Sunday, 18 October 2015

Summer in Greece

Invited to a remote Greek Island, we took the precaution of having some wine sent from two merchants in Athens.

Domaine Glinavos 'Paliokairisio' Debina/Vlahiko sparkling natural wine

Botilia had supplied us previously with our (Slotovino) award winning sparkling orange wine 'Paliokairisio' so 6 x 50cl bottles of that seemed like a good idea for aperitif and House of Wine to whom we were led in our search for the Lyrarakis 'Plyto' which we wanted to try as one of our whites having discovered it at the Athens wine fair Oenorama in 2014.

Rather carried away, we ordered 12 bottles each from these two companies with the request for delivery shortly after our arrival. The House of Wine case arrived exactly on time but the one from Botilia suffered a breakage and had to be sent back to Athens and re-sent, arriving on our last day, so our tasting of their wines was perfunctory.

Here are the two lists:

House of Wine 



Theodorakakos - Kydonitsa
Papaiomylos - Malagouzia
Lyrarakis - Plyto


Mylonas - Savatiano
Brintzikis Estate - Tinaktorogos


Methymnaios - Chidiriotiko



Brintzikis Estate -  Avgoustatis

Lyrarakis - Kotsifali
Douloufakis - Liatiko

Theopetra - Limniona

Lyrarakis - Mandilari

This our landlord assured us was one of Greece's best reds. The winemaker at Gentilini is a Mr. Jones from the UK. 'Wine Grapes' is not sure if Mavrodafni of Cephalonia is any different from Mavrodafni tout court.

Gentilini - 'Eclipse' Mavrodafni of Cephalonia

Mavroudi. Mavrud in Bulgaria. Quite broadly spread in the region

Theodorakakos - Mavroudi

Vlahiko is a speciality of Domaine Glinavos. They use it in their Orange sparkling wine 'Paliokairisio' (see above).

Glinavos - Vlahiko

Red Blend

Mercouri's red containing Refosco - a grape grown by others in Greece as well as Mercouri - used to be reasonably priced and quite easy to obtain in the UK at one point. Now rather expensive it is more rarely available. It still tastes good.

Mercouri - 'Red' Refosco, Mavrodafni


Vidiano is similar to Vilana to which it is related. It was rescued from extinction by growers such as Doloufakis and Alexakis. Both Vilana and Vidiano are from Crete

Alexakis - Vidiano

Miliarakis - Vilana

Found in Cephalonia, Zakynthos among other regions. Rustic and quite robust, this is a rare monovarietal bottling.

Sotiriou - Goustolidi (aka. Agoustelidi - Jewel of August).

White Blend

Nikolouzos - Pavlo (Malvasia Bianca) & Kakotrygis (an old varietu from Corfu)

Domaine Asfodelos - Moschatella, Tsaousi & Vostilidi. Moschatella is not to be found in 'Wine Grapes' but is clearly yet another member of the Muscat family. It is included in Galet's 'Dictionnaire encyclopedique des Cepages' but the information there doesn't specifically mention its relationship to Muscat. It does provide of plenty muscatty synonyms though (Moschatelo, Moschardina etc).



Domaine Tsatsis - Negoska. We tried a Nagoska red from Les Caves du Pantheon a while back. We were warned it would be the most tannic wine we had ever tasted. We didn't have time to try this rose from Nagoska but hardly imagine it would have been as tannic as the red.


Glinavos - Debina, Vlahiko

To get to the more remote Greek islands you have to take a ferry from Athens so taking advantage of a stopover there we stumbled on a fantastic wine bar cum wine merchant called Oinoscent.

There we met one of the owners, a real wine enthusiast who just wants you to have a great wine experience. He was just opening the bar when we importuned him but when he understood the nature of our quest for obscure Greek varieties he locked all doors and took us down to the cellar.

There we found several versions of Mavrotragono, the newly re-discovered hit grape which is achieving lift-off and will soon be ubiquitous it seems. In particular, we remember


Lyrarakis - Dafni (W)

Grapes grown in a unique terroir including fields with meteorites!

T-Oinos - Avgoustiatis & Mavrotragono (R)

Due to a combination of holiday mode and total loss of data, we can't say as much as we would have liked about these wines except for the fact that there was hardly a disappointment among them. A strange phenomenon concerned the reds. They seemed to merge one into another. This sounds as if we were so inebriated as to be unable to tell the difference but if that was the case, how come the whites seemed so much more clearly differentiated?

Liatiko is the most widely planted red variety on Crete from where it originates

The reds were all warm and fruity. They were mostly dark except for the Liatiko which stood our a little bit as something different ('Wine Grapes' describes it as 'Idiosyncratic' and 'Aromatic' and so it was). We wonder about this uniformity. Might Greek producers all be using the same yeast or something? Back in March 2014, we came away from Oenorama thinking the Greeks could do anything the Spanish or Italians could. Now that judgement seems a bit hasty.

Tinaktorogos is another obscure variety needing to be added to a future edition of 'Wine Grapes'. This was the hit of the holiday.

Variety Asprodes is misleading. Asproudes simply means white wine. The variety is Tinaktorogos.

So what about the whites? As mentioned, more variety there. In particular, the Tinaktorogos of Brintzikis Estate stood out. We thought this was fabulous as they say on Tripadvisor. Aromatic and lovely. We were so impressed with it - not least because Tinaktorogos is another grape which someone has pulled back from extinction (Brintzikis Estate seem to be the only ones to be working with it) - that we ordered a case as soon as we came home. Sadly this turned out to be one of those occasions in which a holiday hit was a flop back at the ranch. Here the wine had much less character. We had to chill it very lightly so as to preserve much taste at all.


Also at Oenorama, we had been able to compare Lyrarakis's Dafni with their Plyto. We liked the latter so much more than the former that it was a surprise to see that only Dafni is imported to the UK. On this showing it was the other way around and preferred Dafni.


Malagoussia is a great grape. If in doubt, go for it! It should be easy to find on any Greek restaurant winelist. Not as easy as Assyritiko though. Why does everyone have such a mania for Assyritiko and Agiorgitiko for that matter? Is it because those were the first Greek grapes to reach us in the present period of Greek wine revival?

Hardimos Hatzidakis with one of his minions, August 11th, 2015
For the Assyritiko craze we probably have Hardimos Hatzidakis to thank. Hatzidakis is the pioneer of the Vin Santo and dry Assyritiko of Santorini and it was there, not by accident that our travels took us next.

Hatzidakis is something of a Greek Pier Paolo Lorieri (Mr. Vermentino Nero). Not content with raising the profile of Assyritiko both dry and sweet, he has pioneered Mavrotragono too. We were honoured to meet him as he busily directed operations at his rustic winery. When we told him we were from the UK he reeled off the impressive list of British importers (Waitrose, The Wine Society, Berry Brothers and Rudd etc) with a touch of diffidence which indicated that his main interest was in the wine itself and not his success in having the world beat a path to his door.

Everything mentioned in this was a joy really, so if you go to Athens, go to Oinoscent. If you want to order some lovely Greek wine, go to House of Wine or Botilia. If you go to Santorini, make the pilgrimage to Hatzidakis. There is obviously so much more as well.

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