Even for veteran wine drinkers, like the Bauer team, Greek wines are intimidating. Let’s face it, trying to just pronounce some of them can be tongue twisting and frustrating enough to make you just avoid them all together-especially when you are in a restaurant.
But don’t let that stop you from trying these amazing wines from the birthplace of Western civilization and the birthplace of wine culture. Although there is no precise date of when wine making began in Greece, archeologists have found wine presses that date back to the Minoan civilization (~2500 BC). Between then and now, there were some great wines happening and the production of a lot of plonk that was imported to the US in past decades. Fortunately, that has changed and quality Greek wines are making their way back in the minds and hearts of consumers-thanks to the hard work of great producers, importers and educators.
For our part, Bauer has brought in three different Greek wines from different regions to highlight the terroir, grape varietals and style. From hot weathered grapes from Santorini to the cool climate of Macedonia in Northern Greece, we wanted to make sure that you had a chance to try these wines in a non-intimidating zone. We hope you find them to be as palate rewarding as we do.
Santorini is home to some of the oldest vines in the world. Because the Santorini terrior is attributed to volcanic eruptions, the soil lacks organic matter. So how can vines grow if there is nothing there but ash and rock? Since it never rains during the growing season (quite literally), pumice stone that is found in the soil holds the water and minerals from the winter season which the stressed vines seek. This incredibly inhospitable environment not only helps produce concentrated grapes but also gives the Greeks the distinction of having phylloxera resistant vines.
The 2011 Estate Argyros Assyritko (A seer’ tee ko) is a great example of a crisp, Southern Greece white wine. This is a wine with a strong personality. It has citrus overtones with racy acidity that gives a crisp freshness. The vineyard has very low yields and the grapes are very slow to ripen due to the sea air that lowers the temperature (and wards off disease and rot). The resulting wine is salty and earthy on the nose. A steely mineral backbone is present but well balanced and elegant. The Argyros Assyritko is the ideal complement for fish, seafood, grilled vegetables and light pasta dishes.
The Peloponnese is the southernmost tip of the mainland and has long, rugged coastline that is perfect for terracing grape vines. As this area grew in importance in maritime trade a couple thousand years ago, so did the viticulture and this region has become the second largest wine producing area of Greece. From the Nemea region of the Peloponnese comes Gaia Notios white. This blend of indigenous grapes Moscofileros (Mos ko fee’ le ro) and Roditis (Ro dee’ tees) is aromatic from the Moscofileros such as flower blossoms and ripe tropical fruit with pleasing acidic backbone from the Roditis grape. The lingering mineral and floral notes make this a great wine to go with your lighter dishes.
Next, we are going to travel to the far north in Macedonia near where Alexander the Great was educated. This mountainous region is home to Naoussa, an area of almost unrealized potential in the winemaking world. Begin with high altitude and cool climate and then mix in limestone bedrock with volcanic mixtures in the soil and you have the potential to make awe inspiring wines comparable to the finest Barolo.
The Thimiopoulos Vineyards in Macedonia has been owned by the Thimiopoulos family for several generations and unlike many winemakers in Greece, young Apostolos chooses to make natural (biodynamic) wines. The 2008 Thimiopoulos “Young Vines” on our shelves is made from the Xinomavro (Ksee no’ ma vro) grape. Dubbed as Greece’s answer to Italy’s Nebbiolo grape, Xinomavro is difficult to grow but produces intensely colored, aromatic and acidic red wine with a lot of tannins. The Young Vines comes from grape vines that are only 5-15 years old so this version of the Xinomavro is a bit lighter than its big sister: Uranos. But it is not short on flavor: Young Vines really delivers on your palate with clean, juicy and earthy flavors. The hints of violets, dark berry and vanilla round this wine out; the bright cherry flavors are reminiscent of a Pinot Noir but there is a layer of flavor that makes your taste buds sit up and take notice. This is not your average (or even above average) red wine.
So whether or not you can actually pronounce these wine, we don’t care. We can’t either. What is most important is that you come in and try them. They are worth it.