Greek Wines

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Few examples of old Greek wine can be found in Greece today because storage conditions in most house cellars do not allow extended bottle-ageing. Outside Greece it is much easier to cross paths with older vintages, but the majority are way past their prime-some are fit only for use in veal or game marinades.

Notable exceptions include the 1873 and 1898 Mavrodaphnes by Achaia Claus, an 1895 Santorini Vinsanto by the Damighou family from their Oia demijohn and C. Antoniades’ 1919 and 1927 Samos Muscats. The Muscats, put up for auction by Christie’s in Geneva in November, 1995, came from a private cache of old Greek wines in Switzerland. The lot comprised four bottles of the 1919 vintage and one from 1927.

The wines were returned to Greece and members of E.L.D.O.I.N. (the Greek Circle of Wine Writers) as well as the board of directors and winemakers from the Samos Co-op were present for the tasting in Athens at the Oenorama 1996 wine trade show. Samples from both years were then sent on to Samos, where oenologist Manolis Tsakalakis analysed them and produced the following results:

Alcohol Residual sugar

1919: 12.68% vol. 275 g/I

1927: 12% vol. 295 g/I

The 1919 vintage was consistent and in excellent shape. Its Muscat nose and flavours had given way to an aroma of beeswax and a smooth, velvet, off-dry palate. The 1927 had less presence-it was fading, cloudy and weak. Tsakalakis deduced that “the grapes must have been sun-dried”. He also reasoned that both vintages were fortified, because “most cellars in the period pre-dating appellations had their own formulas”.

Samos Muscats traditionally came from any of dozens of individual wine cellars and wineries sprinkled around the island. They were exported so successfully that a child in 19th-century Sweden, asked by his teacher for the location of Greece, replied: “Next to Samos”. But the vintners paid their growers very little and civil unrest erupted in 1933. In a 1935 effort to keep the peace, the government created a union of winemaking cooperatives (the Samos Co-op) and ordered all producers on the island to either cease operations or become part of the new entity. Today, there is no information available to support Tsakalakis’s findings-words printed on a few faded labels are the only traces that remain of the Antoniades winery.

Samos vintners have prospered collectively since that watershed year. European Union regulations now encourage outside winemakers to reintroduce competition, but the only links with pre-Co-op wineries lie bottled and forgotten, like lost treasure, in foreign cellars.

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Source by Morgan Batek