Matt Monk of the Whalley Wine Shop recommends some quality Greek wines

Greece has more than 6,500 years of winemaking experience and even had a god of wine, Dionysus

Thursday, 15th April 2021, 12:30 pm

A long time ago, a lifetime away, yours truly may have played a leading role in the Pamber Heath Cub Scout Gang Show production of Grease the musical, and luckily for the world my singing career stayed there!

My new career, though, has me tasting wines from around the world, and a few months ago Greece was the word.

We taste as a team, and the wines get the thumbs up or down from all of us. During the current situation we have only managed a few group tastings over the year (normally it’s a few per month). This time we were tasting over a dozen wines, and from that we select a couple to go on our shelves – space is at a premium in our little shop. At the end, we realised we had a problem, they were all good, not just that but really good. As Nick (a knowledgable wine guru) put it “Quite possibly the best tasting in over a year!”

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Greece produces a huge range of wines, from wines with freshness and acidity from the north of the country, to varieties from the south which are perfect with seafood

So what IS the word on Greece? With more than 6,500 years of winemaking experience I think they put the word OLD into Old World Wines. The Greeks used wine extensively throughout their culture, wine for religious ceremonies, for social events and for medical grounds. The highlight of the social calendar was the ‘Symposium’ (Greek Cocktail party), where people met and discussed all things Greek, all had to drink wine while there. Luckily, at 16 per cent ABV, this was watered down as to be seen ‘rolling drunk’ was considered bad taste, and these ‘symposiums’ could go on through till dawn. The Greeks even had a god of wine, Dionysus whose festival lasted three days with music and theatre displays throughout the entire event (Greek Glastonbury).

Ranging from the cooler, wetter parts of Northern Greece, part of mainland Europe, they work with grapes that give a bit more freshness and acidity like Xinomavro and Malagousia. The regions also include Central Greece, the area surrounding Athens, where they use grapes such as Savatiano and Vradiano grown on the slopes of Mount Olympus; Southern Greece, including Kefalonia and Crete, where the warm Mediterranean climate produces low acidity and aromatic flavours with grapes such as Moschofilero and Agiorgitko; and then all the way down to the Aegean Islands of Samos and Santorini, the classic image of Greece , white buildings and blue skies. The grapes here include Assyrtiko producing a minerally fresh style perfect with seafood and the red grape Limnio, very typical of Gamay and Valpolicella.

With such history and variety these wines should find a place on your table, be it picnic, patio or family dinner!!

Manolesakis Estate ‘Exis’ Red and White £9.99 each.

The white is a blend of Malagousia and Assyrtiko, fresh, crisp style with hints of citrus and tropical fruits. Finishes with a refreshing zesty note.

The red is a blend of Limnio and Moschomavaro. Lots of red fruit on the nose, raspberries and red cherry. Very much like a Beaujolais, with a fresh crunchy fruit finish and a touch of wild herbs.

The next two wines were considered the favourites of the days tasting, and would pair nicely with a variety of lamb dishes.

Kitma Gerovassiliou Malagousia £17.49

Lots of floral notes, white blossom and peach aromas. More stone fruit flavours, pear and apricot, fresh flinty notes and a little touch of mint in the finish.

Alpha Estate, Single Vineyard ‘Hedgehog’, Xinomavro £17.49

This is an interestingly complex wine, lots of redcurrant and cherry notes, with a bit of plum on the palate. Lots of oak influenced flavours, vanilla and all spice. Opening up to a hint of pepper and leather in the finish.