Sunday, 21 June 2009


It was because of a Greek wine tasting, with Richard Congreve, the head of Heartfelt Communications, who kindly allowed me to gatecrash his ‘Wines of Northern Greece’ event during Lent (when I was teetotal and drank not a drop. I swear!) that my brother, Ben, and I decided to spend a week on a Greek island. To be fair, he needed a break more than me, given his work, and it was at his expense, so how could I resist?

Gentle splashes from the pool. Views that go on for ever. Burning sun on the skin cooled down by crystal clear seas. Water that tastes all the sweeter because of the heat. Our island was full of nothing but land and seascapes. Good walking, wonderful swimming and places to muse. I think you get the picture. In the meantime, I enjoyed a mild flirtation in a café with an attractive waitress called Elena and Ben got the careful attention of a waiter at the restaurant we visited a couple of times. Nice to be liked.

Strangely, it was at this harbour side restaurant I went to, that I drank a wine from the same vineyard as one of the exhibitors of the Heartfelt event, in London a few weeks earlier. Ktima Alpha (2006, Amyndeo, Greece) which tasted as good the second time round, if not more so given the context of drinking Greek wine in Greece. Ignore the fact I was slightly ‘heady’ at this stage and cannot read my notes back very well, this excellent plum coloured wine had the nose of cherries and creaminess on the nose coming from the blend of syrah, with merlot and xinomavro grapes. The same cherry creaminess was mixed with a hint of the oak ageing, twelve months, to bring out a spiciness, complimenting the fruitiness of the merlot and the rich mix of acidity and tannins. I hope to see Richard again for another instalment.

A couple of days later we returned (now why did we go back to that restaurant Ben? Oh yes, the waiter) and enjoyed another wine, Ktima Theotoky, Theotoky, Ropa Valley (Corfu) 2007, a white wine blend of 90% Robola and 10% Kakotrigis both of which are local varieties.

Robola is linked to varieties in the Friuli area of Northern Italy (bearing in mind that the island was part of the Venetian Empire for several generations and Count Theotoky one of the oldest producers in Corfu).

In the glass, the colour was light lemon green and as beautifully clear as the water surrounding us. On the nose we got flavours of lemon, lemon pith, flint and cream with a mild hint of melon and pear.

Diving in (to keep with the swimming analogy), the flavours that came with the initial mouthful were of ultra creamy lemons, some flint and minerality and thankfully no metallic elements, which might have cheapened it. As the sunlight dimmed and our senses heightened, interruptions from the arrival of the food, red mullet on a bed of sliced, slightly spiced, potatoes, enabled the flavours of the wine to develop in the glass bringing out its character further. The citrus’s obviousness was overtaken by an altogether smoother cream and melon. A definite melon moment; almost melon sorbet.

A well balanced acid and unctuous finish with a long flavour that gently watered out in the mouth. Even Ben couldn’t fault this, but then again, maybe he was distracted by other company, or maybe just the sheer wonderfulness of the island.