Offer available through Monday, 2/20/2023, or as inventory lasts.
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Hi everyone –
In my history as a wine educator there are a few topics that I have dodged over the years. For instance, I’m not well versed on the wines of Hungary. I might not be the best at talking about individual regions in Chile (though I’m learning fast). I am for sure not the person to call when you want updates on the wines being made in China (which a few sources are telling me are simply incredible, from Pinot Noirs to Cabernets).
And one region that USED to be on my “dodge the questions” list was Greece.
Greek wines intimidated me so much. The names of the grapes alone would freak me out. I didn’t have a sense of geography, geology, history, or a feel for the best producers.
But no more! Starting about a year ago I began research to become more confident about Greek wine. I’m about halfway to my goal (which is to speak fluently and spontaneously about the wines of Greece, much in the way I can about Italy, Spain, France, etc.).
I’ll save the deep details for a future class, but I wanted to offer a great array of fantastic Greek wines to spark your curiosity.
These were also the wines we served at our Valentine’s Wine Dinner at the Campus Club this year. They are all of super high quality, perfect provenance, and will give you insights into this amazing category.
Let’s get to them!
First, a framework for thinking about Greek wines
Greece obviously has a very long history when it comes to wine and winemaking. Let’s roughly say 3000 years (it’s probably longer). But MODERN Greek wine, much like the wines of Portugal, only started to be made in the last 30 years. So on one hand it’s an ancient region, but on the other it’s a new wine region with fresh ideas, young winemakers, and energized attitudes.
Another thing about Greek wine is on one hand not surprising but on another a mystery. Greek wines on their own are often great, but pair them with Greek food and some wild multiplying of complexity and happiness occurs. This happens with many wines and foods for me. Portuguese wine and food is a good example. But Greece somehow captures this mystery better than any other wine and food cultures.
Get a gyro from The Naughty Greek, pop a bottle of any of the wines listed below, and experience the magic yourself.
The key grapes: White
“More info” links go to the WineSearcher articles on those varieties.
Assyrtiko (“Ah-SEER-Tee-Koe”) — One of the principal varieties of the highest quality white wines made in Greece. Saline, sharp, bright, mouthwatering in style. More info.
Moschofilero (“Mos-Cho-FEEL-Eh-Roe”) — Pink skinned and aromatic, and can come across in the Muscat/Viognier spectrum of aromas and flavors. Lovely and flowery. More info.
Lagorthi (“La-GORE-Thee”) — A subtle white grape that makes for light bodied, crisp, racy wines. Also known in Italy as Verdeca (grown on the heel of Italy). Can make aromatic wines at low alcohol levels. More info.
Roditis (“Roe-DEE-Tis”) — Actually a family of grapes that can range from overcropped and forgettable (on the fertile plains) to terroir-driven and incredible (at higher altitudes and in poor soils). Think honey and apple aromas. More info.
The key grapes: Red
Agiorgitiko (“St. George”) (“eye-your-YEE-tee-koe”) — A flagship grape of Greece, making for aromatic and textured wines that are loaded with plush dark fruit aromas of plum and blackberry. It takes well to wood aging, and can show polished tannins that are exceptional. More info.
Xinomavro (“ksee-NOH-mav-roh”) — For many, this is the most exciting red grape of Greece. Often grown in the northern colder sections of Greece, but on sunny south-facing slopes, Xinomavro can often come across like Nebbiolo does in Piedmont. A lack of pigmentation makes a pale color in the glass, but concentrated tannin brings power while loads of acidity make refreshment — a combination rarely found. More info.
Kir-Yianni “Akakies” Sparkling Rose 2021
A crazy cool sparkling wine, and one of my new favorites. 100% Xinomavro, produced in Macedonia in the northern sections of Greece, where pine trees and cool mountain streams dominate (not all of Greece is sun-baked and islands). Aromas of wild strawberry and cherry with a lip-smacking dry finish along with a wee whisper of tannin. This is super neat sparkling wine of the highest caliber.
Alexakis Assyrtiko 2021
While the best known (and most expensive) Assyrtikos come from Santorini, this gem hails from the island of Crete. Crete is larger, more connected to the trade routes, and has more infrastructure to handle wine production. The result is a wine from one of the top grape varieties but at a price that is half of what you’d find from Santorini. Aromatic, medium bodied, with peach skin and ripe apple aromas, a clean finish, and loads of flavor throughout. Food pairings: this is one of the best wines around for seafood in general but especially good when some oregano and citrus are involved.
Skouras Saint George 2020
This comes from Nemea, on the Peloponnese Peninsula, which in many ways is the ‘breadbasket’ of Greek wines. Due west of Athens, this is a regions of rolling fields of vines, tasting rooms, high quality restaurants, and basically everything you imagine when you hear “wine country.”
Saint George, another name for the Agiorgitiko grape, is a personal favorite. Rarely do I find the combination of purple-black fruit aromas, soft edges, then a little glorious lift of acidity at the finish. This is the kind of wine you find the glass is empty faster than you expect. It’s gulpable. Medium bodied, right down the middle of the tracks. Yum!
Kir-Yianni Naoussa Xinomavro 2019
Naoussa is the region, but because it’s so prevalent on the label many people think it’s the name of the wine. In fact, if you find it at a restaurant it will often simply be listed as “Naoussa, Greece 2019” which is like saying “Napa Valley, California, America 2019.”
The grape is Xinomavro, one of the most interesting grapes in the world to me at this moment. Aromas of dried rose petals, leather, olives, and cherries. The wine is light bodied looking, but medium to full on the palate, with a big load of tannin and acidity at the same time. The Barolo of Greece? Maybe so.
Santo Wines Vinsanto 2016, 500ml bottle
From the island of Santorini, sun-dried Assyrtiko and Aidani grapes are aged for years before release to make this super special dessert wine. Clocking in at 11.5% ABV (note this is not fortified), it has layer upon layer of complex aromas. Dried cherries, licorice, allspice, raspberry, and maple syrup dance in the aromas. The taste is absolutely hypnotizing and will leave you speechless. ONE OF THE BEST DESSERT WINES I’VE HAD IN YEARS.
Buying and serving advice
This collection is great for anyone curious to learn more about the wines of Greece. You have variety in the styles and the grape varieties, as well as the terroir and geography of where they are from.
Buy based on your own desires for sparkling, white, red, and dessert.
But the most important bit of advice I can give is to have all of these with Greek flavors. You don’t need to go all-out with complex recipes. Instead, keep it simple and use some principal flavors. Start here: https://www.thespruceeats.com/greek-basics-4162579
Sommelier and founder/owner of Twin Cities Wine Education
Offer is open Friday at 3:00pm central until Monday at 6:00pm central, or as inventory lasts.