Greek Wine: Is Greece the world's most exciting wine-producing country?
Let's be honest - Greece has got a bit of an image problem at the moment. By the time you read this, Greece might be in the Euro, it might be out of the Euro, it might be facing the latest round of renegotiations over its debts - or it might have Grexited the whole sinking ship and be floating in Drachma.
But while it's the creaking economy of this ancient country and the inefficiencies of its public sector that have been capturing all the headlines, its wine industry has been quietly reinventing itself in recent years and in the process, turning Greece into one of the world's most exciting countries for wine.
Greek wine certainly has the history - the Shiraz grape might take its name from an ancient city in Persia, but it was the Greeks who introduced wine-making to Europe and, by extension, the world.
Sicily and much of southern Italy was colonised by the ancient Greeks and today that legacy is everywhere - you can't visit an historical site in Italy without tripping over a fragment of Greek amphora, while the southern-Italian white grape variety Greco di Tufo obviously takes its name from its ancient Greek heritage and the red Nero d'Avola comes from the Greek meaning "water of the devil".
The result of that incredible history today are dozens of fabulous and uniqueindigenous Greek grape varieties, that have been experimentally planted and replanted over thousands of years, until they came perfectly to suit the diverse terroirs of mainland Greece and its many islands.
While not every single Greek grape is likely to knock Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay off their perches as king and queen of international varieties, the finest grape types easily stand scrutiny amongst the best varieties of the world - Agiorgitiko and Assyrtiko being two serious pretenders in the vinous game of thrones.
Many of the best Greek wines come from winemakers like Elias Bizios of Bizios Estate in Nemea, who blend indigenous grapes like Agiorgitiko, with international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, to give wonderfully rich, full-flavoured and ageworthy wines, with unique tasting profiles.
"We have some of the highest altitude vineyards in Nemea at 850 meters," Bizios explains, "which means they're also amongst the coolest. This gives our Agiorgitiko grapes wonderfully ripe, pure, fruit character, while the addition of the Cabernet to the blend helps to give the wine structure and, therefore, incredible prospects for ageing in the cellar."
George Papaioannou, on the other hand, is the Leonidas of international grape varieties. Setting up his vineyard in the 1970s, from the beginning along organic and biodynamic principles, his estate (also in Nemea) won Best Organic and Biodynamic Estate at 2014's Prowein - Europe's biggest wine show, in Dusseldorf, Germany. Alongside many indigenous varieties, Papaioannou also has planted Syrah, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and, for the first time released in 2015, a Greek wine from Portuguese grape Touriga Nacional.
"I've tasted many wonderful Touriga wines from Portugal's Douro region and visited the vineyards, always thinking that the grape would thrive at my estate in Nemea," says Papaioannou. "After planting Touriga vines in 2005, I made my first wine in 2011, ageing in oak barrels and then in bottle until I felt the wine was finally ready for release in 2015."
And one of the best things about Greek wines? - They match wonderfully well with Greek food. Rather like the wines, there's been an incredible surge in quality of Greek food in the past few years, with a number of top-quality restaurants opening in London, including Milos, Mazi in Notting Hill, The Greek Larder in Kings Cross and many other examples.
So, if your palate is tired of the same old taste experiences from the same go-to wine producing countries, then consider rethinking your attitude to Greek wines - you might just find something so delicious that you forget all about the woes of the Euro.
Join us at The London Greek Wine Festival 2016 to taste our fabulous range from Bizios, Papaioannou, T-Oinos, Vassaltis and others.