The Hellenic Republic has been stomping on grape bunches for over 5,000 years to produce various drops of vino from over 300 indigenous varietals. In Greece, grape harvest season is considered a celebration of its ancient civilisation and a salute to Dionysus, the god of wine.
In recent times, the Greek nation has been mostly brought to our attention through repetitive news reels regarding the country’s economic difficulties. For the Greek wine industry, this has meant less of a platform to show the world a skill they have been perfecting for millennia. I for one am not letting that get in my way.
In this issue I am going to do my part to help pull back the curtain on Dionysus’ nation and offer you, my readers, an insight into the local wine varietals and the grape growing regions that you should be drinking. As for pronouncing some of them, I’m afraid I can’t promise to be of help there!
Considered as the ambassador of Greek white wines, this varietal thrives in the region of Santorini. The mix of aromas from wild citrus plants and sea salt-like minerality is immediately mouth-watering. This is often a clean and fruit driven wine that is very approachable and likened to a crispy dry Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon blend. A great wine with a beach-side grilled octopus starter. Assyrtiko-Athiri, Sigalas Winery $200, from olivetreehk.com.
This is a new discovery of mine and was instantly a favourite in recent tastings at my store. A rich and full-flavoured wine with an intense stone fruit essence that is often blended with components of oak. The flavour spectrum is like Marsanne, Roussanne (typical Rhône Valley) or a lighter style Chardonnay from a cooler region. The grapes are traditionally cultivated in a place called Etoloakarnania, which sounds a bit like an extinct dinosaur fossil. Malagousia, Moraitis Winery, $95, from olivetreehk.com
Considered a rare red grape, and planted on the west coast of Peloponnese, this varietal creates a dry wine style that is extremely dark in colour. It carries soft tannins, gives a splash of spice to the palate and has a little grunt due to the punchier alcohol levels. The key to this wine is the hot Greek western sunshine that gives these vines plenty of sustenance for ripening. Available next month from flyingwinemaker.asia.
A varietal that directly translates as ‘black laurel’, this certainly lives up to its name with a jet black grape on the vine. Planted mostly on the west coast of the country (Achaia and Cephalonia) the grape can achieve such intense ripeness that it is great for making sweeter style wines. Sweet style wines also require the retention of natural acidity, which this varietal achieves consistently.