Opportunities come in many forms and when you are a wine lover it could be experiencing wines from a new region. In my case, the door opened for me to discover Greek wines. The wines were those of Domaine Porto Carras.
In Greece there are 330 varietals of which only seventy-eight are imported. Many of these varietals are native to Greece. Most the wine in Greece is produced in the northern portion of the country. There are twenty different wine regions and the location of Domaine Porto Carras is an appellation onto its own as encompasses the Sithonia Peninsula. This peninsula is one of three that make up the Halkidiki Peninsula, which runs from the city of Thessaloniki south to the Aegean Sea and is shaped like a hand with three fingers. Sithonia is the middle finger.
Situated along the coast of Sithonia, the winery sits atop a hill on the slopes of Mount Meliton and affords magnificent views of the Greek coastline. There are 1100 acres of terraced vineyards, which make it ideal to grow Bordeaux varietals in addition to the Greek ones. The winery is planted with twenty-seven varietals of which thirteen are French and the other fourteen are those native to Greece.
The grapes used for the Domanine Porto Carras wines are organically grown and utilize dry farm irrigation. The profile of the region, the climate and terrior with its chalky and schistose soils is such that the vineyards are virtually free of many of the diseases you find in other areas. The climate is one with intense sunshine that is countered by cool ocean breezes from the Aegean Sea. With its location on the slopes, you find diurnal temperature variation from day to night. This difference tends to slow the ripening process and lead to more acidity and character in the grapes.
Having lunch at the Greek Restaurant, Ulysses Voyage with Yliana Stengou, owner Giannis Carras’ daughter, who runs the winery was a treat. She graciously shared her wines with us. Savoring these wines with Greek food brought out the true Greek flavors of the wines, giving us the sense of what Greek wines are about. I even tried grilled Octopus for the first time and it was the perfect food to accompany Domaine Porto Carras’ white wines.
We sampled six of Domaine Porto Carras wines three whites, which were all Greek varietals aged in stainless steel and three reds, a Greek varietal, and two blends, all aged in French oak. What impressed me most was the consistency and balance of all the wines. There was not one wine I did not like.
Our tasting started with the 2012 Melissanthi, a cuveé of Assyrtiko and Athiri. The wine has nice acidity, is crisp but at the same time mild and balanced. The aromas are that of lemon and I tasted lemon and tropical fruits.
The 2010 Assyrtiko is a bigger wine than the Melissanthi. It has more floral components and some grass on the nose. The wine is richer but with nice acidity and flavors of pear and kiwi. The Assyrtiko is thought to be the most ancient wine variety.
The final white wine was the 2012 Malagouzia, a wine with citrus and pear aromas. The wine has a hint of spice with tropical fruits, mango and papaya. It is almost like a Sauvignon Blanc with a hint of Gewürztraminer due to the little bit of spice I savored. The Malagouzia is considered the top five most ancient white wines.
Moving onto the reds, we started with the 2011 Limnio. This is what I would describe as a very subtle medium bodied wine that is aged twelve months in French Oak. The flavors were that of cherries with hints of white pepper and allspice. Limnio might be called the Greek Pinot Noir. The texture is very similar to Pinot yet there is some aspects of the wine that are reminiscent of Syrah. The wine was paired with lamb chops. Typically with lamb I think of a bigger bolder wine but I was pleasantly surprise with how well the subtleties of this wine complemented the lamb.
Limnio is the oldest varietal and is thought to be the varietal of Plato according to the writings of Aristotle. The Limnio grape comes from the Greek island of Lemnos.
Magnus Baccata, vintage 2010, is a cuveé of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah from. Although this wine is made up of French varietals, it is created in a Greek style. From the wonderfully floral aromas one fines a beautiful perfume of violets. Based on the nose I could not wait to taste the wine and it was well worth it. You could really taste the Syrah. This is a very fruit driven wine with flavors of cherries finishing of with a bit of pepper. The wine is aged for twelve months in French Oak. This was my very favorite of all the wines we sampled.
We ended our tasting with the 2005 Chateau Porto Carras, a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Limnio and Merlot. This wine is created in a European style except for the Limnio, which is used instead of Petite Verdot. For many this is considered the best Bordeaux outside of Bordeaux. It is a clean fresh Bordeaux that is medium bodied, very balanced without that overly earthy quality so often found in Bordeauxs. The wine displayed aromas of cumin and allspice. I could savor a hint of pepper with my first sip. This delicately smooth wine is aged for twenty-four months in French oak Barrels and than aged in the bottle for one year.
I could not have had a better introduction into Greek wines than those of Domaine Porto Carras. Sipping these exceptional wines and admiring the gorgeous vineyard views that dominate the website, makes me yearn for a trip to Greece to visit the winery and sample more of Domaine Porto Carras’ wines while enjoying the wonderful vistas along the coast that are so much a part of the Greek experience.
Currently Domaine Porto Carras wines are available in California and Colorado. Old World Vines is working on arranging distribution to New York, Oregon, Washington and Nevada.
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