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Cypriot wines with character September 3, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Food Cyprus, Wine And Spirits.
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Xinisteri is the most popular grape cultivated in Cyprus. Here we try several bottles made from it

I have recently tasted some interesting wines from the indigenous white grape variety, Xinisteri. It accounts for 2,200 hectares under cultivation and is the most wide-spread white grape variety in the Cyprus vineyard. Selected regions for Xinisteri cultivation are Kathikas, Vouni, Panayias, Pitsilia, the Akamas, Laona and Ambelitis.

Xinisteri generally produces fresh, light wines with low alcohol levels, not amenable for ageing and I have always recommended that the wine should be drunk young. Definitely, this is the only indigenous white variety with a significant role in Cyprus winemaking.

Overall, I am impressed with Xinisteri 2006. It is progressing well and it is, in fact, our only hope on the indigenous grapes chapter, not forgetting that this grape is the base of Commandaria. Can’t wait to check on harvest 2007.

2006 Ayioklima, Constantinou Winery, Limassol Region, Alcohol Volume 11.5% > This is a wine from self-taught winemaker Costas Constantinou, who has a small winery at Pera Pedi. Talking to Costas, you realise that he means business. Things are now more dynamic, especially once he moved to his new winery.

Ayioklima is a Xinisteri varietal, probably one of the best I have tasted. Harmony is what I would have named it. Crisp acidity yet silky texture give this wine a complementary ying/yang structure. Light yellow in colour with a touch of green, typical Xinisteri, the nose offers exquisite layers of passion fruit, banana, pineapple, green apple and nectarine with a very subtle herbaceousness. It is not the most complex Xinisteri I have tried but probably the most correct. This is a dry wine on the palate, the barely perceptible residual sugar is balanced by good acidity and a hint of spritz, the body light to medium. There is more citrus fruit on the palate with more lime at the aftertaste. The quintessential fried red mullet, wine, grilled prawns, steamed mussels and soft goat cheese at 9 degrC, fabulous value too.

2006 Amalthia, Fikardos Winery, Pafos Region, Alcohol Volume 12.5% > From another master of Xinisteri, Theodoros Fikardos, who has opted to blend his Xinisteri with the imported varietal of Semillon, the renowned varietal of Bordeaux at Graves and Pessac Leognan. Theodoros prefers his whites with more body, adding flavour and fragrances, mass and balance to the Xinisteri as well as extending the lifespan of the wine.

A very good varietal exhibition; it has a clear, yellow and light green colour. The nose of Amalthia has been improved over the last three years, clean, with a fruity and herbal character, predominantly green apple and pineapple, melon and white peach with just enough grass to tell you that the highest percentage in the bottle is Xinisteri. Light to medium body, dry and crisp, slightly creamier than usual, with good length, subtle flavours of dry grass and citrus fruit, grapefruit, lime. This wine is perfect as an aperitif or with high acid foods like my boiled shrimps drizzled with lemon butter sauce, served at 9 degrC.

2006 Ayia Irini, Fikardos Winery, Pafos Region, Alcohol Volume 12% > Similar blend to Amalthia, however with more residual sugar in order to classify this wine as medium dry. It is yellow green and a bit more intense on the colour with a subtle, round nose, projecting more ripe fruit, as in melon, pineapple and yellow apple with the barest hint of herbal characters. Velvety and smooth on the palate, pink grapefruit character and with crisp acidity. Nectarine note and a herbal overlay in the finish. Great with shellfish and spicy foods at 9 degrC.

2006 Katerina, Fikardos Winery, Pafos Region, Alcohol Volume 12% > Fragrant indeed with the addition of some carbon dioxide. In a blind tasting I would have confused this wine with Asti. Yellow with yet more residual sugar so that it can be described as medium sweet wine. But this is a well balanced wine; displaying some honey and butterscotch aromas yet orange and lemon peel are more predominant. More fruit as in banana, pineapple and guava. Medium bodied and velvety palate, the bracing acidity keeps it from being cloying. Goes beautifully with cheese course, as an aperitif or at 9 degrC pair it with veal and pork with sweetening sauces.

2006 Aes Ambelis Winery Dry white, Limassol Regional, Alcohol Volume 12.5% > Back to Limassol region and a winery located in Kalo Chorio Orinis. Aes Ambelis winery has been one of the most innovative and progressive wineries on the island and it is not by accident that it has already collected a few medals. This blend of Xinisteri and Semillon has a bright, greenish yellow colour, while the aromatic and fruit character is dominated by orange blossoms, fig, lime, green apple, pear and muted melon with some herbal edges. Stylish, though not very complex, this is a medium-bodied white, which is round in the mid-palate, tart and citrusy to the finish. Emphatically varietal, it is a good fit with shellfish.

Annual Paradise Jazz Festival in Cyprus September 3, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Cyprus, Arts Festivals, Music Life Live Gigs.
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Cyprus’ biggest ever jazz fest will be held in Polis this coming weekend. What better way to unwind as the summer draws to a close?

The festival now celebrates its 8th anniversary and all fans of the event will be interested to know that this year it is moving from its usual location in Pomos to the centre of Polis Chrysohous at Ayios Andronikos park. The aim is for next weekend’s festival to become the biggest jazz event that has ever taken place so far in Cyprus, attracting both local and foreign visitors.

Go down to the park and the new setting won’t disappoint. With a view all the way down to Polis campsite, the sunset is magical and the park itself is characterised by tall palm trees and the charismatic Ayios Andronikos church. Expect a brilliantly decorated stage and trees accentuated with fairy lights as the nights fill with tunes.

On Saturday, the event will commence with performances by the Oriole Brazil band and Julia Biel. The music of Oriole Brazil is a sensory banquet of soaring melodies, colourful South American folklore, lively dances and emotional ballads. It’s music that creates a rich, emotionally disquieting world that is at once familiar and dreamlike, bringing to life a world of freedom, of movement, of dusty roads and travelling musicians in shaded market squares.

While Oriole have been described by Jazzwise as “a musical mosaic that feels as spiritually uplifting as a Paulo Coelho novel”, Julia was nominated in the BBC Jazz Awards of 2006 and secured a place in The Independent’s ‘top 5 best live performances of 2006’. Her exceptional voice, that has often been described as ‘Billie Holiday meets Bjork’, weaves a magical spell out of folk, jazz and soul.

As the festival moves into full swing on Sunday night, be sure not to miss the mesmerising sound of Danish musician Thomas Clausen, regarded by many as one of Europe’s top pianists. He has performed and recorded with Miles Davis, Dexter Gordon, Dizzy Gillespie and Stan Gets, among others. At the festival, he will appear on stage as part of a quartet with Fernando De Marco on bass, Ingrid Laubrock on tenor sax and Sebastian Rochford on drums. While Ingrid was nominated for the rising star category of the BBC jazz awards in 2005, Sebastian is a deeply creative drummer and composer who won the Mercury Prize of 2007. If you missed Oriole and Julia Biel play on the first night of the festival, then you can catch them after the performance by Thomas and his band on Saturday.

If you feel that two nights of music is not enough and you fancy listening to some home grown talent, then keep in mind that there will be an opening night ‘pre-party’ at Paradise Place in Pomos on Friday. The programme will start as the sun sets with music by Steps, a power trio with Ioannis Vafeas, Michael Messios and Charis Ioannou. They will be followed by the Brazilian and Latin Fusion band, Morfitis Trio.

If you want to make a weekend of the whole occasion and are interested in looking for accommodation close by, the organisers have set up a special Polis Chrysohous guide on the Paradise Place website, where you will find the contact details of hotel apartments in the area. Kick off your shoes and let your imagination run riot as a little bit of paradise is handed over to you this week.

Paradise Jazz Festival > With performances by Oriole Brazil, Julia Biel and Thomas Clausen among others. September 8 and 9. Agios Andronikos Park, centre of Polis Chrysohous, Paphos district. £15 per day and £25 for both days. Tel 26 342537 and 99516932. For more info visit > www.paradiseplaceproductions.com

A star-studded ‘Mamma Mia!’ shot in Greece September 3, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Movies Life, Movies Life Greek.
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Islands provide outdoor locations for hit musical > Pierce Brosnan is just one of the many actors who are expected soon. Academy-award winner Meryl Streep has proved her singing skills in previous films. > Preparations are under way at Skopelos’s Kastani Beach.

Famous actors including Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skaarsgard and Julie Walters are scheduled to visit Greece for the filming of “Mama Mia!.” Ranking as one of the most successful musicals of the past decades, “Mama Mia!,” which premiered in London in 1999 and is responsible for turning old Abba songs into hits for the second time, has enjoyed a solid run ever since. It has been performed in 130 cities all over the world, and is now expected at Athens’s Badminton Theater next May 2008, generating a profit of some 1.6 billion dollars.

Outdoor filming will start this week on Skiathos and Skopelos, the two islands chosen by the Littlestar and Playtone productions to re-incarnate the anonymous Greek island where the musical is set. Playtone belongs to Tom Hanks’s wife, Rita Wilson.

Indoor filming, which took place at London’s Pinewood Studios, has already been completed and the film’s US release date is July 17, 2008. It will be distributed by Universal and in Greece by UIP.

The famous cast members have not yet arrived on the two islands, but the crew has already set up parts of the set and both Skiathos and Skopelos are getting into Abba mode. About 200 people will move to the islands over the next few weeks, including the cinamatographer, Haris Zambarloukos, who is of Greek descent. The production company has posted announcements for extras for the crowd scenes in Skopelos which have met with a great response. Who would pass up the opportunity to be filmed alongside Streep, the actress with the highest number of Oscar nominations, or the former James Bond?

Two Skopelos students have set up a blog, skopelos07.wordpress.com, with information and photographs of the filming preparations. A press conference on filming details is expected to take place soon, with representatives from the production as well as Tourism Minister Fanni Palli-Petralia, but it is not yet known whether it will be held in Athens or on Skopelos.

Both Streep and Brosnan have singing experience. Brosnan had worked as a singer before turning to acting and Streep has sung in Robert Altman’s “A Prairie Home Companion” and in Robert Zemeckis’s “Death Becomes Her.”

Silver-screen classics on at Kypseli’s municipal cinema September 3, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Movies Life Greek.
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Francois Truffaut’s ‘L’enfant sauvage,’ was screened at the open-air Stella cinema last Friday. Screenings continue at the Kypseli venue tonight.

The mini-festival of film classics that the Thessaloniki Film Festival is organizing in collaboration with the City of Athens is under way in Kypseli. The festival, which runs to September 13, marks the re-opening of the neighbourhood’s open-air Stella Municipal cinema.

The festival consists of four thematic units, so as to satisfy the taste of a wide range of film buffs. There are all-time international classics, documentaries recording contemporary rock history, comedies and children’s films. The program will be enriched by the parallel screenings of a selection of older as well as recent Greek shorts dealing with relevant themes. The event is a tribute to film critic Babis Aktsoglou, who passed away a few months ago.

Tonight’s program features the screening of Stefan Paul’s 1979 documentary “Reggae Sunsplash,” while tomorrow Hal Ashby’s 1983 “Let’s Spend the Night Together” will be shown, after Nikos Leros’s 2003 Greek short “Paint it Black.”

The festival will continue with films such as Allan Pennebaker’s 1968 “Monterey Pop” on Wednesday, Woody Allen’s 1979 “Manhattan” on Thursday, Jacques Tati’s “Mon Oncle” on Friday, Mel Brooks’s “Young Frankenstein” on Saturday, Mario Moniccelli’s “I Soliti Ignoti” on Sunday and more. Greek shorts will further include Katerina Filiotou’s “Ela na sou po” (Listen…) on Thursday and Anestis Haralambidis’s “Don’t Miss the Killer” on Wednesday, September 12.

Little safety in energy September 3, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Energy, Greece News.
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The risk faced by Geece’s Public Power Corporation’s plants at Megalopolis and Aliveri in last month’s fires are tangible examples of the poor safety systems protecting the country’s energy installations. There was a similar risk for the transmission network of the power utility, while the same applies to oil and natural gas storage facilities and supply networks.

The recent devastating forest fires, which have left behind extensive damage to cultivated land, villages and a tragic death toll of 65, also raises serious concerns over safety and fire protection issues in relation to crucial state infrastructure.

Such infrastructure surely includes energy, an extremely important sector for the national economy, which involves generation, transportation and supply, i.e. natural gas networks, refineries, power stations, etc.

Among the most vulnerable characteristics of modern energy systems is their centralized generation, transportation and distribution, whether with regard to oil, gas or electricity. Even though a large part of energy could be produced, and consumed, on a local, decentralized level, as it was until some decades ago (in Greece it was up until the 1950s), the technology oriented town development models have paved the way for centralized systems to be fully established, despite certain inherent shortfalls, especially regarding safety.

On the other hand, the advantages offered by centralized energy systems are immense compared to those of local, decentralized systems. One such advantage is the very low cost per connection, which allows public utility companies to develop and service an increasing numbers of consumers. Of course, the risk factor involved is included in the bill.

Greece’s high risk energy installations are currently its oil refineries because of their complex operation and the highly flammable materials handled. Accidents involving refineries may be rare but they do happen.

Some years ago, a tragic accident at the old Petrola refinery at Elefsina cost the lives of 13 workers when part of the installations exploded, even though they were not in operation but undergoing maintenance work. Another example is the more recent accident at BP’s Texas refinery in 2005, which cost the lives of 15 and left hundreds injured, as well as many other accidents that have occurred around the world.

Gas safety is a similarly grave matter, though the nature of accidents here varies. Most relate to network leaks and failures, but safety systems are capable of isolating the failed parts of the network. However, both oil and gas facilities are especially vulnerable to terrorist attacks, which could indeed result in considerable material damage as well as loss of human life.

The recent national fire tragedy brought to light certain grave issues relating to the safety of power plants, as well as storage facilities and transportation networks. The risk faced by Public Power Corporation in Megalopolis (Peloponnese) and Aliveri (Evia), and the problems over power distribution, are concrete examples of such safety threats. Similar risks are faced by oil and natural gas storage facilities and distribution networks.

The installation of independent fire extinguishing systems at such facilities is not always guaranteed. The example of Ancient Olympia’s fire protection system that went on the blink shortly after the blaze spread in the area is telling enough.

As far as energy is concerned, it may be said that Greece is a vulnerable country: power sufficiency is marginal and any damage may result in minor or major cuts or even blackouts. Equally nightmarish may be any natural catastrophe or sabotage to refineries, pipelines and power generation plants, which would pose an immediate threat to human life and the environment.

Bearing in mind the recent fire disaster, the need to improve and safeguard the country’s energy infrastructure is now even more imperative. Consequently, the safety systems at energy installations need to be re-examined and improved where necessary, while the state apparatus should be better prepared.

Greek forest fires could be CO2 threat September 3, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Environment, Greece News.
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Hotter, drier summers will nourish tinder-box conditions

Greece’s huge forest fires have been blamed by some on global warming, but satellite images of smoke plumes drifting as far as Africa prompt the question: are forests a major source of greenhouse gas?

Usually it is cars, factories and power stations that are most often mentioned as sources of carbon dioxide (CO2), a gas which traps heat in the atmosphere. Trees, considered the “lungs of the planet,” soak the gas up. But what if they burn? “Global emissions from deforestation and the degradation of forests are the second single source after coal,” said Stefan Singer of WWF (the World Wildlife Fund).

Every year, 13 million hectares of the world’s forests disappear, an area the size of Greece, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, which says deforestation accounts for 18 percent of CO2 emissions.

Although paling in significance next to deforestation in the Amazon, Congo and Indonesia, forest fires in the Mediterranean might also be a net source of emissions, experts said. Trees absorb carbon dioxide as they grow and climatologists see forests as carbon “sinks”, places where large amounts of that element are stored. When they burn, whether in forest fires or as logs in a stove, it is released.

In the atmosphere, CO2 is the main gas which contributes to the greenhouse effect, trapping the earth’s heat which would otherwise be radiated into space.

The resulting hotter, drier summers in countries like Greece could mean forests are more frequently brought to the tinder-box conditions which allowed fires to spread so devastatingly.

Scientists said it was too early to judge how much C02 was released by the Greek fires, which have been the most intense in Europe in at least a decade and have killed 64 people.

If the trees grow back, they will eventually reabsorb the CO2. “If not, the fires will have contributed to greenhouse gas emissions,” said Earl Saxon of the Geneva-based World Conservation Union (IUCN).

Environment Ministry > a necessary institution September 3, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Environment, Greece News.
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The tragedy that struck the country this summer has catapulted to center stage an issue that should feature at the top of the political agenda: the environment.

The absence of long-term planning and the irresponsibility of Greece’s two mainstream parties on environmental issues during the previous decades are now a threat to the country’s integrity.

Greece needs an independent Environment Ministry that will have the power to implement an integrated policy combining forest protection along with the monitoring of industries and the urban landscape.

Placing responsibility for environmental protection under the jurisdiction of the Public Works Ministry is clearly counter-productive.

Examples abound. Remarks by Environment and Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias to the effect that the country is not ready for an independent environment ministry shows that he has little grasp of the meaning of public works and environmental protection.

The experience of recent years, which was sealed by the deadly fires, clearly shows that an independent ministry of the environment led by a prestigious and knowledgeable man is a mandatory institutional step for safeguarding our natural capital and ensuring sustainable development.