OK, so the ancient Greeks technically didn't invent wine (that accolade goes to Georgia), but they arguably invented wine culture as we know it. While they were thrashing out small ideas like Democracy, Philosophy and Theatre, they were also producing and exporting a variety of wine styles to the ancient world.
A tradition of winemaking continued into modern Greece, but due to a *ahem* slip in standards in the mid-20th century, Greek wine was much maligned. For years British holiday makers in Greece were presented with poor quality, or even faulty, wine at many a taverna, damaging their international reputation immeasurably. Watch Brits of a certain age wince as you even mention Retsina...
Now however, a new generation of young Greek winemakers (particularly those making natural wines) are being widely exported and regularly praised in the wine press. And yes, that even includes some Retsina! Below are a couple of Greek bottlings that we've been fortunate enough to add to our list this month.
Chloi and her father Vangelis run the Chatzivaritis Estate together in the PDO region of Goumenissa, just east of Naoussa in Northern Greece. The pair bottle their wines under separate labels within the same domaine. All grapes are grown organically, with Chloi also practising low intervention winemaking with only a small amount of SO2 added at bottling. If you don't believe us when we say these are top wines, they've won awards from Decanter and just this month received a great write-up from wine guru Dr. Jamie Goode; high praise indeed!
Their Goumenissa PDO is a serious, serious wine. This is a blend on Xinomavro and local grape Negoska aged for 12 months in French oak barrels, and a further 6 months in bottle to settle down. This style of Xino is often compared to Barolo - age-worthy with powerful tannins, rich dark fruit and earthy spice, with the addition of sun-dried tomato notes. Try it with roast lamb (naturally), steak or a rich mushroom risotto.
In contrast, Chloi makes a fabulously juicy, younger drinking style of Xino named Mus with notes of blackcurrant, black cherry, liquorice and a fresh tomato acidity. Brilliant as an aperitif, or with anything tomato-based.
We were also bowled over by Chloi's orange wine Ni, which feels like Mediterranean Summer in a bottle. Local grapes Malagouzia and Roditis spend a month on skins fermenting in clay amphorae followed by maturation in old French oak. Aromas of fresh, ripe peaches, white flowers, preserved lemons, dried apricots, honey and cedar abound. Rich, complex but still refreshing.
Lastly we couldn't help but add a modern, restrained style of Retsina to our list. This is one of the oldest styles of wine in the world, having been made for at least 2,000 years. Fresh and just a little aromatic, Savatiano grapes are blended with a touch of pine resin to create a wine with aromas of fresh lemon zest, mango, herbs and eucalyptus. Curious? Try it with fish and chips, Greek salad or Japanese sashimi. No stronger on the nose than a Riesling, we feel this bottling from Mylonas winery in Attica also offers fantastic value.