Episode 104 – Elite Greek & Cypriot Wines
from Cavas Spiliadis
6th April 2022
2020 Canava Chrissou, Vieilles Vignes, Tselepos, Santorini, Greece (£33.00, www.cavaspiliadis.uk).
I never talk to strange ladies in restaurants. This statement still holds true because the lady I introduced myself to was, as it turns out, a wine trade pal from a bygone era, but what a fabulous re-encounter this turned out to be. I was sitting at the bar of Le Comptoir Robuchon (https://www.robuchonlondon.co.uk/le-comptoir, 6 Clarges St, London W1) in order to introduce the sommelier to my range of alcohol-free Jukes Cordialities. Another wine friend joining me was running late, so I found myself talking to a lady seated in reception. In years gone by, Irina Nemeth worked for a dear friend, Georges Barbier, so we caught up on old news and then talked about our new and exciting ventures.
Irina sells elite Greek and Cypriot wines, and Robuchon is soon to open a restaurant in Cyprus, so she introduced the wines to the sommelier. Fortunately, I had the occasion to taste three of them over a mind-blowingly delicious and rather spontaneous lunch. It is worth pointing out that Le Comptoir Robuchon is a spellbindingly beautiful restaurant and every single dish (and the three of us we motored through quite a few) was exquisite. The service was exemplary, too, and I will be returning at the earliest opportunity.
But, my piece here, which will return to the food in a moment, intends to introduce you to three of the most arresting and delicious wines I can remember. My featured Assyrtiko is the finest example of this crystalline, mesmerisingly floral grape I have tasted. It was such a shock; I am still reeling. I am very familiar with this grape, but I wonder if I have only ever tasted rather ordinary versions to date because this wine was simply stellar. It was akin to encountering the breath-taking beauty of JJ Prüm after spending one’s life drinking generic but perfectly pleasant Mosel Riesling.
The second white was the eclectically labelled 2017 Vouni Panayia, Woman in the Wine Press Cyprus (£42.00, www.cavaspiliadis.uk). I have a photo of the back label here, but the front label is a tasteful rendition of a woman with her skirt hitched up in a vat of grapes! This elite white is made from the ultra-rare white grape Morokanella, and it is a mineral-soaked, balletic, drama-packed white with so much class it left me breathless. If this were a Chablis, it could only be Raveneau. The crystalline perfection in the glass was frankly unbelievable.
Not content with blowing my mind with two ravishing white wines, Irina’s red suggestion was 2017 Ktima Driopi Reserve Agiorgitiko Nemea (£24.00, www.cavaspiliadis.uk). This is, pause for the drumroll, is the smartest Greek red I have ever tasted, not least because of its extraordinary balance. I have drunk plenty of well-made Greek reds over the years (my brother lived in Athens for a few years and we made sure we covered the bases), but they have always left me somewhat exhausted with their dark, oaky flavours and somewhat grainy tannins. Now I realise that this is a gross generalisation, but if you taste this elegant, sophisticated, and refreshingly brooding red wine, you may well feel as I do. It is a discreet yet affordable work of art. Regardless, in just three wines, my vinous horizons were elevated immeasurably and forevermore, so I implore you to seek these wines out, and I hope that they do for you what they did for my grateful taste buds. This fascinating tasting was set against a backdrop of mind-blowingly delicious dishes. The layering of flavours, delicacy and detail of delivery, phenomenal service and stunning décor were all profoundly moving – this is grand French cuisine at its apogee.
Just for good measure, and if you are tempted to book a table, which I hope you do, the Sea bream carpaccio with Espelette chilli, White asparagus, Langoustine ravioli and John Dory dishes, among others, were all epic.