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The Classicism of Modernity

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Often considered the cradle of European civilisation, Greece has a viticultural history dating back some 6,000 years. Wine was referred to in Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, and the legend of Dionysus appeared all over Greece. During the Archaic and Classical periods, wine was exported to Greece’s numerous colonies and territories across the Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea, covering much of the ecumene, and the prestige of Greek wine persisted under the Roman Empire.
Wine was equally important to the Orthodox Church as to the Catholic Church, particularly for the Divine Liturgy. In the Byzantine era, monasteries were often given land and tax exemptions – remnants of this practice still exist today. During the medieval period, Greek wine continued to be exported across Europe, commanding high prices.
However, as the Ottoman Empire conquered the last bastion of Byzantine land that is Constantinople in 1453, the time-honoured Greek viticulture was virtually pronounced dead. Under the Ottoman general prohibition of alcohol, most vineyards were banned and destroyed. Although the First Hellenic Republic was declared in 1822, the Greek War of Independence from 1821 to 1832 left the country devastated. Just as Greek viticulture began to recover, it was severely hit by the phylloxera plague in the mid-19th century. The renaissance of Greek viticulture finally took place in 1960s, later accelerated by the influx of foreign aid and investment after the country became a full-member of the EU in 1981.
The boutique Theopetra Estate, owned and managed by the Tsililis family since 1996, is a telling example of the Greek revival. Located in Meteora PGI (Protected Geographical Indication), its 15ha of vineyards practise organic viticulture and yield control, as well as green, manual and early morning harvesting.

Theopetra Estate Malagouzia-Assyrtiko 2012

Blending two of Greece’s most important indigenous varieties, fermentation was carried out at low temperature subsequent to pre-fermentative maceration. Brilliant jonquil with rich golden reflex, the exotic and heady nose offers pomelo, starfruit, guava, passion fruit and sweet ginger. With vibrant acidity, the spicy and tropical palate delivers lime peel, apricot, mangosteen, jackfruit and fresh herbs. Medium-full bodied at 13%, the stimulating entry evolves into a steely mid-palate, leading to a persistent finish.

Theopetra Estate Syrah-Limniona-Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

The ancient Thessalian variety was blended with two international counterparts, then aged in French and American oak barriques for 12 months. Reddish black with cardinal-carmine rim, the capacious and scented nose offers red cherry, plum, liquorice, clove, cocoa and oaky vanilla. With vivacious acidity and rich tannins, the dense and spiced palate delivers cassis, dried prune, allspice, dark chocolate, coffea arabica and cedarwood. Full-bodied at 14%, the potent entry continues through a concentrated mid-palate, leading to a smoky finish.

Theopetra Estate Limniona 2011

A single-varietal Limniona, an ancient variety from Thessaly, aged in French oak barriques for 12 months. Inky red with bright burgundy-ruby rim, the fragrant and lifted nose presents cassis, black cherry, damson, star anise, sous bois and violet. With lively acidity and supple tannins, the composed and fleshy palate supplies prune, dried bilberry, dried herbs, nutmeg, tobacco leaf and leather. Medium-full bodied at 13%, the refreshing entry continues through a fleshy mid-palate, leading to a herbal finish.

Theopetra Estate Syrah 2009

A single-varietal Syrah, aged in French and American oak barriques for 14 months. Dark garnet with carmine-crimson rim, the balanced and multifarious nose presents dried cherry, dried plum, cinnamon, smoked bacon, sandalwood and geranium. With ample acidity and tasty tannins, the creamy and redolent palate supplies blackberry jam, crème de cassis, liquorice, clove, cocoa and dried herbs. Full-bodied at 14%, the focused entry carries onto an active mid-palate, leading to a moreish finish.

To explore the ancient treasure of Greek wine, contact Mr Eddie Wong of Lifica; W: www.lifica.com; E: eddiewong@lifica.com; T: +86 186 020 44940 (China) / +852 5337 5337 (Hong Kong)

Jacky I.F. Cheong is a legal professional by day and columnist by night. Having spent his formative years in Britain, France, and Germany, he regularly writes about wine, fine arts, classical music, and politics in several languages.

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