A Tasting Tour of Greece

I’m always interested in trying wines made from unusual varietals a bit off the radar. I’ve found some great values and hidden treasures made from indigenous grapes that although not always easy to pronounce are incredibly interesting wines. After trying a few Greek offerings made from Moscofilero at a recent event I was intrigued by the flavors, aromas and styles of this ancient region and was curious as to what else was out there to explore.

Planning a selection of 5 wines and a light pairing menu I ventured out to Grand Wines in Astoria to make my selection. Recommenced by a friend who is a big fan of Greek wines this is the place to venture into this region of the wine world. Researching what I was looking for before hand helped in making my selection at this shop stocked with a vast ocean of Mediterranean wines.

The following week I came up with some tapas recipes and invited a few friends over to try out my new wine finds. First up was Raptis Messogios White 2007 made from Assyrtiko and Roditus from the Peloponnese region. This was a light, crisp, dry white with hints of citrus and blossom. Although not a very complex wine it went very well with the marinated poached shrimp tossed with fresh oregano, lemon zest, olive oil and roasted garlic.

I had tried Retsina (a wine made by adding pine resin to the grape must during fermentation) many years ago and was curious to try this second wine made by Gaia also in the Peloponnese. Gaia’s version of this wine made more by a tea bag style infusion claims it’s not your Grandma’s Retsina and is a must try. After smelling the aromas of mint, subtle pine and eucalyptus we tried this wine with a toasted pita stuffed with Greek salsa, hummus, feta and roasted tomato. I really liked the more modern interpretation of this ancient classic especially with the pita but a few others that had never tasted this style of wine before were puzzled by the strange flavors. Those that felt that way had to admit that even if it wasn’t a hot summer night sipping wine it did go well with the salty flavors of the tapas.

Having already tried the third wine I wondered if the Rose lovers in the bunch would like this slightly different version made from Domaine Spiropoulis. Made with the grey grape Moscofilero which is generally used for white wine production it had a nose of caramel corn and rose water. The taste was a bit bolder style of rose with a touch of burnt caramel and strawberry on the finish. Not my favorite wine of the evening but some really liked the long finish and distinctive style. We tried this wine with a Cuban sandwich made with roasted chicken, muenster cheese, garlic dill pickles, ham and a plum mayo. The plum mayo really went well with the wine setting off the other flavors in the sandwich.

On to the reds the next wine was an Argyros Estate Atlantis red from the island of Santorini. With a very funky nose of manure, leather, raspberry and cherry the flavor was initially all ripe red fruit with an almost slightly sweet attack. The finish was completely different with strong parching tannins and a musky lingering flavors. Paired with a mini grilled ham dressed with green olive tapenade and manchego cheese it proved to be even more interesting.

Last up was a blend of international varieties Merlot and Syrah with Xynomavro from Macedonia. Made by Kir Yianni Estate this was a bigger bolder red with flavors of cinnamon, red fruits and pepper. The long finish with firm rich tannins called for some meaty flavors so I paired this with a spicy meatball made with red pepper, roasted cipollini onions and a cucumber yogurt dipping sauce served on a triangle of toasted naan bread.

Sitting around enjoying the balmy summer night and the remainder of these great finds we wondered what lesser known region we should explore next? Regardless of our next choice I know I’ve got a return trip planned to Astoria!

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