An introduction to wine in the Ionian Islands
IONIAN ISLAND WINE
At one point in For Your Eyes Only, renowned wine expert James Bond asks for a glass of Theotoki Aspro, a white wine made by one of Corfu’s most prestigious producers. If that’s not a good enough recommendation to try some local vintages, we don’t know what is!
Wines produced on the Ionian Islands have little in common with those produced elsewhere in Greece, thanks both to the grape varieties used and the archipelago’s wine-making traditions, which were heavily influenced by four centuries of Venetian rule.
Still today one of the most common grapes grown on Corfu and Cephalonia is Robola, a native of Italy’s Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region, where it is known as Ribolla.
After many years of decline and underinvestment, Ionian Island wines are once again starting to fulfil their potential. New methods are being employed, including the production of organic and natural wines, and oenologists are working hard to unlock the significant qualities of indigenous grape varieties such as Vardea (white) and Vertzami (red), both of which are produced on Lefkada. Some specific Lefkadian wines include Lefkadiatki Hi (Land of Lefkada) made from Vardea and winner of a silver medal in the 2005 international wine festival in Thessaloniki, and Plagies Lefkadas (Lefkada Hills), a Vertzami produced in Agios Ilias.
Other grape varieties to look out for and try include Cephalonia’s Tsaoussi (white) and Mavrodaphne (red), Zakynthos’ Moscatella (white) and Corfu’s Muscat and Kakotryghis (both whites).
And if you're looking for something to drink before or after a meal, why not try one of the following:
Soumatha - a white, almond based drink that should be stored in the fridge
Metaxa 3, 5 & 7 stars - the famous Greek brandy is wonderful after a meal.
Ouzo - made from grape skins, stems and pips with the taste of aniseed. This can be drunk neat or with anything else you choose to mix it with. Rumour has it that if you were tipsy on ouzo the night before and drink a glass of water the next day the process starts all over again!
Retsina - wine matured in pine barrels allowing the resin to seep into the wine that gives it its particular flavour. A great accompaniment to a light lunch.
When raising a glass, make sure you do as multilingual James Bond no doubt did, and offer a good hearty Yamas! to your companions!