Greece’s wine renaissance: Styles to know and the top wines to try

After two weeks of judging in London, full results from Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA) 2024 have been released, revealing a stellar performance from Greece – with a few surprises, too.

Since its inception, DWWA has consolidated its reputation as the largest and most influential wine competition in the world. Wine-watchers eagerly await the results of the awards each year because, as well as highlighting the best wines in the UK (and where to buy them), newsworthy stories and trends inevitably emerge.

This year, one of the most exciting stories is the ascendency of Greek wines. It isn’t going too far to say that, in 2024, Greece really is the word.

The results tally in, Greece laid claim to 296 medals, including two Platinums, 11 Golds and 111 Silvers. The really big story, though, is that a Greek retsina wine won a prestigious Best in Show, one of only 50 awarded this year, and making up just 0.28% of the 18,143 wines evaluated.

Scroll down to discover six top-scoring Greek wines from DWWA 2024

The Retsina revival

The Greece story notches up a gear when you consider that the competition’s ‘Top 50’ wine in question is produced with pine resin: Kechris Tear of the Pine Retsina 2022 (97 points).

DWWA Co-Chair Andrew Jefford said, ‘Eyebrows, we know, will be raised. What on earth is a retsina doing in the DWWA Best in Show selection?

‘In truth, eyebrows were raised every time this wine was tasted in the competition – because no one could quite believe that a resinated wine could be as subtle and as good as this. But subtle and good it is: pale gold in colour, with aromas that seem simply perfumed rather than dominated by resin.’

Retsina, made by adding small amounts of Aleppo pine resin to white (or sometimes rosé) wines during fermentation, has existed for thousands of years. The style most likely arose as a way sealing wine amphorae as they were transported around the Mediterranean. It gave the wine a piney, salty, tang – which people evidently developed a taste for, as the style survived for centuries longer than pure necessity dictated.

Yet, as a style retsina wasn’t often held in high regard, its resinous flavour believed to ‘mask’ poor quality wine. Now, a nascent retsina revival is calling time on that theory – as Tear of the Pine proves.

Jefford also pointed out that this is an unusual retsina. ‘Note that this is an oaked wine, and you’ll find as much soft oak and creamy lees on the nose as you will a resinous twang.’ Then there’s the choice of grape variety: 100 per cent Assyrtiko rather than the more usual Savatiano or Athiri.

Tear of the Pine was first released in 2005, after five years of experimentation. Winemaker Stelios Kechris explains how it’s made: ‘After pre-fermentation maceration and alcoholic fermentation in oak barrels of varying origins and types, selected fresh pine resin extracted from Pinos halepensis is added, followed by ageing for six to seven months on the lees. Finally, we bottle.’

It’s a style he describes as ‘a traditional product produced using innovative and modern practices’. He added, ‘Our aim is to showcase the unique qualities and characteristics of this wine style.’

‘The result,’ concludes Jefford, ‘is a triumph. We commend it to all open-minded readers.’

Assyrtiko rising

Retsina is not the only Greek success story. Wines made from the Assyrtiko grape – particularly those from the tiny, windswept island of Santorini from which this grape originates – won particular plaudits from judges.

Two standouts (Gavalas Winery, Natural Ferment, Santorini 2022 and Tselepos Canava Chrissou Vielles Vignes, Santorini 2022) claimed Platinum, both awarded 97 points.

Additionally, two Santorini wines from Estate Argyros – the lightly oaked Cuvée Evdemon 2020 and stainless-steel vinified Assyrtiko 2022 – were awarded Golds, with 96 and 95 points respectively.

On this Aegean island, grapevines are typically grown low to the ground…

Source : https://www.decanter.com/decanter-world-wine-awards/greeces-wine-renaissance-styles-to-know-and-the-top-wines-to-try-532313/