Uncorked} Greek Wines
When it comes to wine, Greece is indeed great again. Despite its much publicized financial woes, the country that might have invented wine and certainly bequeathed a culture of wine to the world has gotten its act together. It’s starting to turn out vintages as satisfying as they are—in terms of taste and grape varietal—unique.
A longtime lover of all things Hellenic, I recently put my money where my mouth was and drove a series of rental cars to several admired wineries on the islands of Santorini and Crete, as well as on the magical section of the mainland called the Peloponnese.
Having first tasted Greek wines, including the dreaded retsina, on location as a low-budget backpacker in the early 1970s, I’m here to tell you they’ve come a long way.
For a long time, Greece was considered the absolute birthplace of wine. After all, we know they called the liquid fermented from grapes oinos, the root word for what we call the beverage today and the foundation of “oenologist” and “oenophile.” The Greeks drank wine for pleasure and for sacrament.
In the past decade or so, archaeological finds have pinned the invention farther back on places such as Persia and China, but (1.) it’s unclear whether they were drinking wine or some primitive form of beer, and (2.) we have no evidence of a meaningful wine culture surrounding its consumption.
Thanks to such mainland wineries as Semeli in Nemea and both the sophisticated Boutari and the downhome Hatzidakis on Santorini, I suspect I’ll embrace those hard to- pronounce Greek varietals for the rest of my life. Why, after all, should I drink mere cabernet or merlot when there’s agiorgitiko (St. George) and xinomavro to be enjoyed?
And on those rare occasions when I want white wine, I hereby declare the assyrtico of Santorini my new best friend. I lift my glass to Greece, the oldest and newest wine country on the face of the earth.
Courtesy of Markus Stolz, Greek wine insider and blogger:
Greek wines are usually characterized by moderate alcohol levels, being high in acidity, mostly light to medium bodied and are never too heavy. Oenological practices highlight the fruit aromas, yielding wines that are refreshing. This makes Greek wines great for enjoying with a meal.
Agiorgitiko (the grape variety Semeli wine consists of) is superb with steaks, roast beef or lamb, and also pairs well with slightly spicy Asian cuisine.