Greece is the centre of the world once more. Every country in the western world is looking to this eastern European country, wondering if they will get out of the European single currency and knock over the first domino that will make every other economy in Europe collapse in a heap. They do have one resource that could make them a few quid to help their economy, but selling their wine will be a bit of a hard sell. The first reason is that Greece has their own grape varieties with names that are hard to pronounce. Secondly, a number of years ago, Oddbins tried to bring in a package of Greek wines and I remember battling with the customers trying to flog them off cheap so there is a history of Greek wines not doing so well. I thought that maybe now is the time to take another look at Greek wines, and with them needing any revenue they can, maybe get a bargain.
The first wine I tried was the 2011 Domaine Gervoassiliou Malagousia. From the Thessaloniki region, it is made from the Malagousia grape, an aromatic variety that came back from the brink of extinction in the late 20th century. It had a simple, light and lemony aroma with some floral soap notes coming out. The palate had a creamy texture with some simple sweet orange fruit and lime pith. There is a touch harsh alcohol on the finish, strange when it is only 12.5%. More floral flavours come through, but a nice, simple fresh wine. 77pts £13.50
A pair of Assyrtikos came next. This grape is indigeous to the island of Santorini with its volcanic soils and older vines of this grape variety has been proven to be naturally resistant to Phylloxera and are ungrafted. The grape is often blended with other varieties including Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, and due to the ash soils, Assyrtiko doesn't lose its acidity when it is very ripe, which makes it good for sweeter wines. Unfortunately for this grape, it is also made into Retsina...
The first of this variety I tried was the 2011 Thalassitis White Dry Wine, which had a little sulphur coming off. Some minerally elements come through with some pine and a bit of hot hedgerow flowers. The palate is pleasant and fruit driven, lots of sweet citrus and then a salty tangerine pith and yellow flower flavour. Quite tasty and fresh. 81pts £15.50
Next up was the 2011 Assyrtiko by Gaia Wild Ferment, made from grapes from 80 year old ungrafted vines. A bit of yeast with some ginger elements came off with some dried orange peel and crispy roast chicken skin and thyme. A nice oilier texture, some lovely wood coming out and an amount of beeswax as well leading to some sharper minerals and a citrus zing. This falls away and the chicken strolls back in, but I really like this wine. 84pts £16.00
The final variety was Agiorgitiko, one of the most widely grown Greek varieties. Red skinned and heat resistant from the Peloponnisos area, it is able to be made into any type of red wine from very soft to very tannic, depending on where it is grown and how it is made into wine. The softer wines have a similarity to Beaujolais Nouveau, but the chunkier wines can age very well and are can be blended into Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine I tried was the 2011 Notios Red Dry Wine was entirely this variety and it was in the softer camp. Lots and lots of sweet, fresh cherries that were ruined by making them all confected. There is some chocolate and cinnamon balls aroma coming through on the palate with some tarry elements, liquorice and then weak fruit. Far too bubblegummy and confected for me. 73pts £11.50
And then, finally, a blend of 40% Agiorgitiko and 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2008 Katogi Averoff Red Dry Table Wine from Macedonia, which was a lovely wine. Nice bright cherries with a floral lift to the aroma - a bit of rose petal - and then some older wood. The palate has a gravelly element, some savoury notes, liquorice and tobacco with some black cherries and a tiny tar element. There is a slight alcohol spike, but it is very well made, balanced and tasty. 83pts. (Not available in the UK)
Greece is a country that can, and does, produce good wine. They have interesting varieties that are adventures for the wine lover looking for new things to try, but commercially, they are facing an uphill struggle and it would be a shame if they focused on Cabernet and Sauvignon Blanc to get people looking towards Greek wine.