It’s All Greek

The Greeks were making wine in ancient times, although they fell off the world wine map in the 20th century, failing to keep up with the revolution happening in the rest of the world.

Lately, though, we’re seeing some very smart modern Greek wines brought into Australia, thanks to a small number of conscientious importers such as the Lamb Family.

A quick tour of the wine regions a couple of years ago got me enthused. Gaia Wines, headed up by Athens university wine science lecturer Yiannis Paraskevopoulos and viticulturist Leon Karatsalos, is the company that impressed me most. Their outstanding wines are a full-bodied red made from agiorgitiko grown in the warm, southerly Nemea region, and a chip-dry assyrtiko from the island of Santorini. I loved them both. Assyrtiko is a most distinctive white wine, grown on volcanic ash soils, and tasting sort of volcanic too. It’s great with seafood.

(Right: Yiannis Paraskevopoulos. Left: winemaker Dimitris Akrivos at the Gaia winery)

The high-acid xinomavro is the red variety the Greeks value most, but agiorgitiko is a style probably more familiar to Australian palates. The 2009 Gaia Agiorgitiko ($29) (tasting) and 2012 Gaia Thalassitis Assyrtiko ($36.50) (tasting) are two new additions to the database. A few months back I added some wines from Alpha Estate, in the northern region of Amyndeon, which I also recommend. For a good intro to xinomavro try 2008 Alpha Estate Hedgehog Vineyard ($44) (tasting). Malagouzia is a fascinating indigenous white variety – try Alpha Estate Axia 2011 ($20) (tasting). There’s also a pretty good Alpha Estate syrah, Turtles Vineyard 2009 ($27) (tasting).

In the new upload of imports I also have two excellent 2011 old-vine reds from the Languedoc under the Tessellae label: a syrah, grenache, mourvedre, grenache gris blend from the Cotes du Roussillon (tasting) and a Cotes Catalans carignan (tasting). Both are rich, fleshy, flavoursome reds full of the sunny generosity of southern France. And for something a tad more elegant and classical, there’s a delicious 2011 Domaine Vincent Paris Cornas (tasting). Enjoy!

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