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Beers and Wines from the Mediterranean

You’ll spend plenty of time, one hopes, dawdling over drinks at cafes and restaurants when you explore the Mediterranean countries of Europe. Get a glimmer here of what may glimmer in your glass during one of those moments when time stands still and you just relax.

 

Spain produces a wide variety of wines of the highest quality with unique and distinctive flavours which vary from region to region. In the northLa Rioja is synonymous with wine. This is where our most internationally recognised wines are produced. These exquisite wines are the product of centuries of tradition; they embrace a whole culture, deeply rooted in this land of vines and wine cellars. And what could be better than to enjoy a few tapas accompanied by fino sherry? A whole way of life revolves around this wine. Come and discover it, and you’ll find another way of enjoying the culture of Spain.

How many of us are addicted to Italian styles of coffee? Thank you, Italy, for espresso, ristretto, cappuccino and latte! Coffee is just one of the lifeblood beverages to enjoy “at the source” when you vacation in Italy. Sips of grappa for the bold, and sunshine drops of limoncello, the lemon liqueur, for a light, bright finish to a sumptuous meal, Campari and soda in its natural habitat – these are other drinks to have on your, er, bucket list. Then there’s the wine. The Ancient Greeks called Italy “Enotria”, in deference to its renown for producing extraordinary wines. It would be impossible to list all of the features of Italian wines, world famous for their variety and quality, so you’ll just have to go see for yourself. All twenty of Italy’s regions produce wine, and the easiest way for you to navigate this many vineyards and bottles is to take advantage of the Wine Tourism Movement, a group of people whose aim is to make Italian wine touring easy.

Malta may not be renowned like its larger Mediterranean neighbours for wine production, but Maltese vintages are more than holding their own at international competitions, winning accolades in France, Italy and further afield. International grape varieties grown on the Islands include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Grenache, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Carignan, Chenin Blanc and Moscato. The indigenous varieties are Gellewza and Ghirghentina, which are producing some excellent wines of distinct body and flavour. Winery tours and tastings are great fun and educational, so when you actually tear yourself away from the Maltese sunshine, visit a vintner and find out about the wines of Malta.

Wash it all down in Cyprus with one of the local beers or wines; its long tradition in winemaking goes back over 4,000 years. In ancient times the island supplied the Pharaohs of Egypt and Cyprus wines were in great demand amongst the ancient Greeks and Romans. One very old sweet wine, Commandaria, is acknowledged to be one of the oldest named wines in the world, which according to legend, was originally made for Richard the Lionheart and the Crusaders. Zivania, Cyprus’ famous firewater, made from highly-distilled grape juice, is almost pure alcohol and packs a neat punch. For a healthy drink try a freshly squeezed fruit juice from the plethora of fresh fruit available on the island. ‘Airani’ made with live yogurt is incredibly refreshing, perfect for hot summer days, while ‘soumada’ is a warm comforting almond drink served with hot water.

Sip a glass of ouzo or wine with grilled octopus or any other dish while sitting under the shade of a tree in a small tavern by the sea on a Greek island in the Aegean. This world famous Greek aperitif, (the best is from Lesbos and Chios) is produced from distilled alcohol, water and aromatic ingredients, with aniseed prevailing. It is drunk neat or with added water or ice, and is the perfect accompaniment for mezedes (appetizers). Greece is not only the birthplace of Dionysus (god of wine), but also the birthplace of wine making. Historical and social reasons and a few natural disasters are the main reasons that the art of wine making was neglected from the mid-9th century up to 50 years ago. 
Now there are 20 regions that have A.O.C. rights and wine is flowing again in Greece – be sure to try some!

Turkey is one of the few Mediterranean countries where wine won’t figure as heavily on your drinking itinerary, but other delicious drinks certainly will. You can’t visit anyone, anywhere, for any length of time whatsoever without being offered coffee or tea. Black tea is popular but so are apple tea and sage tea, very calming while you’re deciding which carpet to buy. When you order coffee, be sure to specify little, half or whole sugar or you’ll get the maximum sweetness by default. In the wintertime, try salep, a hot milky drink made with tapioca; in the summer ayran, much like liquid yogurt, is a spectacular cooler. Boza, a fermented, malty bulgur drink has cousins throughout the Balkans. Be careful when you start in on the raki, Turkey’s rather potent anise flavored spirit; you may buy one more carpet than you intended under its expansive influence.

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