Island Wine -- Taste the Place
by Michael Shepherd
Plein Air by Ron Johnson
Living on the island of Paros I drink a lot of Greek island wine, yet I am not a connoisseur. I am an imbiber. I drink what is available at the time and place. Just as Greek light and air have influenced art since the dawn of civilization so do the atmosphere and sun at our local taverna influence the taste of the wine before us.
All restaurants and tavernas on the islands serve an “open” or barrel wine at usually a very low price –sometimes the price is so low I double the tip out of guilt. I always try the local offering and am only rarely disappointed. When sitting on a shaded veranda with the sound of the sea lapping against the sand and either the villa-clad hills or open sea in the background it would have to be a very bad wine to take away from the sense of well being. Though, I have found that when the Greek male host is especially boastful of his own wine it tends to not be to my liking, usually because it is too sweet.
While some of this open wine may come from the proprietors home stock, most comes from a large plastic jug and is produced at a central island winery. Each island tends to specialize in a different variety. Santorini produces mostly white wine using the Assyrtiko grape that was originally cultivated there and now is grown all over Greece. Paros is famous for the quality of its Mandelaria red grape. The white variety most grown here is Monemvasia; both are ideally suited for Parian climate and soil.
Perhaps when comparing the world market including France, California, & Australia then wines from Greece would not sell well on the High Street wine shop shelves. Yet when in Greece at one of the many “fine dining” restaurants enjoying the well-cooked lamb or the octopus, would it not be a sacrilege to order a wine from Germany, for instance? There are many quality bottled Greek wines. Here on Paros we have the Moraitas family-run winery producing superb hand-crafted wines for that special occasion. The Agricultural Union also produces several popular wines in the mid to low price range.
My recommendation, whether you are a wine connoisseur or just an imbiber like me, is to make your next winery tour on the Greek islands. Come to Paros and I will show you my favourite taverna at Palm Beach, where you forget life’s problems regardless of what you are drinking.