Fine Wine Writing by Jonathon Alsop

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Cambas Mantinia:
Greco-Modern Wine Classic

by Jonathon Alsop
September 2001

There are lots of different ways to get a bargain in wine: shop for second labels (Coppola Rosso for $7.50 instead of the Niebaum-Coppola Zinfandel for $13.50), buy what's on sale (magnums of CAVIT Pinot Grigio for only $10 at Trader Joe in Brookline and Cambridge), or raid the stocks of an unknown and undervalued wine region like Greece before anybody else catches on and the price goes up, which is what I'm advocating now.

Thanks to an unfortunate domination by the Ottoman empire from the middle of the 15th century until 1821, the wine industry in Greece was highly suppressed. Although the nation had a rich pre-history, modern winemaking began anew about the same time the California wine industry was being born.

Military rule kept Greece at arm's length from the rest of the world until 1974, although they didn't enter the European Union until 1981. Since then, Greek wine has gained in investment and quality, although many are overshadowed in this country by a bad reputation from years of ultra-sweet or strange tasting wines.

Happily, this is starting to change, and just as "chianti" meant "cheap wine in wicker" not that long ago, the image of Greek wine will improve as we taste more and better examples. Until then, it's time to snap up bargains in some under-priced early arrivals.

2000 Cambas Mantinia -- about $8.50 around Boston -- is a beautiful white wine perfect for seafood. The aromas were 100 percent muscat grape with white flowers, melons and rosewater. On the tongue, the flavors were round and ripe with peach and pear and honeydew. You had to suspect that there were great wines hiding out in the Greek countryside that never made it to the US, but the Cambas Mantinia is better than anything I'd imagined. This is my new favorite wine, and the price is an amazement. The buy flag is up on this wine and its fellow labels: Arkadia (an entry-level Soave-style white), Savatiano (a zesty tropical white wine) and Nemea Reserve (a rich oaky red), all in about the same value range.

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