Monday, December 17, 2018

The Odyssey and Greek Wine

Another book high on my wish list for Christmas is Emily Wilson's translation of 'The Odyssey'. I have vivid memories of reading a Penguin Classics edition in Amsterdam when I was 17, but not such vivid memories of the details of the story, so I might have to reread that copy too.

I do remember it being a great story though, and I'm really interested to see what Emily Wilson brings to it. If I don't find it under the tree I've been given a book voucher (it's been a while since anybody did that and I'm so excited by it) and it'll be the first post Christmas purchase I make.

A good bottle of something Greek is the obvious choice here, although unfortunately the great British public have been resistant to Greek wines.

My first job in wine was with Oddbins at the turn of the century. The story of Oddbins and Australian wine was the stuff of company legend - briefly a very junior buyer had been sent to Australia sometime in the 80's (memory is hazy). At the time the UK was more or less oblivious to Australian wine, we imported some, but not a lot. This guy fell in love with everything, bought a lot of it, and we all agreed with him. Someone came back from Greece hoping to pull off the same trick, but it didn't work out.

It was a real shame because the wines were excellent- great flavour, interesting grapes that added something to the palate of available flavours, very high quality - the whole package. Unfortunately people couldn't seem to get past the idea of retsina and cheap holiday wine for a couple of Euros a bottle. They wouldn't pay for the good stuff.

There are a few good Greek wines to be had (Waitrose does an organic cabernet sauvignon that I really like for about £10, it's well worth trying) but they're few and far between. Something that is widely available though is Mavrodaphne of Patras - a sweet, fortified, red that's also worth a look.

It's relatively cheap - well under £10, and not a bad substitute for port. It works well with chocolate desserts and cake, and should get on well with all the Christmas dried fruit. As is probably very clear by now I'm a fan of sweet wine on it's own too - a small glass is an excellent alternative to a pudding. I also think that this sweeter wine is closer in spirit to the sort of thing that Homer might actually have drunk when wine was regularly sweetened and flavoured to improve it.

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