It's a shame that Greece has been tarred with the retsina brush for so long. While it may not yet have achieved the Olympian heights to which it aspires, Greek wine has unquestionably embraced modern civilisation, with refreshing whites and fine reds making waves from expressive indigenous varieties such as Xinomavro, Agiorgitiko, Liatiko and Mavrotragano.
The agiorgitiko grape, aka St.George, comes in many guises, from moreishly gluggy and chock full of Mediterranean pine aromas and juicy cherry fruit such as the 2013 Thiasos PGI Peloponnese, £7.12 - £7.99, Thedrinkshop, Strictlywine, Corking Wines, to the more complex and serious, such as of Gaia Estate’s 2012 Agiorgitiko Nemea, £22.99 - £25.50, Invinity Wines, Strictly Wine, Halifax Wine, an intense succulent red of mulberry fruit and toasty oak richness.
If there were one red grape I would hang my hat on, Xinomavro is a candidate. The 2010 Xinomavro Hedgehog Vineyard, Alpha Estate., around £16.99, Wholefoods, D.Byrne. Luvians, The Sampler, is a delicious, delicately textured Macedonian red with spicy, dark-fruited perfume, sour cherry and plum fruit. In similar vein, the 2012 Paliokalias Dalamára Xinomavro, Naoussa, £18, Southern Wine Roads, is an intriguing, complex and vigorous red full of sweet cherry-spice fruit and firmer grip of tannins.
The 2013 Thymiopoulos Xinomavro, Naoussa, £10.50 - £12.50, Marks & Spencer, the Wine Society, Vinoteca, comes on fragrantly pinot noir-like with berry-scented fragrance and spicy liquid cherries, while a robust texture and damsony acidity shout wash me down with game and roasted root vegetables. All the more so its big brother, 2013 Thymiopoulos Terre et Ciel Xinomavro, £19.50, The Wine Society, where old bush vines add a further dimension of aromatic power and structure.
The mavrotragano grape is another variety in an expanding Greek pantheon, as the 2013 Domaine Sigalas Mavrotragano , Santorini, £27.50, Berry Bros, shows, a wonderfully fragrant and opulent island red with tobacco spice and blackberry fruit shot through with trenchant acidity. Going back in time, the liatiko grape, in the 2006 Economou Oikonomoy Liatiko Crete, £28.95, Vin Cognito, reveals a mature Grecian beauty, mahogany with mellow rioja gran reserve texture and balsamic Mediterranean gaminess.
Something For the Weekend 13 February 2016
2015 Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc
The old Montana Marlborough Sauvignon maintains its reputation for remarkable consistency with this new vintage sauvignon which is fragrant with elderflower aromas and packed with appetisingly dry and zingy gooseberry fruitiness. £7.49, down from £9.99, until 23rd February, The Co-operative.
2014 Marcelo Pelleriti Malbec, Uco Valley
Still in short pants, this powerful high Andean malbec is nonetheless already approachable and seductively aromatic and juicy with lots of balanced, succulently rounded dark berry fruit . £11.99, or £9.99 when you buy any 6 bottles , Majestic.
2012 Boulevard Napoléon Cinsault, L'Abeuradou’, Vin de Pays de l’Hérault
This is a brooding, spicily perfumed Southern French red with concentrated, sumptuosly textured old vine freshness, herb and black fruits from the Minervois. £21.33 - £26, Exel Wine, Wilde Wines, Winebear, The Fine Wine Company.