Day 4: Peloponnese
Eh, slight change of scene today.
Having arrived back in Athens a day late from Crete, we set off very early for the Peloponnese – the four-fingered peninsula to the south of mainland Greece. The weather is bleak and as we leave the main road and start climbing into the mountains and the clouds, sunny Crete seems a world away.
Waiting for us at the top are some high altitude vineyards on a plateau 800-1000m (2,7000 - 3,300 ft) up. Many Greek varieties don’t reach maturity in this microclimate but those that do, such as Moschofilero and Agiorgitiko, produce elegant wines with high acidity. Another effect of the altitude is more rounded, mature tannins so these are smooth wines that go down a treat. Alongside these varieties we find grapes more accustomed to the climate – Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris (a less aromatic Sauvignon), Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a great example of the huge range of terroirs to be found in Greece.
Wine PDO map Peloponnese. Credit: New Wines of Greece
Turning back down towards the Northern coast of the Peloponnese and slightly further down the mountains around 650m (2,000 ft) you find the home of the Roditis variety. Roditis is a reddish-pink grape and surely the most underappreciated Greek variety. It is the most widely planted yet is either blended or hidden in cheap wines. In fact, the right clone – Roditis Alepou (meaning fox) – in the right area can make wonderful, refreshing, crisp, lightly aromatic whites that are incredibly enjoyable to drink, which probably explains its ubiquity. And the great thing is that even the best examples are still very affordable.
Continuing all the way down to the coast you go from the most planted to one of the rarest Greek variety in cultivation – Sidiritis. The name derives from sidiro (iron), a reference to minerality perhaps or the particular spicy zing it gives wines. Sidirits doubles as an eating grape and has quite a thick skin, which can be a challenge during vinification.
The day rounds off with a late lunch and jumping on the ferry to Kefalonia…
Easy lunch while waiting for the ferry to Kefalonia