How do you pronounce it?
What is it, then?
A white grape variety from a land blessed with a beautiful Mediterranean climate, an age-old wine culture, and a wealth of native (and often unpronounceable) grape varieties that make genuinely outstanding wines. Also known as Greece. Best known for wines from the striking volcanic island of Santorini, Assyrtiko is also grown across many parts of the Greek mainland.
Why should I care?
Greek wine is having a bit of a moment, driven by an increasingly adventurous consumer – hey, that’s you! – and a general trend for wine regions around the world re-focusing on their star local varieties rather than just planting the usual international suspects.
Case in point: the Wine Society’s Greek wine sales grew by 50 per cent in 2020 as we all took virtual, drinkable holidays rather than actually leaving our own homes.
Time to lay those memories of retsina to bed then – although yes, there’s some great retsina being made these days, if you’re up for it…
What does it taste like?
Assyrtiko is best imagined as a hypothetical love-child of bone dry Riesling and Chablis – peachy soft fruit with super-fresh acidity and often a marked saline character (what some may describe as ‘mineral’). Best examples will also have a dried herb and nutty character, especially after a few years in bottle.
Who’s it for?
Fans of lean, clean whites (think Riesling, unoaked Chardonnay, Picpoul and Muscadet) will find plenty of love here. Likewise, if you’re cooking Med-inspired fish and white meat dishes and need something with a bit of bite, that acidity is the liquid equivalent of biting into a lemon in between mouthfuls.
Sounds great – what do I buy and what’s it costing me?
Entry level examples (such as that from Domaine Papagiannakos, available in many good indie shops and online retailers) will set you back around the £15 mark, whilst a stellar example such as that from the Argyros family on Santorini (Davy’s wine, online £27.95) will cost closer to £30.
Ok, so it’s not the cheapest. However your favourite bottle of Chablis is likely to be going up anywhere from 20-50 per cent this year thanks to a pretty woeful 2021 harvest in Burgundy. So suddenly not such bad value at all..
Plus, the best will happily take on a few years of ageing – so picking up a case and drinking at your leisure is eminently do-able.