Tasting Notes: Greek wines – beyond Retsina! presented by Christos Ioannou AWE, 23 May 2018

We were lucky tonight to have Christos, of course from his Greek background, to give us an insight into the fascinating and surprisingly varied world of Greek wine and winemaking.

2017 Semeli Nassiakos Moschofilero, PDO Mantinea   (Wine Society £9.95) I’m cheating a bit here as I already knew how good this wine was from previous vintages. From an indigenous grape an grown at 600m altitude on the Peloponnese, it has a beautiful fragrant nose and very lively, almost a touch of sherbet, on the palate with hints of Muscat-like spice; some got a strong waft of roses on the nose. Probably closest comparison would be an Argentinian Torrontes. PDO is the Greek equivalent of the French AOC s so reserved for quality wines. Lovely wine, very good value.

2016 Karavitakis Klima Vidiano PGI Chania Crete L’Oisinière  (Strictly Wine £15.99) This wine is a 100% Vidiano blend from vineyards at three different altitudes – 150m, 350m and 650m, the latter giving added structure and depth. The Karavitakis winery is situated south of the historic town of Chania in Western Crete.  Nose has hints of pear-drops, also on the palate with a firm mineral finish and good mouthfill. PGI is the Greek “local wine” classification.

2017 Moraitis Malagousia PGI Cyclades Paros  (Wine Society £12.50) From a native grape on the island of Paros, this has a lovely aromatic nose, spicy, peaches and pineapples on the palate, reminiscent  of a very light Gewürtztraminer and with a soft finish;  another “local” wine  and very pleasant.

2016 Hatzidakis Santorini Assyrtiko/Aidani/Athiri PDO Santorini  (n/a currently on WineSearcher)  Santorini is famed for the Assyrtiko grape and this wine, a blend with two other local grapes, did not disappoint. Quite dark yellow with wonderful balanced acidity and good mouthfill, a complex wine that felt a little rich and sweet  even though actually bone-dry. Santorini is very dry and windy and the vines are grown in a bowl-like configuration to protect them, the grape is very hardy and resistant to drought.  wine that truly reflects the character of its home.

2016 Tetramythos Black Kalavryta PGI Achaia  (Wine Society £8.95) Grown on the north Peloponnese at 1000m and benefiting from breezes from the Gulf of Corinth, this organically-grown wine is a true “local” one, very soft and light, no oak and rather attractively rustic, cherries and mulberries on the palate; a quaffer rather than a thinker and something quite out of the ordinary, good fun and good value.

2015 Domaine Mercouri Mavrodaphne/Refosco PGI Letrinos  (n/a currently on WineSearcher)  From a blend of a famous Greek grape and an Italian grape,  and aged in a mix of old and new oak, this is a very elegant wine with well-integrated smooth tannins and a slight almost medicinal quality on both nose and palate – almost the complete opposite of the previous red – a pity that there seems to be no UK supplier

2013 Skouras Grand Cuvee Agiorgitiko PDO Nemea  (n/a currently on WineSearcher, but similar other vintages from Tanners and Jeroboams around £16) A Grand Reserva level wine, spending 12 months in new oak then aged in bottle. As expected, fruity vanilla on the nose and big mouthfill  and clear acidity on the palate, somewhat Rioja-like in style, but I felt a little alcohol burn despite only 13.5% a.b.v., which suggests that the wine is a little unbalanced. I have tasted better wines from Agiorgitiko.

2015 Thymiopoulos Terra Petra Xinomavro/Krassato/Stavroto PDO Rapsani  (Wine Society £19.50) A lovely unfiltered blend of Xinomavro (50%), Krassato (35%) and Stavroto (15%) very much like a bigger Rhone, e.g. Gigondas, with ripe fruit and well-balanced smooth tannins – would certainly repay cellaring – my favourite red of the tasting. Winemakers notes: A gorgeous Greek red from the exciting new venture of Apostolos Thymiopoulos. Apostolos has shown himself to be a master of the xinomavro grape, which plays an important part in Rapsani with two other local grapes, 120km further south of Naoussa. The palate is ripe and naturally sweet in this warmer climate in the foothills of Mount Olympus.

NV Samos Anthemis Muscat Blancs à Petit Grains PDO Samos (Wine Society and others £9.50/50cl) From the island that gave the world Pythagoras, this famous wine is made by a large cooperative and spends 5 years in old oak barrels before bottling. To achieve the sweetness, it is naturally fermented to 6% alcohol then fortified with grape spirit. A lovely and not too rich wine to end the tasting and remarkably good value too.

Overall, a very interesting evening and Christos gave us a real feel for the breadth and heritage of winemaking in Greece, both in the past and the present day. The only regret was that relatively few of these wines are easily available in the UK at present. The big surprise was that a country as hot as Greece can produce such fresh and vibrant white wines; the Semeli Moschifilero is a very popular wine.

John Harris