NATIVE GRAPES INVITE EXOTIC FOOD SENSATIONS FROM THE MEDITERRANEAN AND BEYOND
by Dwight Casimere
For Greece to be one of the oldest wine producing regions in the world and the first to introduce wine and winemaking to most of Europe, it is mind-boggling how little today's wine drinking public is familiar with wines from that country.
Perhaps the popularity of Retsina, a dry wine that became the national beverage of Greece in the 1960s, cemented the perceptions of Greek wines in the public mind. It has been an uphill effort ever since to reshape the image of Greek wines as being those of unique character and exceptional quality.
Greek wines have their own distinct flavor profile and are made from indigenous grapes with names unfamiliar to most wine lovers; Assyrtiko, Roditis, Malagousia, Debina, Moschofilero, Robola, Savatiano, Lagorthi to name but a few of the hundreds of locally grown grape varieties that comprise the universe of Greek Wine.
Currently, several groups of winemakers from all of t he Greek wine growing regions are touring the United States, conducting tastings at venues in all of the major cities, introducing their latest vintages. The wines are exciting. Their unique flavors are perfect for today's ever-changing culinary scene with its emphasis on ethnic and fusion cuisines and current trends for lighter and more flavor inhanced fare, which incorporates a kaleidoscope of new flavors from the Mediterranean and beyond.
Here are just a few of the wines that garnered attention at a recent Greek Portfolio Tasting DNS Wines, a grower-focused portfolio of wines from environmentally responsible producers. The wines all communicate a sense of place and are pure expressions of both their varieties and their terroir.
HOOF AND LUR 2017-$15, MOSCHOFILERO "ORANGE WINE" FROM TROUPIS WINERY, PELOPONESSE, WINEMAKER YIANNIS TROUPIS
This is the most recent example of "orange wine" which is all the rage in Europe. Its been around for a few years, but is only recently making waves in the U.S. Made from native Moschofilero grapes, the wine achieves its unique color and characteristics by fermenting the wine must on the skins for a short time and then continuing fermentation for several months 'on the less,' or the dead yeast to enhance richness, texture and flavor. The winemaker, Yiannis Troupes, wanted to create a wine that harkened back to the rural traditions of his native Peloponnese island. Hence the Hoof and Lur name, which harkens back to the agrarian traditions of the area, and the 'orange wine' technique which takes advantage of the use of only the natural yeast produced on the vine instead of refined agricultural yeast. The wine also reflects the full expression of the complex soil of Peloponnese, which is a combination of sandy loam and rich clay.
Hoof and Lur has a unique flavor profile. The nose of blood orange, intense lemon citrus, star fruit, and a hint of anise gives way to flavors that dance in the mouth. The natural acidity of the wine gives it a long finish and enhances the flavors of the Mediterranean. Marinated and pickled vegetables and fruits, salads drenched in olive oil and infused vinegars, soft, ripe cheeses and fish and lighter meats such as chicken thighs, lamb or flank steak slathered in herbs and garlic-infused olive oil turned quickly over hot coals on a flaming grill are the perfect accompaniments. This is truly a wine of summer. Look for the distinctive bottle with the hoof-like indentations on the bottom!
PALEOKERISIO SEMI SPARKLING WINE 2016 -$10 FROM DOMAINE GLIVANOS, EPIRUS
This is a semi-sparkling wine made from 97% Debina grapes, which is very seminary to Chardonnay. The winery utilizes sustainable practices and the wine reflects their attention to the environment and to meticulous detail in winemaking. This is yet another variation on "orange wine," with a very distinctive deep bronze color reminiscent of honey or cognac. Understandably, this Greek sparkling wine is surprisingly intense, with exceedingly complex aromas of apple and sweet spices, such as cinnamon, clove and a hint of cardamom. There's a banknote of vanilla and a yummy mouthfeel of melted butter that makes it easy to drink. This is perfect as a crowd-pleasing introduction to a garden party. Serve it with a light buffet of assorted pickles, olives,hummus, cured meats, cheeses and crudite.. Save a few bottles to pass around during the dessert tray of baklava and other Mediterranean sweets.
SANTORINI 2013 ASSYRTIKO - $27 KOUTSOYANNOPOULOS WINERY, SUSTAINABLE
GEORGIOS KOUTSOYANNOPOULOS WINEMAKER
This wine is a real charmer. Persistent intense fruit throughout with some unusual, but delightful flavors that get more dense and complex with every sip; red peach, gooseberry, quince with a hint of smoke. It has a creamy finish. Open it at least a half hour before serving to let it breath. The air brings out the complexity.
Greek wines are affordable and exciting. Their unique flavor profile gives you an opportunity to expand your culinary horizon and introduce some new, spicy and exotic flavors to your summer menu repertoire.
Nerantrzi Mitropoulos with his Syrah 2011-$30
The scene at Racine's in Greenwich Village