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Kefalonia wines enjoy revival

- by Liz Waugh

Everyone enjoys a few glasses of wine when on holiday and what better than to taste wine that has been grown in Greek Island vineyards. Kefalonia has a wine-making tradition dating back at least to Homer but this is an industry, and an island for that matter, that has suffered severe setbacks in modern history.

Invasion, civil war and, most recently, the devastating earthquake of 1953 have al taken their toll on Kefalonia.

But the earthquake was the biggest single event that cased the most damage.

There were in fact four major tremors and the third basically levelled most of Kefalonia's buildings. Argostoli was basically flattened and only villages in the far north of the island, such as Fiskardo, survived intact.

Of an estimated population of 125,000 only 25,000 stayed on the island. Those not killed in the earthquake simply left.

Winemaking was among the first industries to recover, thanks Kefalonia's warm climate, natural geography and good soil diversity. Among the wineries that helped revive the ailing industry were Calligas Wines, which grew in the 1960's using native varieties.

By the early 1970's Gentilini was making its mark in the wine world and in 1990 they were joined by Metaxas, again producing wines from local grape varieties.

On Kefalonia today there are three appellations, Robola, Muscat and Mavrodaphne. The passion for winemaking has seen a resurgence in creating fine wines from local grape varieties.

Robola of Kefalonia has a falvour that reminds the drinker of the higher slopes of Kefalonia where it is grown. Muscat of Kefalonia is a sweet, white wine that almost died out completely but is now experiencing a rebirth. Mavrodaphne of Kefalonia is another sweet red. Both the Muscat and Mavrodaphne are made in extremely small quantities.

Kefalonia winemakers are also becoming more expert at wine blends. Other native white grape varieties that are used on Kefalonia include tsaoussi and zakynthiko. While on holiday in Kefalonia give the wineries a visit and get to know how good the wines are.

Gentilini Winery has vineyards overlooking the Ionian Sea near the village of Minies. The winery is open for tours every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 5pm until sunset from June to September.

The Metaxa Wine Estate is near Mavrata and produces exceptional Robola. The winery is open every day from 10am to 6pm, May to October.

The Agroindustrial Coop of Robola Production of Kefalonia is located near the Monastery of Saint Gerassimos in the Omala valley 400 metres above sea level in the foothills of Mount Ainos. The winery is open all year round from 8am to 3pm and from June to September, 7pm to 8pm.

Also pay a visit to the Foivos Winery for a complimentary tasting. The winery is in Vouni village on the Pali Peninsula and is open from April to October, Monday to Friday 11am to 1pm and 7pm to 8pm.