Nick Harlaftis, the third generation owner of Chateau Harlaftis near the town of Neméa, tells a hell of a good story. As a young man, Mr. Harlaftis got his flight schooling courtesy of the USAF in Texas and returned home to become a leading pilot and eventually a top commander in the Greek Air Force. He was the first Greek pilot to break the sound barrier. Now in his seventies and sitting in the winery on his brand new shiny Lamborghini tractor, he regaled me with his exploits in the air, and more importantly, his family’s history in Neméa.
The truth is life has often been very tough on Cephalonia. With a wine tradition dating back to Homeric times, historically it has always been hampered by invasion, domination and bloodletting. In modern times, politics and world wars have all had an adverse effect.
Of the 220 islands that make up the Cyclades in the Aegean Sea southeast of mainland Greece, Santorini is a playground for jet setters, the wealthy and those who follow the seasons around the globe like dust on the wind.
In June 2005 I joined a mixed group—Croatian winemakers, restaurateurs, professors, and journalists—to sail the Adriatic from the Istrian peninsula of Croatia to the Greek locality of Monemvasia, off the eastern coast of the Peloponnese. We boarded two 65-foot yachts that set sail on a Malvasia Mediterranea MMV expedition whose aim was to discover the true roots of the ancient malvasia grape variety.
Many economists see the ongoing financial crisis that started in 2007 as the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Greece dominated the news this year, and it was finally confirmed on May 2nd that the European governments and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are committed to pull Greece back from the brink of default, agreeing to provide emergency loans of € 110 billion.
Xinomavro is an indigenous grape variety that grows in Northern Greece and is anything but common. Wines made from this variety lack primary fruit on the nose; instead one finds an intriguing combination of olives and tomatoes. But on the palate, raspberry flavours typically shine through. The colour is often pale and relatively unstable, and can evolve quickly into a tawny colour in the glass. The rim often looks mature even in young wines.
Once consumers taste well-crafted indigenous Greek wines, many of their misconceptions disappear, replaced with real excitement of discovery.