Greek wines can offer that connection.
Cava Spiliadis is an importer of Greeks wines which were personally curated by George Spiliadis, the son of Milos restaurateur Costas Spiliadis. They represent a number of Greek wineries and I recently received several media samples from their portfolio. I've long been a passionate advocate for the wines of Greece, and some of the reasons for my passion can be found in Ten Reasons To Drink Greek Wine.
This week, I'll be reviewing four Greek wines from the Cava Spiliadis portfolio, each worthy of your attention, each compelling for different reasons. All four of the wines are red, and would be great for the fall and winter, ideal for holiday parties and feasts.
First up is an intriguing Greek red blend from Ktima Gerovassiliou, which was established in 1981 by Vangelis Gerovassiliou who chose to revive a family vineyard, planting indigenous grapes as well as some international ones. The family estate is located in the Papamola region of Epanomi, approximately 25 kilometers southeast of Thessaloniki. Vangelis obtained a degree from the University of Bordeaux and eventually, in 1986, created an ultra-modern winery and extended the vineyards to about 74 hectares. Vangelis has also created a Wine Museum, especially noted for its exhibits of over 2600 corkscrews.
The 2013 Ktima Gerovassiliou Avaton ($48) is a blend of three indigenous Greek grapes, including 50% Limnio, 25% Mavrotragano & 20% Mavroudi. As an aside, "Avaton" roughly translates as "unreachable." This wine is fermented and aged in French oak, has a 14% ABV, and about 10,000 bottles are annually produced. What helps to make this wine distinctive are the grapes used in the blend, especially the Limnio.
First, Limnio (also known as Kalambaki) might be the oldest known varietal that is still cultivated, potentially extending back at least 2400 years, if not longer! There are a number of ancient references which may refer to the Limnio grape, which apparently originated on the island of Limnos. Around 421 B.C., the Greek playwright Aristophanes wrote a play, titled Peace, and mentioned the Limnia ampelos, the vine from the island of Limnos. In the 4th century B.C., the Greek philosopher Aristotle mentioned the Lemnia wine grape, noting that it possessed the "herbaceous flavors of oregano and thyme." Other ancient Greek writers, including Hesiod and Polydeuctes made reference to the Limnia grape.
You can drink a wine made from a grape that was enjoyed by the famed Aristotle! And Aristotle never drank Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir. Reach back through many centuries and sip from the ancient past.
The island of Limnos is located in the northern Aegean Sea and initially was considered sacred to Hephaestus, the Greek god of metallurgy, who was thrown out of Olympus by Zeus and landed on Limnos. Hephaestus allegedly created a new forge on Lemnos, continuing his smithing.
The first king of Lemnos was allegedly Thοas, the son of Dionysus and Ariadne, and he taught the people the art of winemaking. As Dionysus was the god of winemaking, it certainly makes sense that Thoas would follow in his father's footsteps. And his mother, Ariadne, was the daughter of King Minos of Crete, infamous for his labyrinth which contained the dreaded Minotaur. Interestingly, Pliny the Elder wrote about a labyrinth on Lemnos, though no evidence of its actual existence has been discovered yet.
Greek myths also state that during the reign of Thoas, the men of the island rejected the women, seeking comfort in the arms of Thracian women. Out of revenge, the women of Lemnos murdered nearly all of the men on the island. This would spawn the phrase "Lemnian deed," which refers to the cruel slaughter of someone as an act of revenge. King Thoas had a daughter, Hypsipyle, who couldn't kill her own father so she bound him within a boat and sent him adrift in the sea. It is then said that Jason and the Argonauts eventually came to Lemnos, marrying a number of the women.
Limnio wines commonly have high alcohol, good acidity, mild tannins and herbal elements. Second, Mavrotragano is a grape indigenous to the volcanic Greek island of Santoríni, and its name roughly translates as "black and crisp." Wines from this grape have powerful red fruit flavors, strong spice, a bit of earthiness, good acidity and strong tannins. Third, Mavroudi is a generic name, which roughly translates as "blackish," and refers to a number of different Greek dark-skinned grapes.
The 2013 Ktima Gerovassiliou Avaton has an inky dark red color, with an alluring aroma of black fruit, mild spice, and a touch of earthiness. On the palate, the wine is muscular and big, though it is still elegant and the tannins are well restrained. There are complex & rich flavors of ripe plum, black cherry, and blackberry, enhanced by a spicy backbone, good acidity, and a hint of herbs. It is delicious and well-balanced, with a lengthy, pleasing finish. It would be great paired with hearty dishes, from a grilled steak to a leg of lamb. Such an intriguing and tasty wine, I highly recommend it!