Showing posts with label greek wine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label greek wine. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

The Greek Moschofilero Grape

Greek wines are wonderful, especially the whites, which go with seafood like they were made for the job.  In fact, they were.  The Moschofilero grape has come into its own fairly recently.  Abundant in Greece's Peloponnese region, the peninsula at the bottom of the Greek mainland, the grape earned the nickname of "the Chameleon," according to Wine Enthusiast.  It can produce wines of varying styles and expressions.  WE offers this pronouncer for Moschofilero:  mow-sko-FEEL-err-oh.

Gai'a Wines makes a 100% Moschofilero wine they call Monograph.  I had the 2018 vintage at a Beverly Hills restaurant - Avra - which offers a number of Greek wines to pair with the cuisine.  The huge restaurant also offers indoor/outdoor seating, so you have a front row experience as Ferrari after Lamborgni race up and down that one block of Beverly Boulevard.  The Monograph on their list was $17 by the glass, but you can buy the bottle elsewhere at $13 retail.  That's quite a markup, even by Beverly Hills standards.

Importer Winebow gives this pronouncer for Gai'a:  Yay-ya.  The winery has been around since 1994 and is called a pioneer in "the modern Greek wine revolution."  Winebow says the grapes for the Monograph Moschofilero "come from vineyards located in the Arcadian plateaus in the Mantinia region of Peloponnese, at an altitude of 1,500 feet."  In this cool-climate region, "the pink-skinned Moschofilero thrives, developing intense, spicy and floral aromatics and crisp acidity."  They say it pairs well with seafood - it does - as well as Middle Eastern and Asian cuisines.  The wine was vinified and aged in stainless steel tanks and has a reasonable alcohol level of 12% abv.

The nose gives a sense of the seashore, with salinity driving the smell and a light floral note lifting it.  The palate is spicy, with that wonderful salinity and earthy minerals leading the way.  The wine has a nice acidity and a lengthy, earthy finish.  I paired it successfully with a crab cake and grilled octopus.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Greek Wine - Santorini

The Greek island of Santorini was created by a volcanic eruption some 3500 years ago.  This gave the isle not only a breathtaking landscape but also volcanic soil, which shows itself in the region's wine and food.

A recent gathering of folks who share an interest in the wines of Santorini was held at the wonderful Los Angeles restaurant Republique.  Along with a smattering of publicists in attendance was Andreas Spyrou of the Greek consulate in L.A.  He made it clear that he stands firmly in favor of Greek wine and food, particularly the esteemed Assyrtiko grape and the tomatoes, fava and capers which grow in the volcanic soil of Santorini.  It is a Protected Destination of Origin, Santorini is, and the representatives of the PDO say that the agricultural products which grow there have very special qualities.  Santorini tomatoes, known as tomataki, are tiny, corrugated, thick skinned fruit with a sweet taste and more vitamin C than ordinary tomatoes.

The grapes - the lean Assyrtiko, the aromatic Athiri, the delicate Aidani - combine to make wines that are truly Greek and truly special.  The wines which were poured were made from dry-farmed grapes, grown basket style to protect them from the windy conditions on the island.  All five wines are available in the $20 range.

The Santo Sparkling Assyrtiko 2015 is almost clear, with a slightly greenish tint.  It's nose displays peach, citrus, minerals, yeast, green apple and a hint of lemon.  It has a nice acidity, but quickly dissipating bubbles.

The 2018 Santorini Assyrtiko, 100% Assyrtiko grapes, has a subdued nose of ocean spray and the palate displaying minerals and citrus with a nice acidity.

Santorini Aspa 2018 has 75% Assyrtiko, 15% Athiri and 10% Aidani grapes.  The wine was vinified in steel and served three months in oak barrels.  It has a little more color than the pale wines that preceded it at the tasting.  The nose has honey-layered lemon-lime aromas while the palate shows nice depth with a good touch of oak, great acidity and a long finish.

The 2017 Santorini Assyrtiko Grand Reserve was made from only Assyrtiko grapes, fermented in oak and aged 12 months in oak and 12 in the bottle.  There is huge depth on the nose, not at all over-oaked.  The wine has a nutty, savory, quite lovely oak effect.  The palate is gorgeous - salinity with tangerine peel, a very good acidity and a lengthy finish.  This wine shows that Assyrtiko rivals Roussanne as my favorite grape.

For dessert, Santorini Vinsanto is 85% Assyrtiko and 15% Aidani.  The grapes were spread out under the sun for a week or so before pressing, which brings the sweetness out.  Vinsanto was vinified in stainless steel tanks and aged for three years in oak.  It's a simply gorgeous wine,  with a nose of raisins, brown sugar and caramel.  The palate is sweet, sweet and more sweet, with spicy dried fruit in the lead role.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Monday, December 18, 2017

Greek Rosé Via Sonoma County

Georgós Zanganas founded Nu Greek Wines of Sonoma after moving to the U.S. and having trouble finding the Greek wines he left behind. He noticed that California wines gave him a headache, while his Greek faves never did.  His solution is in this bottle, and I'm told it sells at Northern California Whole Foods Markets and on restaurant wine lists in San Francisco and Los Angeles.  For the Georgós "Farmer" Ios Aphrodite's Kiss Rosé, Zanangas imports the bulk wine from Greece to Sonoma County, where it is bottled at Deerfield Ranch Winery in Kenwood under the direction of winemaker Robert Rex.

Zanangas says in a publicity Q&A that it's a pretty nifty trick to make wine this way.  "It comes by boat in 1,000-liter and 24,000-liter bladders from Greece," he says.  "Once the wine is harvested in Greece, we get it into a stable form so it does not get spoiled during its 45-day voyage from the ancient port of Piraeus in Athens to Oakland and then by truck to the winery in Sonoma.

"We blend and age our red wines in Sonoma," he continues.  "Once they are bottled, we wait four to six months before we release them to market.  We bottle the white and rosé right away, which is 100% wine from our Greek vineyards."

Of course, this wine is straight up Agiorgitiko, or Saint George, grapes.  It's reportedly one of the most widely planted grapes in Greece, but one top wine expert says most of the vines in the country are virused. 

The publicity team claims the Georgós wines are healthier because of the lower alcohol, sulfites and histamines.  Those qualities are said to eliminate the headache often caused by wine.  They also promise softer tannins and high antioxidants.

The wine is is billed as a sort of halfway point between Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc.  If that sounds a little odd to you, you're not alone.  I've often wanted one or the other, but never have I wished to be somewhere in between.  It's unoaked and retails for $23.

The color of this rosé is almost like bourbon, a nearly burnt orange that tends more to brown than pink.  It doesn't look much like rosé, and it doesn't smell that way, either.  First whiff, I get an earthiness that borders on foxiness, as in wines made from North American grape varieties.  Strawberry with an intense mineral overlay then takes over.  The palate offers plenty of cheerful fruit and earthy minerals but little acidity, which is reportedly an issue with Agiorgitiko grown in lower altitudes.  Ios is not what most American consumers would expect in a rosé, but more adventurous souls won't be disappointed. 

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Friday, February 19, 2016

Greek Wine: Mylonas Savatiano

Mylonas Winery is in Attica, near Greece’s southeastern coast. Founded nearly a hundred years ago, they are still a small, family-owned winery. The soils of their vineyards are mostly sandy clay over limestone with some schist and some gravelly sites, as well.  The area is virtually surrounded by sea, with mild winters and cool summers. The Meltemi wind - persistent and dry from the north - and the sea breeze dominate their part of Greece in the summer, keeping temperatures moderate.

Their Savatiano 2013  was $10 by the glass at Terroni. The wine list recommended trying it to help out the Greek economy, but it’s more than a charity case. As a side note, if you want to learn more about different wine grapes, check the wine list in restaurants for anything you don’t recognize and order it. I've never been disappointed in the results.

I have a scant familiarity with Greek grapes, so I was eager to try the Savatiano. It is reportedly the most widely planted Greek variety and has been used in the traditional production of Retsina. They also blend it often with the Assyrtiko and Roditis grapes.

The nose sports fennel and seashore, with citrus notes. It smells a little like Vermentino. On the palate, minerals and lemon lead the way. The acidity is somewhat muted but there’s a great, lengthy finish.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Monday, July 27, 2015

When At The Greek Festival... Retsina

At the recent annual South Bay Greek Festival, held at St. Katherine’s Church in Redondo Beach, I was dismayed when I inquired at the beverage station about Greek wines. I was told their red and white selections were from California, and that they just had "some of this." The gentleman described it as Retsina, and told me it was "kinda pitchy." Not exactly a great sales pitch, but since I had read about Retsina and never tasted it, I was intrigued enough to buy a cup. "Good by the glass, better by the bottle," the server told me. I knew the sales training would kick in eventually. I thanked him for the offer and stayed with the cup.

Retsina is wine which is resinated, or flavored with pine resin. It originated, so says Wikipedia, around 100 AD. Ceramic vessels for wine were sealed with a pine resin to prevent leakage. The resin, of course, imparts its own set of aromas and flavors to the wine. While this may have initially been just a necessary evil, the effect of the resin was appreciated by many - like, the Greeks - and they continued to dose their wine with resin even after it was no longer needed. Technological advances - wood barrels - made the resin passé but the style lives on today.

The word Retsina, by the way, is a protected wine type in Greece. Anywhere else it’s made - I hear that Australia makes some - it must be labelled as "resinated wine."

The Retsina I tried was by Kourtaki of Attica, Everywhere I look I see the Savatiano grape listed as the main ingredient for this Retsina, but the label indicates a selection of “the finest grape varieties grown in Attica.” The alcohol is quite restrained, at just 11.5%. It sells for less than $10 per bottle.

The Retsina’s nose is laced heavily with the scent of petroleum. That "pitchy" flavor dominates the palate, with some citrus notes buried beneath. There is a nice acidity, though, and it pairs wonderfully with roasted chicken. A backbeat of eucalyptus makes for a pleasant finish. It’s not a wine for everybody. The server at the beverage table actually tried to warn me off of it. When I persisted, that's when he notified me it was "good by the glass, better by the bottle." As the wine grew on me throughout the glass, I thought he might actually be right.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter