What We Drank With The Greeks When We Had Greek (And Italian) Wine

Vinted on May 8, 2014 binned in crowd pleaser wines, elegant wines, wine review

You know you’re in a great neighborhood when what’s supposed to be a five minute stop-and-say-hello visit at a neighbor’s house while dog walking turns into a multi-hour, home-cooked dinner (with several wines imbibed, naturally).

Another blessing to count, and another reason why we love where we live (yeah, even if it’s in the North Korea of U.S. alcohol control states, and more or less the new ground zero for Lyme disease; whatever). The neighbors in this case were the Voutsakis clan, a Greek family whose hospitality know few boundaries when it comes to helping – and feeding – their family and friends. So after a few glasses of ouzo, extended playtime among the kids of both families became an invitation to dinner.

The last time this happened, I was totally unprepared in terms of having zero Greek wines on hand in the sample pool (not that we suffered by any measure, but it would’ve been nice to pair the ethnic cuisine with its spiritual wine accompaniment, right?).

But this time… this time the sample pool was ready. This time, we had a bit of vinous Greek love to spread around…

2011 Karamolegos Nykteri Santorini White (Santorini, $18)

I still have a soft spot for Santorini. I had an amazing jaunt there a few years ago, and have thought about returning ever since, and that immersion instilled a sense of concern that Santorini’s best wines – arguably among the very best produced in all of Greece – are doomed for Stegosaurus-like extinction; if they don’t curb the tide of tourism construction, these wines are going to be the pangolins of the wine world. This example, from Karamolegos family that has been making wine there since the early 1950s, is a bit on the rich side for the region and the grape, and offers a softer example of Assyrtiko. It’s nutty and expressive now, with citrus fruits and enough zing to hang with Summer salads. ‘Cause you need Summer salad hangers, right?

 

2004 Marchesi Antinori La Braccesca Santa Pia Riserva, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (Montepulciano, $45)

Wait a minute, WTF is this doing here? Well, the day we had dinner with the Greek neighbors, I had a very pleasant media lunch in downtown Philly with some very nice members of the Consorzio for Montepulciano. I’m not going to say that a seafood lunch matched up well with older Montepulciano reds, but we had a good time and it was an intriguing enough meeting that it kicked off a bit of research on my part, culminating in a short feature about that Tuscan spot for my Answers.com gig. Anyway, this little number was left over from our lunch, and it seemed stupid to waste something this tasty (even if we had 2000 other samples to choose from taking up an ever-increasing amount of my basement storage space). This red has softened up now, and entered a downright elegant stage: earth, truffles, forest floor, cigar box, the works. It’s a good showing of how lovely and refined these tough customers can be when they’re given enough time to chill out, and why Montepulciano can be among the more feminine of the bigger Italian reds.

 

2001 Union of Winemaking Cooperatives of Samos Muscat Nectar (Samos, $30)

While only 27×8 miles, Samos was once once a rather powerful (and rich) island (its 6th century BC Eupalinian aqueduct being one example of its former stature). Today, few outside of Greece know its wines, but this long-lived, sweet example is a nice introduction. Sultanas, caramel, flowers, and… well, crazy, crazy, tooth-achingly sweet. Not flabby, and so not cloying per se, but you’d better get the Gel Kam ready. Not profound, but very well executed and honest in its presentation.

Cheers!

8

 

 

    Comments

  • Thomas Pellechia


    Joe,

    I visited Samos in 1976, and what a lovely place it is, as well as the wines. It certainly once was a major port of call, but there's little to do now except eat and drink. Had two lunches there one day, because the calamari, which were swimming fifteen minutes before I ate them were so fresh and wonderfully prepared I have spent forty years trying unsuccessfully to duplicate the preparation…

    That, and Iranian Riesling in the 1970s remain thrilling memories.

    • 1WineDude


      Thomas- Sounds just about like perfection to me!

  • MyrddinGwin


    Have you had the opportunity to try Mavrotragano from Santorini? Last year, my employer went to Greece and brought back a bottle for me because she absolutely rocks. It's one of the wines that I'm most annoyed my house fire destroyed last year, since it's extremely difficult to replace, here. If insurance ever gives me money to replace my cellar, I'm probably going to have to go to New York State to have a decent chance of finding it (insurance will probably not pay for a Greek holiday, since they're so reluctant to pay for stuff we agreed on ages ago). Back to the point, is it a wine I should be excited about, or super-excited about? From what I hear, it's supposed to be a rather full-bodied, intense wine. As well, I've had fairly good luck with most Greek wines I've had, from Muscats to Mavrodaphnes to Agiorgiatikos to Xynomavros to Assyrtikos, Athiris, and Aidanis.

    • 1WineDude


      MyrddinGwin – Sorry to hear about the wine loss! It's been years since I tried Mavrotragano, but if memory serves me correctly then I would think if you enjoy other Greek varieties you will also dig it. They're usually thick-skinned, so a bit more intense, and full-bodied. Definitely rarer, as I think it's only on Santorini (and ungrafted in those sandy soils)?

      • MyrddinGwin


        It's okay–everyone was safe, including my dogs. If things go more smoothly than they have already, I should be back in a new house on the same spot by late summer. The insurance company just needs to stop "losing cheques in the mail" and trying to defraud us at every turn, and things might turn out okay. At least this year, I've gotten into the WSET Level IV, and as soon as I'm done saving up for each unit of that, I should be good to start saving up for a working holiday in Australia in about two years.

        Also, when the new house is built, I'm going to be able to re-build my collection nearly from scratch. That could be a bit of fun, as well.

        • 1WineDude


          MG, you're attitude about that situation is really inspiring! That rebuild will be fun, I'd bet. As for insurance… sadly, that seems par for the course…

          • MyrddinGwin


            Though I did really like my old cellar, I am going to have loads of fun building my new cellar. There are all sorts of new wineries locally I'm going to have to go visit, and though I'm going to have to wait to buy them, I can actually sketch out a plan for wines I'd like to buy. Since I have to wait, anyway, since, well, insurance, I may as well decide on how I want to spend my money on wines and spirits when I get the opportunity. While it's certainly nice to have wines to drink pretty much as soon as you get them home, I'm much more excited to have a place to put wines away besides a few bottles in a cardboard box in a cupboard behind a vacuum cleaner. I'm even planning on building my wine racks myself when the house is built. And with my planned travels, I think it could be great to have some of those wines in my collection, too. While it does suck that I lost a lot of cool wines, I find it much more positive to think about the cool wines I'll be picking up in the future.

            • 1WineDude


              MG, keep us posted. Sounds like a blog article series in the making there!

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