Friday, March 22, 2013


Domaine Porto Carras - Malagouzia 2011

Still feeling the glow and residual effects of tasting the Athenee Importers Greek Wines at the beginning of March. There were truly many outstanding wines worthy of the spotlight. For today, let's talk about Malagouzia.

Domaine Porto Carras
Malagouzia 2011
Chalkidiki, Cotes de Meliton, Macedonia

100% Malagouzia (ancient varietal)

Briny, pale golden yellow in color, this wine expresses the sunshine we're yearning for! Like the lean light of winter moving into a fuller expression of spring and playful ebullience of summer. On the nose, minerality ... limestone, schist.  Clean.  Sea air.  Tropical fruit such as pineapple, white peaches and apricot follow on the palate, fleshy and lean all at once.  In time a hint of orange peel, with fennel, herbaceousness and light lime citrus.  Excellent balanced acidity and weight give way to a luscious, calcerous, ultimately dry finish.  Elegant and smooth. Needless to say, I love this wine! Presently available at RSVP in Portland for $16.99/btl.  Also find it at Trattoria Athena in Brunswick.  

In northern Greece, Domaine Porto Carras is located in Central Macedonia, on the peninsula of Sithonia, Chalkidkiki in the Cotes de Meliton appellation (see map below).  Bordered by the Gulf of Torone in the North Aegean Sea and Mount Meliton to the north, vineyards are planted on steep, terraced slopes covering 1,170 acres of beautiful hillsides with distinct microclimates.  The first vineyards were planted in 1967, with the first vintage available in 1972. The winery is certified organic by DIO and is the only winery in this appellation.  Noting the particular geography and climate, it's not hard to see where all the minerality and characteristics of this wine come from!

Malagouzia is a varietal that originated in Nafpaktia, central Greece but is mostly grown in Central Macedonia and Attiki.  Recently it has been planted in northern Greek regions.  It has also been characterized as "the mysterious and elegant Greek lady" ... yes, indeed!

This wine would of course pair gorgeously with any sort of fresh seafood.  But I'm thinking this may also prove to be a brilliant choice for your Easter celebration!  Ham, asparagas, leeks, spring potato salad, hot crossed buns ... or Greek braided easter bread or phyllo pie!

Available through Athenee Importers, Hempstead, NY and SoPo Wine Co., South Portland, ME.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Thymiopoulos Vineyards, Porto Carras, Ktima Pavlidis, Vassiliou/Nemeion, Domaine Harlaftis, Union of Winemaking Co-op/Samos

On March 4 we were graced here in the US (specifically at Winebow - Somerville, MA), with the presence of 11 Greek Wineries/Winemakers and/or their representatives.  I was thrilled to be able to attend!  It's not often that one is able to taste so many Greek wines in one place (approx. 65!) A unique experience indeed, and one which I will endeavor to share with you here.  They are presently on their Third Annual Road Show in the states, represented by ATHENEE Importers, Hempstead, NY (and SoPo Wine Co. in Maine) and will visit Chicago, New Orleans and New York City as well.  

Domaine Spiropoulos, GAI'I Wines, Mercouri Estate, Gentilini Winery, Estate Argyros

They hail from throughout Greece.  From the north in Macedonia in the regions of Naoussa, Cotes de Meliton and Drama to the central part of the country in Attica, the southernmost tip of the mainland in Peloponnese in the appellations of Nemea, Mantinia & Ilia, and to the islands of Cephalonia, Santorini & Samos.  That said, the climates also vary, including cool, mountainous terrain, as well as those directly influenced by the Ionian, Aegean and Mediterranean Seas.  Olive orchards are also present in many cases.

Indigenous grape varietals such as Agiorgitiko (Ai-your-yee-tee-ko), Assyrtiko (Ah-seer-tee-ko), Limnio, Malagouzia, Mavrodaphne, Mavrotragano and Xinomavro to name a few, are used to make these beautiful, high-quality wines.  I found elegance and sophistication in these wines, as well as a distinctive down-to-earth quality and unpretentiousness that made them truly accessible and world class.  This is also a reflection/expression of the winemakers who make them, genuine, real and accomplished. These are family-owned vineyards run with a hands-on approach, also working intimately with nature.  

Now for some highlights!  

We were greeted by an array of fresh oysters, clams and shrimp from the folks at Island Creek Oyster in Boston.  This went perfectly with our first taste of the day, High Peaks Muscat 2010, from the Union of Winemaking Cooperatives on the island of Samos. Crisp, clean, dry, even slightly weighty, it stood up to those Duxbury clams on the half shell! Formed in 1934, wine production is standardized in two wineries on the island to ensure quality standards.  All wines are made from the white Muscat grape (Muscat blanc a petits grains).  Others are dessert wines, known for their balance and lush, natural sweetness.

Uranos 2009, Thymiopoulos Vineyards

Following up with my article from last month, (you may remember - "Young Vines" Xinomavro 2010 - see previous article below), I got my wish to try the Uranos from Thymiopoulos Vineyards! Grapes are 100% Xinomavro, as with the "Young Vines". This wine did not disappoint! With 18 months in oak, it was deep and dark, smooth and soft on the mouth. Expressive depth of fruit. Spice. The land is schist, calcerous, rocky. Located in Naoussa, Macedonia in the north, the vineyard is operated by Apostolos Thymiopoulos, who returned to his family's vineyards after studying oenology. Xinomavro (Zi-no-mav-ro) literally means "acid black". Ghi kai Uranos means "earth & sky" and was first released in 2004, with celebrated vintages ever since.

Available in Maine at RSVP and Street & Co. (Portland) and Lakonia (Saco).

Limnio 2010, Domaine Porto Carras
Also from Macedonia, but further south in the region of Cotes de Meliton, is Domaine Porto Carras Limnio 2010.  Grape is 100% Limnio, an ancient Greek varietal.  I loved the earthy color and aromas. Spicy. Sexy.  Soft/sensual mouth feel.  Dry finish. Gorgeous. Terraced vineyards are bordered by both mountains (Mount Meliton) and sea (Gulf of Torone) and cover 1,170 acres.  The only vineyard in Cotes de Meliton and certified organic.  I also enjoyed the Malagouzia 2011.  100% Malagouzia, another ancient Greek (white) varietal. Rich, round fruit resonant with light tropical notes of apricot.  Elegance. Smooth. Ultimately dry finish. 

Available in Maine at RSVP (Portland) and Trattoria Athena (Brunswick).

Nemea 2008, Domaine Vassiliou
Domaine Vassiliou/Nemeion Estate, NEMEA 2008. 100% Agiorgitiko.  Earthy, funky "barnyard" on the nose. Deep notes of cherry on palate.  Silky mouth feel.  Beautiful spicy, dry finish. Delicious! Members of the third generation Vassiliou family run this joint winery operation (Domaine Vassiliou & Nemeion Estate), with vineyards in Attica, Central Greece and Nemea, Peloponnese.  Grapes are hand-harvested and certified, organic viticulture is practiced.  

Retsina of Attica, Domaine Vassiliou
I also loved the Retsina of Attica NV (above).  100% Savatiano (the grape of Retsina!) Light golden yellow in color, this has the characteristic pine on nose and palate, but with a richer quality than we've been accustomed to here in the US.  Beautifully integrated.  This was great!  

Emphasis Assyrtiko & Chardonnay 2011 
Ktima Pavlidis, EMPHASIS Assyrtiko 2011. 100% Assyrtiko.  Light yellow/green color.  This reminded me of Loire Valley (France) on the nose!  Fresh minerality and acidity with notes of citrus.  Lean. Nice body & balance. Unique. EMPHASIS Chardonnay 2011.  Clean and refreshing on the nose and palate.   Lightly rich fruit.  Long dry finish.  This is barrel fermented for 6 months.  Glass pours anyone?!!

THEMA RED 2009.  60% Syrah, 40% Agiorgitiko. Deep purple red color.  Black fruits. Powerful blend. Tannic.  Smoke. Spice. 

Ktima Pavlidis Winery is located in the northernmost part of Macedonia in the region of Drama, in a narrow valley surrounded by three large mountains. Hand-harvested grapes are grown in red stony soil and limestone.  Indigenous varietals combine with modern winemaking in this "Kitma" (Greek word for Estate). 

Domaine Harlaftis Chardonnay 2011
Domaine Harlaftis, Chardonnay 2011.   This lovely Chardonnay was very "Burgundian", with well balanced, light oak.  Excellent value.  In fact, it was aged 4-5 months in French oak. 

The Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 had that dusty Olde World quality that I love in a wine, with somewhat brighter/deep fruit. Full-bodied.  Aged for 12 months in new oak.  

Nikos Athanassiadis was one of the best known dry raisin merchants in Greece at the turn of the century.  However, his true passion was for growing grapes, which in 1932 led him to establish vineyards in Stamata, located on the slopes of Mount Pendeli near Athens.  Later forced out due to development of suburbs around the capital, he acquired land in Attica (Central Greece) and Nemea (Peloponnese).  The original winery in Stamata is still active, allowing them to stay in touch with the marketplace.  They grow their grapes organically as well, although not certified due to high cost of certification.  They are a family-run business well on their way to third generation winemakers.

Domaine Spiropoulos, Porfyros 2007
Domaine Spiropoulos, Porfyros 2007. A Bordeaux Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.  Light floral on the nose and smooth on the tongue, this was different than a traditional-style Bordeaux - and I loved it.  Very pretty and feminine yet powerful. Aged in oak for 14 months.  Unfiltered. October harvest. 

Also, the Mantinia 2011.  100% Moschofilero. Stony light color. Very clean/lean. Oysters!

Established in Mantinia, Peloponnese in 1870, Domaine Spiropoulos was the first winery in Greece to receive organic certification by the USDA.  They expanded to Nemea in 2007, opening a new winery with over 150 acres combined and grow indigenous, international as well as near extinct varietals. 

Available in Maine at RSVP, Browne Trading Co., Emilitsa, Back Bay Grill & Eventide (Portland), Lakonia (Saco), Perkins & Perkins (Ogunquit) and Bootlegger's (Topsham)

Assyrtiko Wild Ferment 2010
GAI'A Wines, Assyrtiko Wild Ferment 2012. 100% Assyrtiko. Smoky on the nose. Velvety/smooth mouth feel. Nice complexity. Minerality. Aged 50/50 - stainless/oak. From Santorini.

14-18h Rose' 2011. 100% Agiorgitiko. Pretty pink color. Lovely fresh, clean fruit. Lively wild berries.  I know it's 2011, but still delicious and refreshing!  Available in Maine at: RSVP & Emilitsa (Portland), Lakonia (Saco), 40 Paper (Camden) and Golden Harvest Produce Market (Kittery).

GAI'A Estate 2008. 100% Agiorgitiko. Beautiful. Well integrated. Sophisticated. Restraint/Subtlety. Private vineyard. Good for aging! 

Founded in 1994 by Yiannis Paraskevopoulos (Agriculturist w/PhD in Enology from U. of Bordeaux) and Leon Karatsalos (Agriculturalist), GAI'A Wineries are located in the region of Nemea in Peloponnese and on the Island of Santorini.  This joint venture has received consistent praise in International wine publications.  Their intention is to present beautifully expressed indigenous Greek grape varietals to wine enthusiasts worldwide.

Mercouri Estate Daphne Nera 2009
Mercouri Estate, Daphne Nera 2009. 100% Mavrodaphne. The grape known for making sweet wines, the expression here was one of depth and elegance. Sleek/refined mouth feel along with beautifully integrated fruit.  On the label is pictured the Grandmother (or was it Great Grandmother?)

Foloi 2012 & Kallisto 2012
Foloi 2012. 90% Roditis, 10% Viognier. Minerality. Wow. Super clean. Lively. Structure. Lyrical.  Available in Maine at:  RSVP, Emilitsa, Browne Trading Co. & Miyake (Portland), Lakonia (Saco), Perkins & Perkins (Ogunquit)

Kallisto 2012. 50% Assyrtiko, 50% Robola. Clean. Gorgeous & balanced.  Notes of kiwi fruit.

The Mercouri Estate is located in western Peloponnese in the region of Ilia (near ancient Olympia). The estate goes back 4 generations,  established in 1864 by the entrepreneur Theodore Mercouri, who in his travels to Alexandria, Egypt and northern Italy brought back cuttings of the Refosco varietal.  Their 2008 Estate Red is a blend of 80% Refosco, 15% Mavrodaphne.  4th generation winemakers/brothers Vassilis and Christos Kanelakopoulos preside.  On the day of the tasting I spoke with the son, Charalambos.  Truly a family-run estate!

Gentilini Red 2011
Gentilini Winery, Red 2011. 60% Agiorgitiko, 40% blend of Syrah & Mavrodaphne. Sexy on the nose. Velvety fruit. Gorgeous yet austere.  Terroir is limestone, sandy/clay.  The herb thyme grows nearby. 

Robola Cellar Select 2011. 100% Robola. Richness from aging on the leas. Touch honeycomb. Minerals. Depth/complexity. Dry finish. Aged 20% in barrels, 80% stainless. Blended afterwards. 

The name Gentilini came from Spiro-Nicholas Kosmetatos paternal Grandmother, Marianna. The winery and vineyards have passed from generations from Spiro-Nicholas Kosmetatos to in present day, his daughter Marianna and her husband Petros Markantonatos.  Located on the island of Cephalonia, the largest and most complex island of western Greece. Mountains and rocky limestone soil provide optimal conditions for this Mediterranean vineyard.  This winery practices organic viticulture.

Aidani 2011
Estate Argyros, Aidani 2011. 100% Aidani (the grape indigenous to Santorini). Unique w/tropical fruit notes. Smoky. Clean. Calcerous and Herbaceous.  

Assyrtiko 2011.  Much minerality. Smoky. Terroir of Lava!  120-130 year old vines.  

Atlantis Red 2009. 90% Mandarelaria, 10% Mavrotragano. Herbaceous w/hints of eucalyptus & anise. Grown on vacant island ... 

Mavrotragano 2009. Meditational fruit. Depth. Dry finish. Rare, indigenous varietal of Santorini.  

Established in 1903 by Georgios Argyros on the island of Santorini, this estate is now run by third generation winemaker, Yiannis Argyros, who has rebuilt the winery and expanded its holdings. "He is considered one of the best white winemakers in Greece and his estate won the Wine & Spirits "100 Best Wineries" in 2005 and 2006". 

To get a feel for the gorgeous terroir and seaside climate of Greece (specifically Santorini), watch this short pictorial video from their website:

Beautiful Olive oil from Gentilini Winery on the Island of Cephalonia and Aged Balsamic from GAI'A Wines on Santorini were also available,  reflecting the distinctive terroir from which they come - a gastronomic treasure.  

Let me end by saying that with this being an overview of the whole, there has been brevity of description here.  These wines all deserve further consideration, in much more depth, and I hope to do that in the future!  We already carry a number of them here in Maine (which I have noted above), ranging from $15.99 - 25.99/btl.

I hope you will take the time to seek out some of these wines, enjoy them at leisure with a meal, and celebrate what the beautiful country of Greece has to offer!