Every day brings a new morning when wine tasting in on the schedule. There are many tasters, writers, critics and Sommeliers who do not love working in such a way, tasting wine so early in the day. A table full of jammy Shiraz or warm vintage Bordeaux might scare me too but a Greek tasting? In. There. Any time, night or day. Bring it on.
If you have not recently acquainted or re-acquainted yourself with the new wines of Greece, which are actually the old ones save for advancing technologies, clean as whistle viti-viniculture and winemaking brilliance from masters to young apprentices, it’s Mt. Olympus time you did.
From Assyrtiko to Retsina, Debina to Moschofilero, Agiorgitiko to Xinomavro, Amyndeon to Zitsa, Nemea to Thessaloniki, Naoussa to Santorini, Greek wine is diverse, complex and critical to wine blessedness. Don’t even get me started on volcanic. That opus shall be left to Master Sommelier John Szabo.
Me, I’ll concentrate on the divine mythology of Greek wine, of its place in the fractal world, how it can beautify and simplify, through recursion in dynamic systems, the bleak chaos of wine landscapes. Like the Morai, Greek wines are thread with motherly nurturing. For mere mortals, they direct fate from the birth of their drinking days to death. They are a highly independent bunch, unobstructed and driven by necessity.
The call to assembly of WineAlign critics last week for a table full of Greek whites, reds and one righteous Rosé meant that fate was on side, ready and willing to facilitate a tasting full of exemplary and impressive wines. For a full report on Greek wines, read John Szabo’s words of necessity at WineAlign: Confident wines from Original Vines: Reasons to Drink Greek.
In anticipation of next week’s Greek wine show at which 50 wineries will pour for media and trade in Toronto, I tasted through 25 samples on that new morning. An exceedingly promising number (more than half of what was presented) showed state-of-the-art antiquity and eternal modernity. I’ve chosen ten to highlight here, all worthy of your attention, time and palate. All under $25.
Kechri Kechribari Retsina, Greece (581942, 500ml $7.75, WineAlign)
The resin, the steam room herbal essential oil, the ancient feeling of tonics to heal a wounded soul. It’s all in this tidy little $7 package of wine mythology. That there still exists a market for wine made in this way, with this attention to wise, classic detail, is just amazing. Rosemary and here, even more so oregano are distilled, purely, effortlessly, with peat and macro-oxygenated matter of fact sensibility. Unctuous and viscous elixir, old school to the xyz degree and a pure form of abc ancient Greece. As JS nots, “everyone needs a flagon of Retsina.” Truer words may not be spoken. One must debate, with well into the night philosophy, drawing inspiration from Plato and Aristotle, whether the long, long finish is good, or evil. I’m not sure this will ever tire, or spoil. Drink 2015-2022. Tasted April 2015
Kir Yianni Akakies Rosé 2013, Ao Amyndeon, Greece (71050, $9.95, WineAlign)
Xinomavro from the Amyndeon vineyards in northwestern Greece done in a funky lactic, savoury and mom’s feta way. Dry, rhubarb wafting, rosemary branch smouldering, lime and pink grapefruit tasting Rosé. This will and should have many fans, particularly those of Tavel on holiday in the ancient continent and needing salinity to match their suckling roast. Clear, concise Rosé. Proper. Drink 2015-2106. Tasted April 2015
Boutari Agiorgitiko 2013, Nemea, Greece (172148, $11.85, WineAlign)
Fun, exuberant, fresh, modern cherry explosion expression. Simple, direct, positive energy and ease of drinkability. Has just enough spice, floral lift and back end bite to afford it three years of service, with any sort of roast meat or salty cheese. Good stuff. Drink 2015-2017. Tasted April 2015
Domaine Glinavos Primus Zitsa 2013, Zitsa, Greece (395962, $12.55, WineAlign)
From the Debina variety in Ioannina, it would be hard to find another Greek white that offers up as much orchard fruit, primarily from the apple and pear tree thicket. Accents of white peach and lemon make a quick entry and exit just as quick. This is a really crunchy green apple white, picked ripe and finishes with ripe white tannin. It’s not very long but I can think of many, many savoury dishes that would complement with symbiotic pleasure. Drink 2015-2017. Tasted April 2015
Tselepos Classique Mantinia Moschofilero 2013, Mantinia, Greece (724583, $14.75, WineAlign)
An example for racing Moschofilero against Pinot Grigio and passing it on the stretch run from the outside lane. There are many reasons to go with this variety when narrow thinking leans PG, mostly because it has more depth, mineral grain and positive energy. This is a basic but prime entry into the category. Has the passage of time in its wheelhouse but also the verve to keep it afloat in a sea of sun drenched whites. Drink 2015-2016.
From my earlier November 2014 note: A textured, minutely oxidative and bronzing Moschofilero with a confident sense of itself. The orchard has ripened and spilled into this bottle with peaches, apricots and citrus Portokalia Lakonias. Great metal tang, world turning acidity and length as long as the Nestani’s walk to Demeter’s Temple.
Last tasted April 2015
Assyrtiko seemingly dredged in volcanic tuff erosion and tightly wound by straight-shooting citrus smack. A rocky cragg of funk leads to desire, for hearth roasted sea beauties and yet this is not even near the oxidized line. Such a white from Santorini needs at least three years to see where it might truly go. I know a sucker for acid driven volcanic wines that evoke the god Apollo. This is yet another fine example that will bring him sunshine and the moon. Drink 2017-2021. Tasted April 2015
St. George persists as a tremendous deal in Peloponnese red. Rustic charm and righteous liqueur fill the air from drift to waft. Prime Agiortiko acidity and fine grained tannin. This will live for 7-10 years. Drink 2015-2018.
From my earlier November 2014 note: Nemea strikes again. Dark rust, earth juiced on and of the rocks. Like Sangiovese with attitude, made by Romans, like Syrah the way it was made in mythological times, by Greeks. A classical garden. This is actually quite modern and expressive for Agiorgitiko. Acts as if it were a touch clay (or amphora) baked but it’s really just a Peleponnese take on oak aging (18 months) and further bottle rest (12 months). This is right in its window and will be friendly for three to five years more. What a steal.
Last tasted April 2015
Argyros Assyrtiko 2014, Santorini, Greece (387365, $19.95, WineAlign)
The most distinct, pure and crisp expression of Assyrtiko comes from this Argyros bottle, magnified with more platinum rock bonding in ’14 than even in the previous few vintages. Exotic evolution has arrived early in this stoic and timelessly chronic Assyrtiko with dramatic fleshing, a hint of hloro tiri and ashen black sand grit. A volcanic goddess in patina hued dress, very mineral, very direct, that drives straight for the lumbar zone. Saline, full of shells and mollusc brine. Anything grilled on charcoal, of white flesh, whether porcine, foul or sea sweet will shine alongside, as it always does. Drink 2015-2019. Tasted April 2015
Ktima Kir Yianni 2011, PGI Imathia, Greece (419234, $19.95, WineAlign)
Xinomavro (40 per cent) submits to Merlot (60) in a rather weighty and warm Imathia out of Naoussa. Chewy to dense and yet floral dark fruit gives this eminent drinkability, especially with salty protein, though it would be hard to distinguish this from Tuscan Sangiovese or IGT. Very modern, really well made and certainly no stranger to oak. Drink 2015-2020. Tasted April 2015
From old parcels planted to the indigenous variety Malagousia, resurrected like a Greek Jesus in the 1970’s by winemaker Vangelis Gerovassiliou. A classical composition with unexpectedly modern eccentricity. It would be hard not to fall for this Adonis of Greek whites; a strikingly beautiful Phoenician whose drops of liqueur turn to liquid alloy in a glass, of a striking green-gold patina, old barrel spirits and precious metals. This has layers of vine wisdom, fruit that holds its own against the mineral drubbing and ghosts of immortal gods in its aura. Rarely does a Greek white exude such ferocity of history and flesh to match. Calamari and octopus await, in whole roast over charcoal, not to mention great cheeses and roast pork. Fantastic. Will age dutifully. Drink 2016-2025. Tasted April 2015
Good to go!