cheap retsina bought on holiday, then you will be in for a very pleasant surprise as Greece has a huge treasure trove of fascinating ancient grape varieties, some with great potential. I have read that some high-quality producers are even reviving retsina, a style of wine that goes back more than 2,000 years. I look forward to trying one. 

Here in Ireland, Pam and Gay Cooney of Grapevine in Dalkey blazed the trail with Greek wines. I have featured the excellent Kir-Yianni wines here before and they are well worth trying out. More recently, winesdirect.ie has started to import a very good range, including the rosé featured here, as has the corkscrew.ie. Look out, too, for the Lyrarakis wines, including the Voila Assyrtiko (€18, independents). 

Assyrtiko is one of many indigenous grape varieties, and for the moment is the name on everyone’s lips. Using grapes grown on the volcanic soils on the island of Santorini, the wines can be extraordinary. The Gaia wine featured here is one of my favourite white wines – not cheap, but I would rank it alongside many fine white Burgundies and grand cru Rieslings. O’Briens also stocks Monograph (€16.95), an Assyrtiko from the mainland, the Gaia rosé (€15.95) and the full-bodied red Agiorgitiko (€18.95).

As well as Assyrtiko, this week I feature two wines based on Roditis, one of the most widely planted varieties in Greece, sometimes used in retsina. It is grown in high-altitude vineyards and produces steely dry wines; on warmer sites it can have an appealing richness. Lastly, Malagousia, sometimes likened to Chardonnay, can produce truly exciting white wines too. 

To enjoy these at their best, I can think of nothing better than some summery Greek food; mezze, salty savoury salads and grilled oily fish.

M&S Found Moschofilero Roditis 2020, Peloponnese
12%, €12.50
Light and floral with beguiling honeyed fruits, refreshing citrus acidity, finishing dry. Perfect summer drinking by itself or with some Greek mezze. You could also stay with Greece and try the red M&S Found Xinomavro & Mandilaria blend.
From Marks & Spencer, markandspencer.com

At Sea Roditis 2019, Giannikos Winery, PGI Peloponnese (Organic)
12.5%, €18.95
Part of range imported by Mitchell & Son, this is a very attractive crisp dry white with zesty grapefruit and fresh juicy melon fruits. Try it with a Greek salad, a few dolmades and some flatbread dipped in taramasalata. 
From Mitchell & Son, D1, Sandycove, and Avoca, Kilmacanogue & Dunboyne, mitchellandson.com.

Kamara Pure Rosé “Stalisma” (Organic) 
12.5%, €24.95
Made from a blend of one red grape (Xinomavro), and two white varieties (Malagouzia and Assyrtiko), this is a crowd-pleasing fruit-filled rosé with wild strawberries and redcurrants. Fried fish and summer salads sound ideal matches. 
From Wines Direct, Mullingar, winesdirect.ie.

Gaia Wild Ferment Assyrtiko, Santorini
13.5%, €29.95 A remarkable wine with wonderful complex floral aromas and a flinty touch; rich creamy nectarine fruits shot through with a crisp linear mineral acidity, grilled hazelnuts and a wild touch too. Try it with courgette fritters, grilled prawns, red mullet, wild sea bass or calamari.
From O’Briens, obrienswine.ie     

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