Welcome to this month's Novel Wines Explorer's Club, the UK's most exciting wine subscription for the curious drinker. Each month, we will introduce you to a new wine region as part of our promise to deliver no two wines the same for a whole year. Not a member yet? Subscribe here.
We're exploring Greece in the Club box for July 2022 with a trio of white wines from the mainland and Crete, and a trio of reds from the Peloponnese, Patras and Macedonia. You can read more about each of the wines below, as well as enjoy a tasting video from our wine buyer Ben to introduce each wine. If you have any questions about the wines, get in touch here.
Semeli Nassiakos Mantinia Moschofilero (included in The Rambler and The Globetrotter) is the first white wine in your box. This fresh, aromatic wine is made by Leonidas Nassiakos, nicknamed the "master of Moscofilero" by his neighbours, in the Peloponnese. It uses fruit from his family's single vineyard and is fermented and matured in stainless steel. It's a dry wine with peach, guava, and melon.
A wine like this is a delight with goat's cheese, or grilled white fish.
Akriotou 'Orivatis' Old Vine Savatiano (included in The Rambler and The Globetrotter). Introducing winemaker Vassiliki Akriotou's first range of wines from her micro-winery in the heart of Greece. Her vineyards are located on the snow-capped mountains some 300m above sea level and inspires the name "Orivatis", which means "Mountaineer".
This white wine is made exclusively from the indigenous Savatiano grapes grown in the single vineyard Plataies on 45 year old vines. The fruit is strictly selected, destemmed and crushed with skin contact lasting six hours. The wine is rested on fine lees following fermentation with batonnage adding texture and complexity for three months. The result is a complex, aromatic bouquet of peach, quince, vanilla and Turkish delight. The palate follows with a silky, voluptuous texture, flavours of melon and grapefruit, and a finish of pepper, ginger and wild mint. Pair with fresh crab with aioli, or Asian pan-fried duck and stir fried vegetables.
Idaia 'Ocean' Dafnes Thrapsathiri (only included in The Globetrotter) is a moreish, full bodied and fresh white wine. The family-owned Idaia Winery is based in Venerato village in the heart of the Malevizi district, surrounded by vines. This area is part of the Dafnes appellation in Crete, a Greek island. The family specialise in creating wines from indigenous grapes that reflect the location in which they're grown, like this Thrapsathiri (pronounced Thrap-sah-THEE-ree). Idaia is headed up by the knowledgeable oenologists Vasilis Laderos and Calliope Volitaki.
Ocean has attractive floral aromas with a rich, generous palate bursting with juicy melon, spice, pine and guava. The wine finishes with a saline, mouth-watering note, making it ideal with lemon chicken, spiced tacos, or a Greek salad.
Semeli Feast Red Agiorgitiko (only included in The Globetrotter), another wine from Semeli Winery's Leonidas Nassiakos. This time it's a soft, medium bodied red with no oak-ageing. Instead it's all about the fruit with plush notes of cherry and red plum. The wine is made from local variety Agiorgitiko (pronounced Ah-gee-or-gee-tee-ko), the main red grape used in Greece that has a similar style to Sangiovese. It pairs so well with pasta in tomato sauce, pizza, or falafel.
Sant'Or Krasis (only included in The Globetrotter) is Panagiotis Dimitropoulos’ stunning flagship red wine, made entirely from Mavrodaphne grapes that are wildly fermented. This grape is usually used for sweet wines but this is a more rare, traditional expression of the variety. The wine is made from fruit on Panagiotis' 4.5 hectare estate near the city of Patra, wildly fermented, and aged for 12 months in used French oak. Expect a whole plethora of complexity with aromas of pomegranate, dried berries, and violets. Rounds out into smooth, velvety tannins. Try it with game pie, roast venison, leg of lamb, or Moroccan vegetable tagine.
Alpha Estate Hedgehog Single Vineyard Xinomavro (included in The Rambler and The Globetrotter) is the final wine in this month's box. This red wine is made from the delicious indigenous Greek grape variety, Xinomavro (pronounced Ksee-NOH-mav-roe), harvested from a single vineyard on the Amyndeon plateau in north-west Macedonia, Greece. Here the grapes enjoy a slow-ripening season at 690m above sea level with the vineyard facing Lake Petron and Mt. Voras. Cool air circulates over sandy clay and limestone soils and the harvest is very selective. The wine is left on lees for 8 months before a year's maturation in Allier oak barrel and a final year in bottle. The result is a full bodied, structured red wine backed by silky tannins and a long finish. Try with venison steak or a BBQ.
It is a great shame that when you mention Greek wine today, people think about retsina and dismiss it. It's a shame both because the premium, well-made retsina wines are actually delicious, but even more so because Greece offers the world some of the most exciting and versatile wines we've tasted.
In the ancient world, Greece was one of the homes of wine. With its cradle in Georgia and Armenia, it didn't take long for the culture for grape wine to circle across southern Anatolia and find a natural home in the island-rich, valley scrawled lands of Greece. Evidence suggests winemaking has been a part of Greek culture for 6,500 years, so if anyone would have a plethora of wine styles and a rich winemaking culture it was going to be Greece.
However, it is only recently that we have started to find Greek wines available in all their glory with indigenous grapes like Assyrtiko, Savataino, and Malagousia in whites and Agiorgitiko, Xinomavro and Mavrodaphne in the reds, to name a few.
One of this month's main wineries is Semeli, one of the country's leading wineries that was founded in 1979. Their story began in the foothills of Mount Penteli, focused on indigenous grapes, quality cultivation and the latest technology in the winery. As they grew and acquired vines in the Peloponnese (southern mainland) regions of Nemea and Mantinia, a new winery was built in Nemea itself. Head winemaker Leonidas Nassiakos has proven himself as one of Greece's finest winemakers, and no-one makes Moschofilero quite like he does.
Another winery in this box is the Akriotou Microwinery that lies in the heart of Greece. As mentioned, Vassiliki has vines planted some 300m above sea level with a northern orientation that helps to preserve freshness and acidity. The vines of Savatiano, one of the country's most-planted grapes, are up to 60 years old and crop concentrated low yields that make for some incredibly interesting white wines.
Roman wine press at Idaia winery, Crete.
We also have a wine from Idaia Winery, based in Crete. It takes its name from the first name of ancient Crete, Idaia, which was the name of the mother of the ten Kouretes. Zeus, king of Crete, honoured his wife by naming the whole island after her. Laderos Vasilis and Volitaki Calliope are the winemakers heading up the family estate that sits in the shallow valleys of Dafnes. While they produce some 90,000 litres of wine per year, they are always fine quality.
The natural-focused Sant'Or Winery is in its third generation of family ownership and they continue their focus on biological viticulture and low sulphites, low intervention winemaking. They have 4 hectares of vines, so the winery is small, but it's made a name for itself producing premium, quality wines. It is especially regarded for its red wines.
Alpha Estate Winery is perhaps the biggest of the wineries in your box this month. However, they are also one of the best Greek producers on our list. Consistently great quality, with top vineyard holdings in the foothills of Macedonian Amyndeon in northern Greece, it is producing stunning red and white wines. Combine this top site terroir with the ever-promising and talented Angelo Iatridis and you are almost guaranteed great wines.
The old adage about eating local with your wines is very true in Greece. Mediterranean cuisine, while varied, is often full of fresh vegetables, grilled meats or fish, and softer cheese like goat's or ewe's milk cheese. You've got salads with luscious olive oil dressings, tangy ripe tomatoes, and moreish seafood.
The reds have very elegant tannins, so meats like lamb or sausages will work really well. The white wines tend to be more voluptuous than the European classics with more stone fruits and dried citrus, which lends itself well to oily fish.
Just as you can experiment with a meze of different dishes, it's well worth trying an array of great Greek wines, too!
There's information all about Greek wines on the official Wines of Greece website here.
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