Free tasting | Saturday, August 18, 2018 | 4-6PM
After pouring over dozens of articles as well as The World Atlas of Wine and The Oxford Companion to Wine, I am even further from stating that Greece is making a comeback, further from summarizing its complex history, and further from describing its evolving modern wine industry than before I began researching. Greece is complicated, man. I am, however, only more wholly convinced that Greece is, by far, one of, if not the most, resilient wine cultures of modern and ancient viticulture history.
Today, Greek wine is all the rage. We love it, Eric Asimov loves it, hipster sommeliers love it, and our Retsina slugging Greek customers love it. However, we somehow still overlook it - we should all be drinking more Greek! Since the 1960’s Greece has been making a modern-day ‘comeback,’ specifically post 1985 when experienced, mostly French-trained, agronomists and oenologists, landed in Greece and aided Greece’s failing wine industry. Over time, wine infrastructure strengthened through the investments of new cellars, plantings, and re-plantings of new and old vineyards. Indigenous Greek grape varieties (of which there are over 200) became more ubiquitous through prevalent publications and research. An influx of funds from the EU funneling into Greek banks helped strengthen the wine industry, and bountiful cheap land was purchased by young and ambitious winemakers.
Unified in 1830, Greece is made up of over 3000 islands, and some of these Mediterranean utopian isles are the ‘real-deal’ for wine growing. Vineyards thrive in long, dry summers, and short, mild winters, and ample sunshine abounds throughout the coastal climates atop mountainous countryside. Konstantinos Lazarakis summarizes in The Wines of Greece, “[…] Terroir, in Greece, goes far beyond soil-types and weather conditions – it emanates from the culture of the country and the spirit of a people whose ancestors even had a god for wine.” Made since the 7th century BC, wine continues to be imperative to Greek society, and it’s impossible to separate Greek culture from wine. Wine is the epicenter of Greek culture.As stated in The World Atlas of Wine, “The modern winescape of Greece is even more exciting than most because it holds such potential for going backwards as well as forwards in time.” Greece’s history is what shapes it’s future winescape.
In the early days, ancient Greeks, such as the Babylonians, made and drank wine, but for them it was a luxury, so instead they drank beer, a commodity that was scoffed at by ancient Greek critics. Even further wine snobbery in ancient times was evident, as affirmed in The Oxford Companion to Wine, “Complete ignorance of viticulture was the mark of savages; so too was the drinking of undiluted wine, which was associated with northern barbarians such as the Scythians.” Greeks typically added water to wine before it was served, even if an abhorrent ‘mark of ignorance,’ and also added various flavorings, such as spices, honey, and herbs, as well as pine resin, which is still used today to make a white wine style called retsina. The scale of Greek wine trade is evident from widespread archeological findings such as wine-stained amphorae vases and literary evidence specifically from the poetry of Homer and Heoid. Even Athenaeus mentions the hazards of consuming wine to excess and included hangover remedies in a volume of his epic Deipnosophistae (‘Dinner Table Philosophers’).
One of the twelve major Greek deities was Dionysus (Bacchus to the Romans), the God of Wine. Let’s raise a glass to Dionysus and ‘Greek’ out on Saturday, August 18thfrom 4-6PM. Yamas! Cheers!
Greek Out Line-up!
2015 Gai'a Notios White Wine (Peloponnese, Greece) | Gai’a, one Greece’s most well-known and respected wineries, was founded in 1994 by agronomist Leon Karatsalos and enologist John Paraskevopoulos. They own two modern wineries, located in Nemea in Peloponnese and Santorini. Their table white, Notios White, is produced from two pink-skinned grape varieties, Moschofilero and Roditis. Moschofilero hails from the mountainous vineyards of Arcadia and imparts fruitiness and crisp acidity, while Roditis comes from upland Corinth and provides elegance in the wine. An affordable, easy drinking white for any occasion.
2016 Sclavos 'Alchymiste', Ionian Islands (Kefalonia, Greece) | The vision of the Sclavos family is to produce wines that reflect the unique terroir of Kefalonia, and in the most natural way possible. Sclavos produces some of the most natural wines in all of Greece and have been using biodynamic practices since 1986. All wines follow the same criteria: old-vine original rootstock bush vines, spontaneous yeast fermentation, unfined, unfiltered bottling and nominal sulphuring. A light colored white wine, with aromas of honey, strawberries, and fresh cream. Notes of smoke, ash, and berries come through on the palate.
2016 Domaine Glinavos, Paleokerisio (Epirus, Greece) | Domaine Glinavos was established in 1978 by Lefteris Glinavos, one of Greece’s first oenologists. This semi-sparkling is bottled in an adorable 500ml bottle with a cap crown; it pays homage to the traditional semi-sparkling wine of Ioannina. The wine is a blend from the white grape variety Debina with the addition of the red variety Vlahiko. The color of cantaloupe, aromas of kumquats, and the taste of olives and citrus. Tannins are full. The perfect pairing to this orange wine? A loaded hotdog!!
2017 Papras 'Coccinella' Rose, Tyrnavos (Thessaly, Greece) | Papras Bio Wines is run by Stegios Papras, a skilled and reputable oenologist and an advocate for organic viticulture. This family run vineyard produces fresh wines from the indigenous grapes of the area including their 2017 delectable Black Muscat rosé. Notes of spice, black tea, raspberry, and rhubarb pie. Papras vines thrive in the unique location of Tyrnavos which abets the base of Mount Olympus, providing ideal growing conditions for their old vines.
2016 Garalis 'Limnio' (Lemnos, Greece)| Okay, get this:Limnio is the oldest referenced grape in the world! Wild, right?? It is vinified naturally in the volcanic soil of Lemnos island by organic winemaker Manolis Garalis. Manolis is a third generation wine grower and launched his own winery in 2006. He cultivates Limnio and Muscat of Alexandria grapes on 5 hectares of organically certified land. Homer and Aristotle even mention the Limnio vine in their texts! This medium-bodied red wine has notes of dried herbs and raspberries grown from vines atop volcanic and limestone soil. After spontaneous fermentation in stainless tanks, the wine is aged for 6 months in large, used Greek oak barrels. Limnio is delightful with a tangy sheep milk’s cheese like Su Entu from Sardinia.