Cruising the Aegean

2008.Jun.21 Saturday · 1 comment

in Drink

 I am a wine drinker. I drink ouzo too but generally I do that before dinner or else in Lesvos where it is more of a tradition then wine due to a blight that wiped out the grapes several hundred years ago. But my favorite activity is eating in a taverna with my friends and drinking wine. My favorite tavernas have their own wine, straight out of the barrels, which are usually stacked against the wall. We order it by the kilo and we can go through several kilos in an evening. Glasses are continually being refilled by each other without anything being said. It’s like a reflex or second nature to fill your neighbors glass when you see it is empty. And when the carafe is empty someone at the table just lifts it in the air and catches the eye of a waiter, the busboy or even the owner of the restaurant and in thirty seconds it is full again.”

– Matt Barrett, Guide to Greek Wine

Buenos Aires – Let’s face it, the quote above is probably what most of us think about Greek wine. I mean, Greek wine? They make wine? Oh yeah, Retsina, that pine pitch infused stuff that is charitably called “an aquired taste”, and Ouzo, the licorice flavored fiery liqueur – those, sure, but real wine? Yes indeed, there is good wine that comes from Greece. And I know this seems like wayyyyy off the beaten track for a blog that focuses on what’s happening in Buenos Aires, but, what’s happening is that there was an interesting Greek wine event here the other night.

A few months back.. well, actually probably longer than that, a relatively new winery here in Argentina, Bodegas Krontiras, introduced their reserve malbec, Doña Silvina, at a very flashy, splashy event in the gardens of the Greek Embassy. It was a fun evening, and for some reason I never wrote it up. The wine’s a bit pricey, though of good quality, and I know their distributor, so I’ve kept up a bit on what’s happening with them. One of the things is they’ve decided to bring in a small amount of Greek wine to Buenos Aires – not so much as an import for distribution, but for special tasting events. In fact, we may end up hosting a Greek dinner or two here at Casa S paired with their wines.

One of the family members contacted me to let me know they were going to be showcasing five of their wines at a tasting event at the Park Hyatt, should I care to attend. Now, I actually like Greek wine. And I’ve tried a fair amount of it over the years. At the last couple of restaurants I worked for and the retail store I managed, I put together sections of Greek wines after tasting through what I could find available in the New York area, which is a fair amount. And there’s some good stuff out there, very different from the usual grapes we taste our way through from any of a dozen countries. And so, I toddled off to the hotel for the tasting, a semi-disorganized affair that finally got underway about an hour and a quarter after its scheduled start time – during which we were subjected to the Cosecha Especial sparkling wine from Norton, of Mendoza, that didn’t really fit the evening’s theme, nor, in my and the opinion of those who I was chatting with, was it very drinkable – it has a very peculiar lemon rind and metallic taste. On to the Greek wines…

Mantineia Tselepou 2007 – 100% Moschofilero grape, a fairly crisp, dry white with quite high acidity, and aromas of pear, fennel, cream, and quartz (yes, quartz, it does have an aroma/flavor). Quite good.

Sigalas Santorini 2006 – 100% Assyrtiko, a somewhat strange version of a Santorini, which my past experience would suggest is a rather light, dry, zippy sort of wine, this had very little acidity, a noticeable amount of residual sugar, prickly bubbles (it was almost as if it hadn’t yet finished fermenting and was bottled while still in process) and a strange briny sort of aroma that I could best describe as canned anchovies. I don’t know if it was just the bottle I tried from, I should have pushed my way back to the table and tried another sampling, but from this one, it’s hard to recommend – I’d definitely want to retaste it before considering using it for a dinner.

Don Guianni “Ramnista” Naoussa 2005 – 100% Xynomavro (literally “acid black”), an oddball red wine though that’s not oddball for a Naoussa, with aromas and flavors of stewed plums and tomatoes, bancha tea, and red currants. Good acidity, very dry tannins, almost a sort of sawdust feel to it – the wine simply comes across as very young and needing some time.

Harlaftis Nemea Reserve 2003 – 100% Agiorgitiko (St. George) this red wine is backed with black cherry and white chocolate aromas and flavors, soft tannins, moderate acidity, and a bit of a burnt toast finish to it. I liked it quite a bit, if for nothing other than it’s so different from what we usually drink here.

Palaios “Anthemis” Vin de Liqueur de Samos – 100% Muscat de Alexandria, a fairly sweet wine with flavors of fresh dates, dried figs, geranium and cinnamon, with moderate acidity, and noticeable alcohol (unusual for this type of wine), especially on the finish.

This would be an interesting menu to put together to match up against these wines. We shall see…

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