CYPRUS GOURMET: St. Valentine’s Special

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GHALANOS: “Love at First Sip?”

Founded in 1929 as a food importer/distributor, Othon Ghalanos changed direction in 1967 when the present CEO Stelios Ghalanos took over the reigns from his father. The food trade was replaced by wines, spirits and other beverages and the firm rapidly became the market leader, with some of the world’s greatest names in both the quality and popular ends of the market (to take just a small handful: Krug; Cloudy Bay; Torres; Bombay Saphire; Dewar’s; Metaxa).
The mix has always run from top-of-the-range to very “pop”. As an example of the latter, for more than 40 years Ghalanos has marketed the iconic Mateus Rosé in Cyprus (which, almost single-handedly created millions of wine drinkers in Britain). “We still do”, Stelios told me, “and we sell 27,000 cases a year”.
Wine snobs don’t write a lot about the wines that please millions and come off the supermarket shelves at around €6.00 a bottle or less. Especially those with Pop names and amusing promotional gambits. I take notice, because it’s my readers’ enjoyment that interests me the most. And a good mass-produced wine can be and often is, most enjoyable.
A few weeks ago I took a couple of bottles of Primo Amore (“First Love”) Merlot-Sangiovese from my local supermarket (€5.69 ***) to try. This is one of four with this brand name produced by the Veneto-based company Zonin, who do a nice line in Valpolicella and some other medium-priced regional wines. Zonin is interesting, because, although large, it owns no vineyards, buying in all its grapes for its quite substantial range of wines. Clearly, marketing four branded wines with attendant “promo” is a move to attract new and younger people to wine drinking.
I don’t know about other markets but Primo Amore has been love-at-first-sight for a lot of people in Cyprus. “Selling like hot cakes” might be appropriate. As well as the Merlot-Sangiovese, which is pleasant with its grape provenance evident and hints of residual sugar, there is white Pinot Grigio (also €5.69), and two slightly sweet, slightly sparkling party wines, the white “Juliet” and red “Romeo” (both €5.52). Well chilled, the white is a happy aperitif and accompaniment to some fish, antipasti and fish salads, and the red, slightly chilled for sandwiches, snacks and picnics. Both make a party go. I also found them excellent in adding zest and flavour to cooking – a sauté of chicken thighs, with mushrooms, shallot, garlic and lemon juice was very well enhanced by a good glass of “Juliet”. And the Pinot Grigio went well with it at the table. It may be a long time, indeed, since my ‘Primo Amore’, but the wine went well with the food!
In future columns I shall be tasting some more of the varied range of Ghalanos wines.

Primo Amore is available from most good supermarkets.