Friday, November 10, 2017

2015 Ktima Tselepos Nemea Driopi: The Blood of Heracles

A wine made from this Greek grape is sometimes known as the "Blood of Heracles," because legends claim that Heracles drank this wine either before or after slaying the terrible Nemean lion. However, maybe the wine should be known as the "Blood of the Lion" as another of the legends claim that the grape vines were splattered with the blood of the Nemean Lion after Heracles killed it. The history of this grape may not extend back to ancient Greece, but it is certainly one of the most important grapes in modern Greece.

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. Previously this week, I reviewed the 2013 Ktima Gerovassiliou Avaton, an intriguing red blend that uses the ancient Limnio grape, the 2011 Ktima Biblia Chora Biblinos, a tasty wine made from a mystery grape, and the 2014 Ktima Katsaros Valos, a wine made from Xinomavro, one of only three grapes that starts with "X." It's time for the last of the four wines to be reviewed.

Ktima Tselepos, located in the region of Tegea, Arcadia in the Peloponnese, was founded in 1989 by Giannis Tselepos who studied oenology at the University of Dijon. He worked in several French wineries in the Burgundy region and eventually returned to Greece. The vineyards are situated at an altitude of about 750 meters. In 2003, Giannis bought the Driopi Vineyard, a 50 year-old vineyard that constitutes about 8.5 hectares and is located in Koutsi, Nemea. He replanted 4 hectares, seeking to grow high-quality Agiorgitiko.

Nemea is located in the northeastern part of the Peloponnese and is famed in the myth of the Labors of Heracles. As atonement for murdering his family in an insane rage, Heracles was told he had to perform the commands of King Eurystheus, his cousin. The first mission for Heracles was to slaw the Nemean lion and bring its pelt back to the King. In one version of the tale, the lion was kidnapping women, using them as bait to slay men who came to save them.

No other warrior was able to slay the lion as it could not be slain with mortal weapons, its golden fur invulnerable to normal weapons. It's terrible claws could also slice through any armor or shield. Heracles was unaware of its magical defenses when he first encountered it, so he tried to shoot arrows in it, quickly learning that the arrows merely bounced off its fur. Eventually, Heracles temporarily stunned it with a club and then he used his great strength to strangle it to death. Finally, he realized he could use its own claws to remove its pelt. To celebrate his victory, it is claimed he consumed the wine of Nemea, allegedly made from the Agiorgitiko grape. There is no evidence though that the grape actually existed that long ago.

The 2015 Ktima Tselepos Nemea Driopi ($18) is produced from 100% Agiorgitiko, fermented in stainless steel and then matured for 8-10 months in large oak barrels, about 40% new oak. Agiorgitiko is the most planted red grape in Greece, and its name translates as "St. George's" grape, which might have been named after a village or chapel in Nemea. A variety of wine styles are produced from this grape, from easy drinking wines to more age-worthy ones. About 40,000 bottles of this particular wine were produced.

This tends toward more of the easy drinking variety, with a deep, dark red color and subtle aromas of black and red fruits and a tough of spice. On the palate, there are plenty of juicy fruit flavors of black cherry, raspberry and plum, with a sprinkling of spice notes and a moderately long and pleasing finish . The tannins are well integrated, the wine is silky smooth, and you could easily drink this on its own or with everything from pizza to burgers. There is plenty of complexity in the wine for this price point and each sip makes you crave another. Highly recommended.

Drink more Greek wine!

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