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According to a report in the journal Science, it's the CA3 region of the brain's hippocampus which controls the relationship between smell and memory. So that's what is responsible for the lingering effect of retsina on holiday in shaping my attitude towards Greek wines.

According to a report in the journal Science, it's the CA3 region of the brain's hippocampus which controls the relationship between smell and memory. So that's what is responsible for the lingering effect of retsina on holiday in shaping my attitude towards Greek wines.

I learned to live with its pungently resinous flavour – which seemed to owe more to furniture polish than wine – but for me, Greek wine was retsina and that was that.

When Oddbins bravely decided to feature Greek wines after its buyer, Steve Daniel, went on a shopping spree following a holiday in Crete, I remained stubbornly unconvinced that anyone would be converted. Especially as the products – roditis, sideritis and ritinitis – sound like medical conditions. The eureka moment came with the discovery that, far from reeking of pine resin or oxidation, many of them were well-made wines with a distinctive character. I decided it was high time to explore Greece, or at least the wines of the Greek estates, on show at the London International Wine and Spirit Fair.

Ever since Diogenes lived in a barrel, much has been written about the Greek wines of antiquity; their most significant legacy is the 300-odd indigenous grape varieties. And now, with modern technology and savoir faire, their full potential is at last being exploited. Crisp, fresh whites are made from assyrtiko, roditis, moschofilero and malagousia. The agiorgitiko (St George) and xinomavro grapes are responsible for some juicy modern reds.

If you've been to Greece on holiday, you will almost certainly have come across the big brands like Achaia Clauss, Boutaris and Tsantalis, all of them giants investing in modernisation. The wineries at the cutting edge however are the smaller, mostly family companies, like Gaia Estate and Spiropoulos in the Peloponnese, Constantin Lazaridi and Kir-Yianni in Macedonia further north, Strofilia and Evharis in Attica and Gentilini on Cephalonia in the Ionian Sea.

I feel the whites and rosés have the edge over the reds. There's good value in clean, dry whites like Mantinia from Domaine Spiropoulos (£4.79); the delicately spicy and lime-like island white of Corelli's Robola from Gentilini (£6.49). From Drama in Thrace, Constantin Lazaridi makes a zesty, 2001 Amethystos White (£6.99), blending sauvignon blanc with the local assyrtiko grape. Gaia Estate also make two excellent dry whites from the assyrtiko, grown on the volcanic slopes of Santorini. The 2001 Gaiai Thalassitis (£7.47) is well crafted, rich and concentrated with fresh acidity; the Gaia oak-fermented Thalassitis is equally intensely flavoured but almost Burgundian in feel. Both Gaia and Constantin Lazaridi make an outstanding rosé, the former a redcurranty, crisp style: Gaia 14-18h Rosé (£5.69, due in shortly) made from agiorgitiko; the latter, the 2001 Amethystos Rosé (£6.49), a fruity, summer pudding of a wine.

Many reds are still made in the old-fashioned, "baked" style and lack sufficient aroma and fresh fruitiness. But there are some good examples among Oddbins' selection, notably from Kir-Yianni, Constantin Lazaridi and Gaia Estate, particularly the good-value, juicily cherryish 2001 Gaia Notios Red (£5.99) and the plummy, succulent Bordeaux-style 2000 Amethystos Red, £8.99. And retsina? Even that's emerging from its chrysalis, as it were, as the pine-fresh, lemon-and-ginger style of Gaia's 2001 Ritinitis Nobilis (£5.49) demonstrates.

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