In my blog last time, I talked about the vast array of wine grapes native to Greece. Many of these are found only in a limited area where they have been grown for generations and are perfectly suited to the conditions.
So, our wine tour of that country became a week of 2 halves. As we travelled south towards the Peloponnese, we left the Xinomavro-based reds of the north behind and, instead, met up with another red variety, the almost unpronounceable Agioritiko (“eye-your-yit-iko”) which, happily, is also known as St. George.
St. George is altogether softer and rounder than Xinomavro with lower acidity and gentler tannins – more like a Merlot than a Cabernet Sauvignon. Dark cherries and herbs dominate the palate with some spiciness where the wines had some oak ageing. We tasted some delightful examples at Tselopos and Gaia.
But, as with the early part of the trip, our visit south wasn’t all about red wines; the Malagousia and Assyrtiko grapes we tasted further north were still found here, but were joined by Moschofilero, grown high on the plateau of Mantinia. This has lovely freshness with floral and citrus flavours – Domaine Nikolaou’s bottling stood out.
And then there’s Retsina! Dubious though we were, a wine tour of Greece wouldn’t really be complete without tasting it.
Fortunately, the example we were shown was Gaia’s modern take on the subject: Ritinitis Nobilis – delicate, fragrant and lemony-fresh. Yes, there was a subtle hint of pine resin on the nose and the palate, but it just seemed to add an extra aromatic dimension to the wine rather than being the central flavour. I wouldn’t guarantee that all Retsina would be this drinkable, but it’s worth keeping an open mind.
And so, all too soon we were on our way home. Thanks again to our tour manager, Caron, and invaluable wine guide, Derek Smedley MW for making the trip so interesting and worthwhile.
We travelled with Arblaster and Clarke (www.winetours.co.uk), a specialist in wine-related holidays.