Wednesday, November 8, 2017

2011 Ktima Biblia Chora Biblinos: A Mystery Grape

It's said that there are over 10,000 wine grapes in the world but only about 1300-1400 grapes are commonly used to produce wine. In Greece, there are approximately 300 or so indigenous grapes, with some being quite old, like the Limnio grape which could be 2400+ years old. However, sometimes new grapes are discovered, grapes that may have once been thought extinct. And sometimes, these newly uncovered grapes remain mysterious.

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'm 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. Yesterday, I reviewed the 2013 Ktima Gerovassiliou Avaton, an intriguing red blend that uses the ancient Limnio grape.

Today, I'm discussing a wine from Ktima Biblia Chora, which is located on the southern slopes of Mount Pangeon in Kavala, about 100 kilometers east of Thessaloniki. This winery project, which started in 1998, is a partnership of Vangelis Gerovassiliou (of Ktima Gerovassiliou) and oenologist Vassilis Tsaktsarlis. Vassilis has a Chemistry degree from Aristotle University and an Oenology degree from the University of Bordeaux. Subsequently, Vassilis worked at the Costas Lazaridis Estate, eventually partnering with Vangelis for Ktima Biblia Chora. The winery finally came to fruition in 2001.

The Ktima Biblia Chora vineyard is spread over 118 acres, situated at an altitude of 300-420 meters. The winery states: "The soil is rocky and barren with limestone and clay and good levels of drainage. The cool breezes from the Agean Sea and Mount Pangeon are key factors in the production of Biblia Chora’s Premium wines." The term "biblia" derives from the ancient Greek phrase "biblinos oenos," which means “sacred wine” and the term "chora" means "land."

Initially, the ancient Phoenicians traveled to the region of Pangeon seeking various metals, finding veins of gold and silver. In addition, they planted grapes here, especially a variety known as "Biblos," which was eventually used to produce the "biblinos oeno," likely once a cult of Dionysus was established atop of Mount Pangeon. The Greek continued winemaking in this region, and it soon became well known as a center of winemaking called the "Biblia Chora." Ancient Greek writers, such as the 7th-6th century B.C. Greek poet Hesiod and the 3rd century B.C. poet Theocritus, both mentioned the Biblia Chora. Thus, the Ktima Biblia Chora is located in a rich, historical region, well known for its wine making for over 2600 years.

The 2011 Ktima Biblia Chora Biblinos ($33) is made from 100% of an unknown grape that was discovered on the slopes of Mount Pangeon. It is said that in 2005, a shepherd found the vine and brought it to the winemakers at Ktima Biblia Chora. The grapes were large, oval berries set in a big, loose bunch. It couldn't be identified so it was put through DNA testing, which ultimately still couldn't identify the grape but it was able to verify that it was vitis vinifera, of Greek origin. Essentially this is a lost grape, one whose origins could extend back to the ancient Greeks, and it might never be identified. Initially, in 2008, this grape was used to make a Rosé wine and then in 2009, it was used to make a Red wine.

For the 2011 vintage, only 2500 bottles were produced, and the wine was fermented in stainless steel and then aged in French oak for about 12 months. With a 14.5% ABV, the wine is inky dark in color with an interesting aroma of black fruit with some light floral notes, like wild violets. On the palate, there is an intriguing and complex melange of flavors, with ripe plum, blueberry and black cherry up front and leading to some spicy and savory notes, especially on the long and lingering finish. Good acidity, some rich voluptuousness up front, and well-integrated tannins. The savory aspect, hints of herbs and roast meat, was compelling and I was well enamored with this wine. This is another wine that would be great paired with hearty dishes, from a grilled steak to a leg of lamb.

This wine, made from a mystery grape, earns my highest recommendation.

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