The Wines of Corfu
By Wojciech Bonkowski
I first read about the wines from the largest Ionian Island in Nico Manessis’s The Illustrated Greek Wine Book, published in 2000. The two producers included were Theotoky and Leivadiotis, and I was instantly attracted to those wines so much off the beaten Greek track and the intriguingly named local Kakotrygis grape. A trip to the Ionian islands this summer finally provided an opportunity to seek those wines.
If anything, Corfu is, even more, the beaten vinous track in 2021; as the rest of Greece develops at a frantic pace, the Island keeps its wine industry very low-key. Seven wineries operate here, but some are tiny operations. Others own no vineyards and merely vinify bought-in grapes. I have been unable to source the wines of Leivadiotis in any shop I visited over three days.
I did visit Theotoky, however, the oldest winery in Corfu, now run by fifth-generated Esmeralda Theotoky de Feraudy with the help of manager Socrates Koskinas. Certified organic since 2016, this beautiful estate in the centre of Corfu extends over 120 hectares, with 30 ha of vineyards, 4000 olive trees, livestock, and other crops. The wines are thoroughly well-made, kept in a noble old style, and widely available in the island’s cava wine shops and leading restaurants. Sadly, no Kakotrygis is grown here at the moment, having been decimated by frost and sheep (!) in 2013, so the estate’s white wine is made of Robola. The speciality is arguably the red wine of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Theotoky Cuvée Spéciale Robola 2018
This vintage is the current release, representing 12–15,000 bottles. It is a different style from Cephalonia Robola, being grown at lower altitudes, on clay, in a warmer climate, this softer and rounder, slowly ageing towards waxy notes. Good quality but lacking great depth and punch. 87/100
Theotoky Cuvée Spéciale Robola 2017
This vintage is still available at the winery at 12€ and makes a much better impression, with a sweeter, tangerine-like expression while also tighter on the palate. Positively Chablis-like through its searing acidity, with a lovely slow evolution. 91/100
Theotoky Cuvée Spéciale Robola 2019
Not yet released, richer than 2017 with Mediterranean herbs and stone fruits, less penetrating than 2017 but better than 2018. 88/100
Theotoky Rosé 2019
From 18-year-old Syrah vines, made in a darker, fuller style of pink, with pronounced vinosity and a hint of tannins. A good-value gastronomic rosé. 89/100
Theotoky Red 2018
Made from Cabernet Sauvignon planted in the 1960s, this might be the lightest rendition of this grape anywhere, with just 11.5% alcohol and tangy pomegranate fruit. The 6 months’ ageing in French oak is still evident, and while in the July heat, the wine was flirting with oxidation, it is a delicious summer Cabernet I would serve with fish (!). Old-style but stylish! 88/100
Theotoky Cuvée Georges 2018
This is the top cuvée, a vineyard selection of Cabernet aged one year in used oak. Just 270 bottles were made. Still somewhat oaky, darker (just) and more brooding than the above, with sous-bois and gamey notes, but no brett. Nice complexity and personality. 89
This minuscule winery (8,000 bottles annually) operates a usefully located tasting room and shop on the main road from Corfu Town to the popular Paleokastritsa beach town on Corfu’s west coast. Spiros Goulis makes simple wines with a homemade / “natural” twist. The interest here is with local grapes: Kakotrygis and the lightly red-skinned Skopelítiko and Martzaví.
Goulis Kakotrygis 2020
13%. Oxidative winemaking showing strongly on the nose. Some good extract here and a saline twist. Local interest. 81/100
Goulis Peperosa 2019
11.5%. A rosé from Skopelítiko. Simple but showing cleaner, more intense fruit than the white and red here. A good summer pink for 9€. 84/100
12%. Red wine from Skopelítiko with some Martzaví, blending 2017 and 2018, with chewy tannins and some oxidation. Not great. 80/100
I managed to taste two more Kakotrygis wines from the island:
Pontiglio Kakotrygis 2019
From a winery located at the island’s southern tip and the most widely distributed in local shops. 13% alc. Slight tannic firmness, light wax, but no sign of tiredness at two years of age. Neutral aromatics but fairly pronounced structure, with ripe fruit on the palate, with salty minerality coming up with time. A good 10-€ bottle of wine. 87/100
Grammenou Kakotrygis 2020
12% alc. A more youthful, cleaner, more technical wine than the above, with ripe pear a hint of kumquat, Corfu’s speciality. This shows some real grip and structure, hinting at a serious potential for Kakotryghis once it finds a dedicated champion in Corfu. 87/100
Wojciech Bońkowski is a wine writer from Poland, author of four wine books and editor-in-chief of the largest Polish wine medium with 600K readers yearly, Winicjatywa. In June 2017 with fellow wine writers Ewa Rybak and Ewa Wieleżyńska, he launched Ferment, Poland’s new printed wine magazine. He regularly contributes to Meininger’s Wine Business International and www.timatkin.com, and is a Decanter World Wine Awards judge. He currently serves as President of the Polish Wine Trade Association and is a Stage 3 Master of Wine student. He specialises in the wines of Italy, Greece, Croatia, Central Europe, and Port. He is moreover a 50 Great Greek Wines judge. And he actually has another life in which he researches 19th-century music.