In the current millennium Greek wine is in a phase of exceptional performance, with great wines coming from all over the country. Thus, it would be objectively impossible to say that one wine-producing region does better than another, but on a personal – and of course arbitrary – level, I think that some regions or even varieties “speak” more strongly to the heart and also to the mouth(!) of every wine lover . My own “strong voice” comes from Kefalonia, a vineyard which for many years was in a phase of decline. But in the last 10 years the Ionian island has managed to impress with the performance and unique character of its wines.
Of course, Robola will always be the engine of the island, not only because it participates in the only PDO for dry wines – the PDO Robola Kefallinia – but also because it is responsible for the overwhelming amount of wines produced on the island. However, Kefalonia also has other white diamonds, such as the honeyed Vostilidi, the rare Zakynthos and the fragrant Moschato, which offer dry as well as special sweet versions. Of course, it also has a large red grape called Mavrodaphni. Although most have associated the variety with Patras, its homeland is Kefalonia and the red wines it offers here are breathtaking with their strength and flavor depth.
Obviously 3-4 good varieties are not enough to take off a region, but at the same time it requires excellent vineyards and passionate producers who will transform their fruit into great wines. The steep slopes of the Ainos but also many coastal areas are full of charismatic terroirs, while the existence of vineyards with very old vines – some of which are pro-phylloxeric! – give the wines a terrifying depth and complexity.
At the same time, the most historic producers of the island of Gentilini, Sklavos and Orealis Gi, have been surrounded by other newer, less perfectionist wineries, such as those of Petrakopoulos, Haritatou and Sarris, creating a strike team capable of sowing the wine lust! All of the above of course come at not inconsiderable prices – at the moment Kefalonia probably has the most expensive average prices of any other region of Greece! – but the contents of the bottle are so premium as to justify (almost) everything outside of it. Want proof? Here are not one or two, but seven from the awesome and terrible island of the Ionian Islands!
Gentilini, Robola Wild Paths
The Gentilini winery held high the banner of great variety during the rocky 90s and this cuvee, of just 4500 bottles, epitomizes that struggle. Wild Paths comes from old vines located at 850 meters and has an excess of mineral austerity, but this is dressed up with plenty of fruit, great flavor duration and 5-year potential.
Sarris, V for Vostilidi
Panagiotis Sarris is one of the youngest faces in Kefalonian wine and applies minimal interventions to all the wines in his range. V for Vostilidi comes from a small vineyard in Palliki and offers a supercharged expression of the honey character of the Vostilidi variety, while the vinification in 2-tonne barrels infuses it with plenty of wildness.
Haritatou Estate, Lefkos
From the fairytale estate of the Haritatou family in Kladata Lixouri comes a small collection of wines, all worth trying. But the dry Moschato is what throws the needle of intrigue, since it reminds of everything except …Moschato! Strict and full of minerality, it may not shout the name of the musky variety, but it shouts with a stentorian voice “Kefalonia”!
Acquiring gold is easier than acquiring the liquid gold of Nikos Petrakopoulos’ family vineyard in the Elios region of southern Kefalonia. The fruit of the authoritarian climates is harvested overripe, further concentrated under the shade and gives the unique sweet wine from Zakynthos in the country. A poem of concentrated but not sweet sweetness…
Sklavos, Metageitnion Bio
Evryviadis Sklavos is a pioneer of biodynamic cultivation and this Vostilidi from almost century-old climates puts all the cosmic energy in the bottle. However, fans of fruity wines should run away, since the vinification in large barrels without the addition of preservatives gives it a dry-fruity oxidized character, a frightening honey power and an endless aftertaste.
Slave, Synod Bio
A … synod of Cephalonian stars, which has an almost black color, although in the company of Mavrodafni it makes – with the not inconsiderable 17% in fact – the white Bostylidi! This biodynamic wine breaks the limits of expressiveness, with a harmony of black olives, jams and cassis, while the 40-year-old vines infuse it with flavor depth as well as sweet and sour concentration.