Sampling the grapes of the world, in a glass.
2013 Atlantis, Argyros, Santorini, Greece, 13%, Marks & Spencer, £10.50
I had not heard of this grape until The Times wine critic Jane MacQuitty recommended this “blend of assyrtico, with a dollop each of aidani and athiri” (two equally unknown varieties to me) as one of her 50 best white wines for summer.
Hugh Johnson would be deeply unimpressed by my ignorance. He describes assyrtico as “one of the best grapes of the Mediterranean, balancing power, minerality, extract and high acid. Built to age. Could conquer the world…”
I have bought a few wines from M&S recently; I have noticed that their labels provide a lot more information about what’s in the bottle than you normally find in supermarkets.
In this case, we are told that M&S winemaker Jeneve Williams selected a parcel of this wine made by local expert Matthew Arzyros sourced from 60 year old vines that cling in low bushes to the island’s (Santorini) mineral-rich volcanic slopes.
This personalising of the wine will be familiar to customers of wine clubs like Laithwaite’s. Perhaps M&S have taken a hint?
So, how does the label describe this wine? “Bright, crisp and citrusy…zingy aromas of lime blossom and honeyed gooseberry flavours.” Anybody here who has eaten honeyed gooseberries? Thought not.
In The Times, MacQuitty was extolling the wine’s “wonderfully intense, tangy, nutty, stone-fruit flavours.” No mention of gooseberries, honeyed or otherwise. It’s all a matter of taste, I guess….
She suggested drinking this wine with barbecued lamb. Having sampled it, that seems a slightly bizarre pairing, and certainly very different from the M&S suggestion of garlic and lemon prawns, seared salmon, or full-flavoured grilled halloumi salads. We drank it with a prawn cassoulet and a whitebait salad; close enough.
And what did we think of it? It was sharp, refreshing and dry. I’m generally wary of adjectives like “zingy”, but I got the point. The first taste could almost have been described as fizzy on the tongue. The citrus flavours are certainly at the sharper end of the scale, so lime is not an unreasonable description.
One for the wine rack? I am glad we discovered assyrtico. I’d happily add a couple of bottles to our wine list.