(Continued from “The Classicism of Modernity” on 20 June 2014)
The birthplace of Dionysian legends, Greece is rightly proud of its ancient roots and rich heritage. Whereas during the Classical period the Romans prized Greek wines above their own, Greek Malvasia – which included a list of varieties named after the Peloponnese area of Monemvasia – remained highly sought-after during the Medieval period. That modern Greece is not a wine-producing country as eminent as France, Italy or Spain is mainly due to forces majeures, such as the Ottoman rule from 1453 to 1821, the devastating Greek War of Independence, WWI and WWII, as well as its isolation before joining the EU in 1981.
Since the 1960s, Greek wine production has significantly decreased in quantity, but substantially increased in quality. In 1971, an appellation system, influenced by France and Italy, was introduced, partly to prepare Greece for entry into the EU. Historical regions were granted appellation status, with specific regulations on grape varieties and winemaking process etc. At the bottom of the ladder is Epitrapezios Oinos (equivalent to French Vin de Table / German Tafelwein), above which is Topikos Oinos (equivalent to French Vin de Pays / German Landeswein), whereas Onomasia Proelefseos Anoteras Piotitos (OPAP) and Onomasia Proelefseos Eleghomeni (OPE) are the main designations for quality dry and sweet wines respectively.
In much of the 20th century, Greece used to be known only for its Retsina, a white or rosé wine resinated with Aleppo Pine resin and which has been produced for at least 2,000 years. In all fairness, Greece deserves much credit for not jumping on the bandwagon of Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon: the two ubiquitous varieties are planted, but not in excess. Greece has such a wide variety of characterful indigenous varieties eg Agiorgitiko, Assyrtico, Lagorthi, Limniona, Malagousia, Mavrodaphne, Moschofilero, Robola, Roditis, Savatiano, Thalassitis, Vilana and Xynomavro, some of which could have been the wines served at classical symposia (much more hedonistic and less academic than ours). For the curious wine lover, there is a brave new – or old – world ahead to be discovered.
Askitikos White 2012
An imaginative blend of Assyrtiko, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc sourced from low-yielding vines, vinified in stainless steel tanks with pre-fermentative maceration at low temperature. Golden-lemon yellow with shimmering aureolin reflex, the lifted and tropical nose radiates grapefruit, guava, jackfruit, sweet ginger and multifloral honey, adorned with osmanthus. Braced by vivacious acidity and palpable minerality, the exotic and spicy palate exudes lemon peel, pomelo, mangosteen, passion fruit and pineapple, infused with dried herbs. Thoroughly dry and medium-bodied at 12%, the fruit-driven entry continues through a concentrated mid-palate, leading to a herbal finish.
Askitikos Red 2007
An innovative blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah sourced from low-yielding vines, vinified under controlled conditions and matured in French and American oak barrels for 12 months. Dark garnet with bright cardinal-carmine rim, the aromatic and generous nose oozes dried bilberry, dried cherry, prune, clove and cocoa, imbued with cedarwood. Supported by ample acidity and tasty tannins, the perfumed and profuse palate emanates damson, blackcurrant jam, mocha, dark chocolate, tobacco, enriched with sandalwood. Thoroughly dry and full-bodied at 13%, the fleshy entry carries onto a voluptuous 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: firstname.lastname@example.org; T: +86 186 020 44940 (China) / +852 5337 5337 (Hong Kong)
by Jacky I.F. Cheong
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.