Monday, May 23, 2011

Greek white wines: Perfect for summer

Greek white wines are great: crisp, food-friendly, often made from heirloom varieties unique to the area. I'm a big fan.

I don't have much to say today other than that, and some tasting notes. Sometimes you go to a wine event and get some sort of theme, like the harsh climate of Santorini or the lively character of the Malagousia grape. But more often you taste a bunch of wines, eat some lunch, and go home with a slight buzz. That's what sommeliers (and wine writers) do many weekdays. Usually I don't write about these events at all because this blog is more story-driven, and because I find long tasting notes boring. But did I mention I'm a big fan of Greek whites?

Because most of us are unfamiliar with Greek regions and to a lesser extent the grape varieties, I'm going to list the wine name, the region (not in bold), and the grape variety in italics. I'm sorry, but New Wines of Greece didn't give us retail prices.

Tselepos Mantonia Moschofilero 2010
Rating: 83 points
Lime fruit that turns a little bitter on the finish. Coppery. 12% alcohol.

Oenoforos Asprolithi Patras Roditis 2010
Rating: 91 points
With its chunky lemon aroma and light bodied, chalky and lemony flavor, this wine screams for white-flesh fish. I love the mineral scratchiness down the center of the tongue. 11.5% alcohol.

Alpha AXIA White Florina Malagousia 2010
Rating: 94 points
Alpha Estate is one of the best-respected wineries in Greece, and apparently this is the first vintage of this wine. I'm glad to see Alpha using a native grape because they have made their reputation with international varieties like Syrah, Merlot and Pinot Noir; previous whites had Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurztraminer. This wine shows why they should look for grape varieties closer to home. It's lively and sunny; initial bright lemon fruit leads into a few red-berry notes and nice minerality on the finish. The mouthfeel has great texture; a delightful summer wine. 13% alcohol.

Alexakis Vidiano Crete Vidiano 2010
Rating: 88 points
I would have guessed this was Sauvignon Blanc because of its pungent, herbaceous, green papaya character, with some minerality on the finish. 13% alcohol.

Lyrarakis Dafni Crete 2010
Rating: 77 points
Bitter and minerally, albeit with a long finish. Tastes partly oxidized. It's interesting and could find fans, but I'm not one.

Biblia Chora Ovilos Pangeon Assyrtiko, Semillon 2009
Rating: 90 points
A serious wine that I wish I had spent more time with. The Semillon is strong right away, noticeable in the waxy mouthfeel and lemon pith notes, but you get licorice and herbs from the Assyrtiko that unveil themselves on a very long finish. Formidable, which may not be what you're looking for in a Greek white on all occasions.

Gaia Thalassitis Santorini Assyrtiko 2010
Rating: 92 points
Intense pine needle and grapefruit character with some green papaya in a wine that just won't quit: great length to it. 13% alcohol.

Argyros Estate Santorini Assyrtiko 2010
Rating: 91 points
An archetypal Assyrtiko from Santorini: lemon fruit, nice oyster shell minerality and flavors that intensify on the long finish. 13.2% alcohol.

Pavlidis Thema Drama Assyrtiko, Sauvignon Blanc 2010
Rating: 84 points
Nice minerality, but the pungency is a bit much for me. It's an interesting three-stage wine though, starting and finishing salty with the Assyrtiko, with the Sauvignon Blanc asserting itself in the middle.

Hatzimichalis Veriki Atalanti Valley Robola, Chardonnay 2009
Rating: 92 points
I almost skipped this wine because of the Chardonnay and am glad I didn't. It's very tropical -- mango fruit, you can practically see the ocean and the shade of a coconut tree -- but without the heaviness you associate with tropical Chards. Oyster-shell minerality increases on the finish. Perhaps a gateway drug to Greek whites for fans of super-ripe California Chardonnay? The pleasures of acidity await you, and you won't even have to call a taxi home, 'cause it's just 12.5% alcohol.


Sarah said...

Thanks for the tasting notes. I too am a big fan of Greek Whites. Another wine from Gaia to look for is there 'Notios' blend. It is 50/50 Moschofilero and Roditis and has very clean lemon, apricot and mineral components.

The Sediment Blog said...

Ah, no mention of the Retsina, then...

1WineDude said...

Ah, Retsina... I have some. I use it to polish my wood furniture...

Kent Benson said...

“…heirloom varietals…”!!! Say it ain't so, Joe, uh…Blake. And here I thought you were too grounded to fall into this pretentious, I’m-a-member-of-the-wine-cognoscenti, lemming-like, grammar-deficient practice of referring to grapes as varietals. (Mind you, I’m only accusing you of the lemming-like part.) Maybe that wine professional certification went to your head. Snap out of it!

W. Blake Gray said...

Kent: For catching such a grievous error, you are entitled to a full refund of every penny you paid to read this post.

Kent Benson said...

That's more like it! Thanks for standing behind your product.

Kris Chislett said...

I do have to say that my knowledge of Greek wines is fairly limited, but what I've tasted I've really enjoyed.

I'm quite surprised that they haven't caught on more, especially during the warmer months. Of course, most of the grapes and wines themselves aren't exactly the easiest to pronounce...