Greece is not the first country you would think of when you consider old world wine. However, this beautiful country in the Mediterranean is actually one of the oldest wine regions, which has been producing excellent wine for a long, long time.
The allure of Greece is its varied climate and diverse terrain. Grapes are grown on steep rocky slopes as well as on vast flat land. Many of its old vines have survived without succumbing to phylloxera. The grapes in Greece are unique to the country and the wines produced here are not only interesting, they offer good value for the price you pay.
To get to know Greek wine, Santorini is a good place to start. This mesmerizing island in the Cyclades is actually a crater. The indigenous white grape varieties are Assyrtiko, Athiri and Aidani. These are more renowned than the red grape varieties, consisting of Mandalieria and Mavrotragano.
Assyrtiko is the star that creates the Santorini dry white wine, which the region is renowned for. The vines grow slowly in volcanic soil rich in ash, thriving under the harsh Mediterranean heat and unwavering in relentless winds. No water is used as the cooling sea breeze hydrates the vines and what you eventually get is an age-worthy wine, packed full of intense flavour.
At first taste, an immediate minerality shines through with saltiness due to the sea spray that clings to the grapes. Crisp acidity is accented by notes of lemon. Somehow, beyond the flint and citrus, a perfume of pure grape fragrance lingers. The lean, bone-dry assyrtiko pairs perfectly with grilled fish and meat, both of which are superbly delicious, even more so in Greece.
Assyrtiko is like a phoenix that rises from the volcanic ash of Santorini. With the revival of interest in Greek wine, this is the right time to embark on your very own Greek wine tasting and you will not do wrong to start with the wines from Santorini.