Anthony Rose: Greece has more to offer than retsina
A few days on a Greek island beach and it's easy to forget that the wine you're drinking smells and tastes like a bath full of pine needles. Retsina's medicinal flavours are an acquired taste, especially if the local ouzo is too strong. But you never really quite wash those memories from your head, let alone your mouth. It wasn't until Oddbins introduced a raft of fresh Greek wines way back when, that it dawned on me that Greece had more to offer than retsina.
Today, a number of UK wine retailers, notably Marks & Spencer and Berry Bros & Rudd, have taken up the Greek cause and added a small but significant raft of Greek wines to their ranges. In Marks's case, they're part of a broader Mediterranean portfolio, but a useful starting point is the 2011 Atlantis, £10.49, Marks & Spencer, a smoky, spritz-fresh dry-white blend of the volcanic island of Santorini's three native white grapes, assyrtiko, aidani and athiri, whose lemony acidity is a perfect foil for asparagus.
From the aptly-named Drama, the 2010 Ktima Pavlidis Emphasis Assyrtiko, £13.50, Berry Bros (0800 280 2440) puts the emphasis on the assyrtiko grape in an exuberantly rich yet zingy dry white. Berry's also have the fine 2010 Diamantakis Vidiano White, £10.95, a distinctive dry white from Crete with a smoky whiff and a peachy opulence. Blending local with international, the 2011 Ktima Pavlidis Thema Assyrtiko/Sauvignon Blanc, £11.49, Laithwaites (laithwaites.co.uk), is an assertive blend with grapefruity flavours.
In terms of rosé, in the 2011 Phaedra Xynomavro Rosé, Macedonia, £8.99, Waitrose, you'll find a refreshingly dry strawberry cup-like blend of the native xynomavro with a touch of syrah. From George Skouras in the Peloponnese, the 2011 Cuvée Prestige Rosé, £7.99, Marks & Spencer, is another crisp, summer-pudding rosé, in this case made from the agiorgitiko grape. And for the sweet of tooth, Crete's Domaine Lyrarakis Malvasia, £17.75, BBR, is intensely fragrant with luscious apricot fruit balanced by a delightful nuttiness and moreish juiciness.
Alongside these, sweet, fresh and fruity reds can also hold their heads high in Greece's modern pantheon of styles. The 2010 Nemea Red on Black, £8.49, Marks & Spencer, for instance, is a succulently juicy red from Mitravelas in Nemea, made from agiorgitiko, showing lively black-cherry sweetness and damsony acidity. Pavlidis in Thrace also make a powerful 2008 Thema Red, £13.95, BBR, a modern Greek blend of the agiorgitiko with syrah, displaying a whiff of vanilla oak and lots of glossy-spiced plum and blackcurrant fruit flavours.