Nectar of the Gods
By Jason Rowan
Photography by Graeme Montgomery
Whether it involves contemplation and Platonic dialectic or your everyday orgy, wine is inextricably linked to Greek history. But with very few exceptions, Greek wine in modern times stalled in its evolution, stuck in a super-sweet, sticky “peasant” loop. Some good news for Greece, however, comes in an astonishing wave of winemaking that’s taken root over the last 20 years. Starting in the late 1980s, a new group of younger winemakers went abroad to study viniculture in France, Italy, and even California. Now, they’ve returned to their native soil, bringing modern approaches and technologies to wine production, and have created a bumper crop of fantastic wines -- crisp whites with strong acidity, complex reds bursting with rich mineral notes, and dry roses that linger in the memory.
The mountainous terrain and a rugged, cool climate lashed by salty breezes from the Aegean contribute to the kinds of acidity, minerality, and terroir that sommeliers seek out. New York hot spots Le Bernardin and Per Se now feature Greek wines on their lists, something unthinkable a generation ago. Prestigious wine distributor Frederick Wildman recently added a robust Greek section to their portfolio. The appeal comes from not only their surprisingly high quality and a sentimental attachment to the culture’s epic history with wine, but also from their incredible value.
The Estate Argyros Atlantis White 2011 (90% Assyrtiko and other Greek grapes) is a great summer sipper, with bright citrus notes and spot-on acidity. It’s roughly comparable to a very good Albariño, but clocks in at a fraction of the cost, around $12. Add to this an overall natural quality that shines through; most of these small winemakers haven’t gone through the expense of securing organic designation, but because of their small production, general avoidance of pesticides, and careful by-hand techniques, many would likely make the grade.