Saturday, March 20, 2010

Greek Wines: Athenee Importers-Part 1

Locally, some wine regions just don't seem to get much respect. It can be very difficult to find wines from certain regions at local wine stores. But those wines can be delicious and excellent values, or exceptional, high-end wines. Wine stores have an opportunity to showcase such wines, to present them to the public and let their customers know the wonders of such wines. These wine stores can place themselves on the cutting edge.

Greek wines don't get sufficient respect. There are many excellent Greek wines out there, and I consider myself a fan of wines from this region. But I have trouble find Greek wines. If a local wine store carries any Greek wines, it most likely only stocks a few bottles. Ball Square Fine Wine & Liquors carries one of the largest Greek wine selections in the local area but more stores need to carry Greek wines. Hopefully that will change in the near future, as more people come to taste and find enjoyment in these wines.

I recently attended a trade tasting of Greek wines, held by Athenee Importers, with ten wineries displaying a total of over 50 wines. For some basic information about Greek wines, check out one of my prior posts. That post has some additional links for more info on Greek wines and the Athenee website also is very informative.

At the tasting, I find plenty of wines I would recommend. In general, I preferred the wines made from indigenous Greek grapes rather than international varities. As their indigenous grapes are found nearly no where else, it gives their wines a more unique flavor profile. I can find Syrah wines all over the world, so why do I need a Greek one as well? It may be a good wine, but it is not significantly different from all of the other Syrahs out there. I would much rather drink a wine made from Xynomavro, which I can't get elsewhere.

I also gained a new appreciation for retsina. Prior to this tasting, my previous experiences with retsina have not gone well. The pine flavors were overwhelming, and some even reminded me of Pine Sol. But I tasted two retsinas at this tasting which I actually enjoyed, and I will discuss them in more detail later.

I was also pleased to taste a few grapes that were new to me. As I have tasted over 200 different grapes, it is not always easy to find something new. But I added a few more grapes to my list after this tasting, which is always a good thing. If you want to experience the taste of some new grapes, then you definitely should taste Greek wines.

So let me now offer some recommendations of the most compelling wines I tasted.

Mercouri Estate:

This family-owned estate is located in the Western Peloponnese on the plateau of the Ichthis peninsula. The estate was founded in 1864 and the first vineyard was planted with imported Refosco grapes. Since 1987, work was done to revitalize production and new vineyards were planted. Currently, they grow over 15 grape varieties, both indigenous and international.

2009 Kallisto: This is a Regional Dry White Wine of Ilia. It is a blend of two indigenous grapes, Assyrtiko and Robola. This was an interesting, crisp wine, with bright flavors of citrus with hints of exotic spice and even a light smokiness. It was a more unique white wine, and would be a good food wine too.

2005 Antares: This is a Regional Dry Red Wine from Ilia. It is a blend of one indigenous grape and one international one, Avgoustiatis and Mourvedre. This was a compelling wine, with rich flavors of blueberries, dark berries and violets. It also had a strong, spicy backbone with moderate tannins and a lengthy finish. Plenty of complexity, this would be an excellent food wine for a thick steak or a hearty stew.

2004 Cava Red: This is a Regional Dry Red Wine of Letrina. And no, this is not a sparkling wine from Spain. It is a blend of 80% Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso and 20% Mavrodaphne. The wine is aged for 8 months in new Berthomieu and Ermitage French barrels and rests for at least 12 months in the bottle. This wine reminded me of a nice Bordeaux, with flavors of plum, raspeberry, spice and leather. There were hints of vanilla too. The tannins were smooth and the wine was very smooth, something to savor on a cool evening.

2002 Chortais: This is a Sweet, Aged Red Wine. This wine is a blend of sun-cured grapes of Mavrodaphne and Korinthiaki, where the fermentation process was interrupted at a suitable time for the addition of alcohol. The wine is then aged for five years in French oak before bottling. It was an interesting dessert wine, full bodied but not overly sweet, with flavors of prune, plum and caramel. Smooth on the palate, it would make a nice after-dinner drink.

Domaine Porto Carras:

The winery and vineyards, planted in 1967, are located on the Sithonian Peninsula of Chalkidiki. are the vineyards and winery of Porto Carras. Currently, the vineyards contain about twenty-seven varieties, both indigenous Greek and international.

2008 Malagousia: This is a Regional Dry White Wine of Sithonia, made from 100% Malagousia. This grape nearly vanished into extinction until this winery helped resurrect it. The wine is fermented in stainless steel, aged in French oak for almost six months, and has an alcohol content of 13%. This wine reminded me of a Gewurtzraminer, having an exotic flavor of apricot and lychee with spicy notes. Very easy drinking, I would be curious how this wine would pair with Thai or similar Asian fare.

2007 Limnio: This is a Red Dry Wine, Cotes de Meliton, Appelation d'Origine de Qualite Superieure. It is a blend of 90% Limnio 90% and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine was aged for 12 months in new French oak and has an alcohol content of 12.5%. Limnio is one of the oldest grapes in the world, and was even mentioned by the philospher Aristotle. This light colored wine, was soft with lots of cherry flavors. Another easy drinking wine, this was like a light and simple Pinot Noir.

To Be Continued...

No comments: