Sunday, October 16, 2016

Notes from a Greek Wine Masterclass*

Greece is the 17th largest wine producer in the world. Though they have a 5000 year wine making history, their modern winemaking story really begins in the late 1970's when new investment and a quest for higher quality is initiated.

It is currently a very dynamic time in the Greek wine industry. The new generation of winemakers are highly educated and many have worked in multiple wine regions all over the world. They are bringing some of the most current thinking to some of the oldest and most remarkable wine terroir in the world.

The country has over 300 unique indigenous grape varieties to create a wide variety of wines in an array of styles. There are now over 800 wineries in Greece and they export out about 15% of their production.

Assyrtiko white wines from Santorini are some of the countries most important. The volcanic island soils create wines with an intense mineral or saline component. The grape is being planted in other more inland locations in Greece where it is creating a somewhat softer, fruitier style of wine.

Canava Chrissou-Tselepos Santorini Old Vines Assyrtiko 2015 - Sourced from 50+ year old ungrafted vines from the village of Pyrgos, this wine has lemon thyme and lime zest aromas and flavors with a saline mineral note, medium body, dry, rounded feel and a fresh citrus finish.

Koutsoyannopoulos Santorini Assyrtiko 2012 - This wine comes from the second oldest winery on the island and was made by fourth generation winemaker, Giorgos Koutsoyannopoulos. This estate grown wine has apple and peach aromas and flavors, medium body, dry, fresh and crisp with a distinct oxidative nutty note and a clean saline finish.

Sclavos Winery Robola 2013 - From Cephalonia, the up and coming Robola grape variety does best in unfertile, rugged terrain to help reduce its yields. This wine was sourced from 40-50 year old vines and was made by a biodynamic producer. Citrus and green apple aromas and flavors with a nutty oxidative character, medium body, dry with a creamier feel and a long chalky mineral finish.

Rhous Winery Estate White 2014 - From Crete, this white wine is a blend of 80% Muscat of Spina and 20% Vidiano. It is very aromatic with jasmine flowers. It is dry and crisp with a fresh, ripe peach flavor and a medium body with a more subtle minerality than the previous wines.

Tslepos Winery Mantinia 2015- This aromatic white wine is 100% Moschofilero from a very mountainous region in the premium Mantinia area of the Peloponnese. It is very aromatic with a pronounced tropical floral quality and ripe peach and orange zest flavors; it is dry and crisp with a lighter body and a fresh, citrus finish.

Gerovassiliou Malagousia 2015 - This white comes from the Epanomi PGI and was made by Bordeaux-trained winemaker Evangelos Gerovassiliou, considered by many to be one of the fathers of modern Greek winemaking. This wine has fresh peach aromas and flavors with an herbal note; it is fresh, dry and smooth with a fuller body and a rich fruity finish.

Glinavos Vlahiko 2009 - This sustainably produced red wine is a blend of 60% Vlahiko and 40% Bekari from the Ioannina PGI near Mt Olympus. It is dry, soft and spicy with an earthy note in the finish, somewhat similarly structured to a Beaujolais wine.

Katsaros Valos 2013 - This red wine is made from 100% Xinomavro from a family-run winery in the Krania PGI. Winemaker Evripidis Katsaros trained in Bordeaux and has worked in Burgundy. Aged in neutral French barriques for 9 months, this wine has a more Nebbiolo-like structure with red cherry aromas and flavors, a medium body and a dry, mineral finish.

Driopi Nemea 2013 - This lush red is made from 100% Agiorgitiko that was fermented in stainless steel and then aged in a mix of new and neutral French oak barrels. It is dry, soft and round with rich, fruity red berries and plum aromas and flavors and a white pepper spicy note in the finish.

Parparoussis Nemea Reserve 2012 - This dry red is also made from 100% Agiorgitiko but it was made in a more oxidative style which accentuated the more savory and spicy character of the variety. Dried cherries and apricots with a long spicy, slightly nutty finish.

Biblia Chora Biblinos Oenos 2011 - This certified organic red wine is made from an un-named grape variety local to the Pangeon PGI in northern Greece which is the mythical birthplace of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and pleasure. It is dry, full-bodied and has rich aromas and flavors of dark berries and plums, baking spices and mixed dried herbs with a silky texture and a long finish.

Economou Sitia 1999 - This unique wine is made from 100% organically grown Liatiko grapes from ungrafted 80-90 year old vines. It has pronounced aromas and flavors of dried cherry and black plum with some cocoa and a long, dry, spicy finish.

All the wines from this tasting are recommended. Most of the wines retail in the $20-30 price range. Try them with classic Greek dishes and spicy coastal cuisine.

*My notes from a Greek Wine Tasting and Masterclass held in Houston on October 5, 2016 which was taught by local Greek wine expert Evan Turner with Elyse Lambert, M.S. and David Keck, M.S.