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The Thrilling Wines of Greece Part 1

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Opa! It’s time to celebrate, for Greece, with its ancient wine producing culture, has transported into the 21st century. Fueled by young winemakers’ passion, cutting edge technology, and over 300 indigenous varietals, these terrific wines are amazing values, perhaps one third of the retail cost of many quality European wines. It’s back to the future for both red and white, resurrecting some grapes, like the white Malagousia, from the brink of extinction, others elevated by a push to quality, like Xinomavro, a complex red likened to Nebbiolo. If your only experience has been Retsina, look again. At a recent trade wine tasting in Los Angeles, northern Greek wine producers thrilled those in attendance, mainly with the focus on Xinomavro, but also with a few notable whites from the region.

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Greek wines can be challenging, some with their hard to pronounce varietals, others with their traditional labels. Greek white wines are very different, they’re mineral and herbal, often at the same time, refreshing in their acidity, some perfumed with citrus, others with stone fruit and flowers. Greek red wines run the gamut, from soft and fruity, to full-bodied and herbaceous, or rich and tannic, these wines are seductive in their savory palate. Some wineries are blending international grape varieties, such as Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon with their native varietals, even producing a Bordeaux style blend, in homage to the time many young Greek winemakers spent in France, honing their craft. Organic plays a large role in Greek wine production, due to many factors, winemakers can avoid chemicals in the vineyards, and craft natural or biodynamic wines.

Expressive wines that echo their historic roots, yet sparkle with contemporary highlights, and made in small batches, these wines from the different regions of Greece offer unique flavors, and show a great affinity for food. Greek wines are a delight, exciting your taste buds with their unique sensory bouquet. This is not just another Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Merlot; it’s a voyage to wines that are mystical and mysterious, outside the mainstream wine experience, compelling in their fragrance and flavors.

Domaine Porto Carras offered three fantastic white wines, a Melissanthi, an Assyrtiko, and a Malagouzia that would pair beautifully with summer’s catch of seafood and vegetables. The 2012 Domaine Porto Carras Melissanthi, a blend of Assyrtiko and Athiri, is a nice dry white, well balanced with a mineral spine, herbal-flecked, with a bouquet of citrus, apricot, and melon. At first whiff, the 2012 Domaine Porto Carras Assyrtiko has intense citrus aromas, minerality, and high acidity, very refreshing on a hot summer day with grilled fish or shellfish. Resurrected from near extinction, the 2013 Domaine Porto Carras Malagouzia is a complex wine, revealing a smoky mineral nose, fleshy white peach and apricot, pineapple and lychee, a hint of orange peel, lime, and fennel. Holy smokes, this is a delicious wine! Elegant, smooth, aromatic, great acidity, full body, loads of personality, and a very long finish, this is a winner, recently awarded a Gold and Best of Class medal by Sunset Magazine’s 2014 International Wine Competition. Retailing around $15, it is sold in a few Greek restaurants in the Los Angeles area, and available at Papa Cristo’s Market in Los Angeles and Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa.

A red wine of note from this producer is the 2012 Domaine Porto Carras Limnio. Limnio, an ancient Greek varietal, described by Aristotle and other Greek poets, has been used in wine production for over 2000 years. It’s a medium-full bodied wine, ripe with blackberry fruit, an herbal edge, earthy with delicate tannins, and subtle spice. A blast from the past, it sometimes is blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc for a modern twist.

continued in Part 2

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