Wednesday, 9 August 2017

More Greek island wines

an elusive Amorgon vineyard
There are a great many Greek islands. 3,000 is a figure bandied about. More precise is the figure 63 for inhabited ones. They were added only gradually to the new Greek state from the mid 19th century on so their 'otherness' is understandable. Islands in general tend to be a world in themselves - each with a different atmosphere so somehow it is not surprising to find a greal diversity of grape varieties there. 

Some islands are veritable diversity hotspots. Crete of course but others such as Zakynthos (Zante to the Ventians) is an amazing repository;




Korinthi (Korinthiaki)
Robola Rouge (or Mavro Rombola - a colour mutation of Robola)

On Santorini, it is claimed that a hundred years ago, nearly 100 varieties were grown and as late as 1990 old vine-growers could identify most obscure varieties from 10 paces.




Aidani Mavro

 *unknown to 'Wine Grapes'

There is an excellent website 'New Wines of Greece' - a usefuly companion to 'Wine Grapes.' 

With all this embarras de richesses it is difficult to find wines made from these local varieties even on the islands where they grow. This Katsano/Gaidouria blend from Gavalas was available at our hotel at E.63 rather a lot but reasonable bearing Santorini prices in mind.

The kind and knowledgeable 'Poli,' Sommelier extraordinaire allowed us to photograph the label cost free.

another parcel of vines on Amorgos
Other than in a list of Cycladic islands, Amorgos doesn't figure in Konstatinos Lazarakis's exhaustive book 'The Wines of Greece.' It is a large island near Naxos but it is almost barren following the rupture of the water table by an earthquake in the 1950s. Water and produce has to be brought in. The mountainous terrain is strewn with rocks between which hundreds of interesting herbs have sprung up. 

The ones not eaten by the large numbers of goats are being exploited for their cosmetic and medicinal properties.

At either end of Amorgos are patches of green where it is possible to grow crops, trees and vines. Vineyards are elusive. Very few are visible from any road. We were told you have to go down dirt tracks to find them, but which dirt track?

The vineyard of the Organic Farm at Katapola is practically the only one you can see from the road

This organic vineyard owned by the Londas Biodynamic and Organic farm at Katapola is practically he only one we could find. 

Wines on the right, oil and vinegar centre and left

The varieties grown there are not much out of the ordinary: Mandilaria, Roditis, Cabernet Sauvignon, Savatiano. Their wine production is very limited - a red, a white (sold out) and a dessert wine.

Nonetheless there is a larger producer on Amorgos making interesting wine. The name is Amorgion. The producer is Antonis Vekris and Children S.A. The wine is 'Produced and bottled by "Amorgos" of Katapola - Amorgos - Greece.' and there is a website But this leads you to information about the three Amorgion shops selling local produce from the island and nothing about the provinence of the wines. The lady in the Aegali branch referred to the 'distillery' rather than the winery so we assume the wines of Amorgion are from several different small parcels distributed among the fertile parts of the island and are vinified at the mysterious facility which also serves as a distillery.

All the wines of Amorgion are very acceptable. The red, which is called Brouskos is made from 'Amorgion' - the local name for Mandilaria, with some Assyrtiko.

There is a straight white called Thalassinos. The grape variety is not named but as well as Assyrtiko, Savaitiano is grown on Amorgos so it is safe to assume the grapes are in that direction.

Kykladitikos is another white. All Amorgon wines are described as 'bio' but this one is labeled also 'organic.' We're not sure what the difference might be: perhaps 'bio' is Biodynamic which is not necessarily organic? The grape here is 100% Assyrtiko.

There is even a Retsina called Nisiotopoula. Heartening to find Retsina among the small production of this company,

A dessert wine is not lacking. Thespesion is made from Amorgion/Mandilaria and Savatiano so a degree of promiscuity going on here.

Finally, the piece de resistance from this admirable winery, Chrisafenios Orange Wine, 100% Savatiano. This is really very good indeed and turned out to be a popular tipple after intitial doubts were dispelled. If it wasn't for the small production this could be a contender on the world markets.

So there you have the story of Greek wine in a nutshell. Unbelievable variety, incredible wines but hidden under as many bushels as are strewn over the haunting other-worldly landscape of Amorgos.

No comments: