Theopetra Estate Limniona Meteora PGI 2015
Greek winemaking (and drinking) goes back thousands of years, when it was a central part of Ancient Greece’s culture and ceremonies, and it remained significant in Mediterranean trading until the Middle Ages. The last five hundred years have not been kind to Greek wine though: it was prohibited under Turkish rule until independence in the nineteenth century, and then for much of the twentieth Greece was under military dictatorship. All this meant that Greek wine remained in the doldrums, something to be made and consumed by peasants.
To make matters worse, if Greek wine is known for anything it’s retsina. This is a style that goes back a couple of millenia when pine resin was historically added to preserve wine and stop it going off (it took the Greeks a lot longer to work out the benefits of oak ageing than it did the Romans and the French). There is very little good to be said about retsina, other than it’s an historic style.
But there’s a lot more to Greek wine than retsina. Since the 1980s and entry into the EU, Greek winemaking has become much more modern and up-to-date and there is an increasing amount of good wine being made in the country. Greece is still poor so much of the wine is for export (50% of all Greek wine goes to France), but that means quality by necessity has to be consistently high.
Most grapes are indigenous, which gives Greek wine a selling point; at the same time, most grapes are impossible to pronounce. The most important white grape is Assyrtiko, which maintains its acidity even in Greece’s hot climate. The two best black grapes are Xinomavro and Agiorgitiko, which are often grown at high altitude to slow ripening and aid quality. Xinomavro, in particular, has a tannic quality that makes it ageworthy.
There are many more indigenous grapes, some of them barely known even to Greeks. One such is Limniona. Beneath a disused monastery in central Greece lies a vineyard from which the monks used to make wine. This had fallen into disuse and disrepair until Theopetra Estate stepped in and revived it. They discovered that the grape was called Limniona and that there is no other vineyard in the rest of Greece (or the world for that matter) planted to it.
This shows the opportunities for Greek winemakers to stand apart from the crowd and make unique wines. But being different isn’t enough, the wine has to be good too. This an extremely impressive wine, reminiscent of Nebbiolo in its acidic and tannic structure, but darker and deeper in its fruits and colours. There are layers of aromas of red, black, and dried fruits, tobacco, leather, spice, and game, with a long finish. I'm intrigued to see how this wine develops, not just in the bottle but in future vintages as the producer learns more about the vineyard and the variety. A very promising start, and I wonder if other producers will start to plant Limniona.
Grape Variety: Limniona
Region: Meteora PGI, Greece
Ageing: 12 months
Food pairing: meatballs; lamb; baklava