Wine connoisseurs and aficionados rejoice! The Oceania Cruise “Islands & Icons” voyage is delving into the glorious world of Greek wines which has over the last two decades, experienced an impassioned revival. No longer content to be thought of as that country that makes retsina, Greek wines are getting the kind of international recognition they deserve for beautifully crafted bottles of tremendous quality wines. And wine lovers around the world are increasingly discovering that these wines are indeed special.
The voyage, led in part by Christine Cushing, will stop on the Greek island of Santorini where the group will head to a Boutari winery; one of six throughout the country. “This vineyard is a little further down the southern end of the Island and it’s here where we’ll taste and learn about the magic of the Assyirtiko grape and how the Greek winemakers have learned to train this grape variety from the Bronze Age,” says Cushing adding, “It’s a completely unique growing style on the windswept, arid soil where the vines are laid in baskets and grow in circles instead of straight up to prevent the wind from damaging them. The outcome is a wine that wine experts and enthusiasts are talking about worldwide.”
In Santorini, the island’s volcanic soil gives wine grown there what Cushing calls “an intense minerality and crispness.” Steve Kriaris of the Kolonaki Group that represents Greek wines in Canada, including Boutari, says “Because the soil Santorini did not get infected from “phylloxera” (a bacteria which infected the most of the vineyards in Europe back in 1960s), the vines there are healthy, very strong, and tolerant and they give us phenomenal wines.” He adds, “The vines are located from 346ft to 462ft above sea level. The winds are strong but our ancestors found a way of protecting the vines from the wind by tying the branches together and creating a circular motion which the technique is now referred to by Greek people as the “kouloura”. It does not rain often, but at night the fog is intense with a lot of humidity which gives the vines the exact amount of water they need.”
Cushing says Boutari is largely credited with the modern Greek wine revival over the last twenty years. It’s interesting to note, says Cushing, that it was the Ancient Greeks who introduced wine-making to Italy and France (specifically Bordeaux and Tuscany). Greece was conquered many times, with the Ottomans ripping out most ancient vines. History credits the monks throughout the country’s monasteries for saving many indigenous Greek grape varieties from extinction, so you could say that this Greek wine revival is fitting in more ways than one.
When in Greece, Kriaris suggests you definitely sip and savour the following if you can: Boutari Grand Reserve, Boutari VinSanto, Boutari Santorini. Boutari Moschiofilero, Boutari Naoussa, Boutari Agiorgitiko and the Boutari Malagouzia. Each tells a different story, from its terroir and windswept soils to the people who have literally bottled magic in indigenous varietals the world is just starting to deliciously discover.
By: Mary Luz Mejia