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Tasting Greek wines in the hills near Olympia

The bus travels through a pastoral valley of the river Kladeos in Greece and I look out at the landscape dotted with lemon groves, olive trees, and vineyards. We have just finished a tour of ancient Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic games, and are heading to a wine tasting at the local Olympia Land Estate which was arranged for us in conjunction with Food and Wine magazine. The vineyards and winery are in the small village of Koskina, just two miles from the sacred site of the Stadium.

Koskina vineyard, Greece

We are met there by Amanta, granddaughter of the founder, who tells us the history of the vineyard and how her grandfather started in business as a producer of raisins. When he tired of making raisins, he turned things over to the third generation of the family and, in 2009, they started the winery. We walk through the production area with its huge stainless steel tanks and Amanta explains the process of making wine. The special micro-climate here in the river valley and the quality of the clay soil combine to produce some of the best grapes in the area.

Koskina vineyard, GreeceWe head into the tasting building and take a seat at one of the tables set up with tapas and wine glasses. Our mouths start to water. Artfully arranged on individual plates at each setting are pieces of French bread drizzled with their homemade olive oil, salami, cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, and pastes made from fava beans, tomatoes, and lentils. All of the vegetables are grown here, and the olive oil, cheese, and pastes are homemade.

Members of the Liarommatis family start to pour the wine. We sample white, red, and rose wines, and a rich dessert wine which is served at the end with homemade almond cookies. We try Ekecheiria, Oreino Monopati, and Artemis. My favorite is Pheidias, named after the famous Greek sculptor who lived during the fifth century BC. It is a fine dry red wine that matures in French oak barrels for one year. It is made from the Agiorgitiko and Merlot grape varieties. Agiorgitiko is one of the leading specialty grapes grown in this area.

Production of all of Olympia Lands’ wines is very limited. The Estate produces only 60,000 bottles of wine a year on its 100 acres. Their wines are highly cherished and sold only in Greece and a very few select outlets in Europe.

Extracted from Traveling with Elizabeth – EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURES AROUND  THE WORLD. Now available from Amazon.

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