The White Wines of Greece

The white wines of Greece are cool, crisp and refreshing. They're all about summer, freshness and communal eating. They  immediately improve any Mediterranean-style meal. You know the type: wines that are lively and unpretentious, that smack of sunshine, whitewashed walls and seafood. They are made to be drunk young.

Greece simply offers a subtly different take on these familiar wines. But it's a great different take, with unfamiliar, indigenous grapes grown nowhere else. From the windswept volcanic island of Santorini in the Aegean Sea comes the assyrtiko grape, which produces dry, deliciously minerally wines. The assyrtiko vines, by the way, are trained in little bushlike circles that hug the ground, both to protect them from the wind and so that they can absorb the morning dew on this largely dry island.


From the Peloponnesus comes the pink-skinned moschofilero grape, which produces highly floral wines that can often have a rosy tinge to them. Tselepos moschofilero from the Mantinia region of the Peloponnesus, an unusual yet delicious wine that smelled like roses and tasted like grapefruit. Gaia Thalassitis, an assyrtiko wine from Santorini. has citrus, honey and mineral flavors that are attractive at any time of the year. Ktima Pavlidis Thema, comes from Macedonia in eastern Greece, near the city of Drama, and is a combination of assyrtiko and sauvignon blanc. Together they produce a floral, earthy wine with flavors of minerals and lime. And there are so many others, like the ancient athiri, the light, citrus-imbued roditis and the textured savatiano. Of course, this is the modern world, so Greece has a growing proportion of nonindigenous grapes, like sauvignon blanc and chardonnay, but so far they play a supporting role.

Sigalas assyrtiko Barrel from Santorini, so-called because it is barrel-fermented in the manner of chardonnay, is well done, taking on a lush, smoky richness.

A number of these wines are surprisingly low in alcohol, 12 percent and under, which is rare for a dry wine these days. The Antonopoulos is 11.5 percent and the Boutari and the Skouras are 11 percent. Frankly, it's not something that you think about when drinking these wines, but it does make them all the more appealing in the sun.



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