Greek wines get a bad rep in "mainstream" wine consumption - here in the US, at least. Did you know it was the Greeks back in 4000 BC that started cultivating grape vines? They believed that wine was a gift from the gods and worshipped Dionysus, a creature with the mind of a man and the instinct of beast. Fortunately modern times have not only brought back a resurgence in Greek wine production, but now in the 21st Century, we have a MUCH great chance of enjoying delicious Greek wines on our shores. I'm serious. Because of my connection with Ball Square Fine Wines in Somerville I've been fortunate to have been exposed to these wines and have tasted what I believe is the best of what Greece has to offer. And the offering is ample. There are serious, well made, sometimes even "nerdy" wines on the market. Sure, you might be lulled by the new "My Big Fat Greek Wine" that has recently come to Boston. And no, I by no means think that this is a good example of fine Greek wine; (in fact, I think it is a disservice to Grecian wine making and American consumers alike that they've used such a clever marketing ploy to pimp what I find is a fairly insipid wine, regardless of origin. I'm just saying...)
So why hasn't Greek wine taken off? Well, the names are a bit of a mouthful. Greece excels at producing wines from indigenous, local varietals that you really can't pronounce. I'm still working on it, admittedly, and I've been tasting them for 4 years now! Yes, there are some wineries that are blending in "international varietals" like Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Syrah. But it is the Moscofilero-s and St.George's (aka Aghiorgitiko-s) of the world that set Greek wines apart from the rest.
Moscofilero is a white grape that gets its name from the Greek words for Mosco (meaning fragrant) and Filo (meaning leaf). It is an ancient varietal for sure, but it's aromatics are so fresh you'll be thinking of spring in an instant. It is a wine that I often suggest is akin to Sauvignon Blanc (especially from the Loire Valley, France) or even Viura or Verdejo from Spain. Earlier this week at a Greek-themed wine dinner at Bistro 5, one of the guests said the same thing.
One of my favorite red varietals at the moment (i.e. a grape I have been showing a little "favoritism" to on the home-front, yes, something that is hard to do and admit in this trade) is St. George, aka Aghiorgitiko. (Specifically, I'm enamored with the Skouras Nemea St. George, which for a mere $14.99 is a FIND as far as I'm concerned. It definitely "over delivers" - and would be perfect with your Thanksgiving feast.) Back to the grape, Aghiorgitiko translates to St. George and is a name change that came about back in antiquity, when the wine was known as the Blood of the Lion. It got its name St. George during the conversion to Christianity - something about the parallel between Hercules killing the lion and St. George killing the dragon.... New wine name, new religion and poof! Rebecca has a new wine find to share with universe in the making. Un-oaked styles are fruit forward and lively, yet display a truly Old World earthiness in perfect moderation. I can't get enough.
Bottom line: Most consumers only seek out Greek wines after they've returned from a vacation or honeymoon in Santorini, for example. I say let your curiosity guide you home.
BSFW will be having a Greek wine tasting this Wednesday, Nov. 17. Check it out!
Are you familiar with Greek wines? Which is your favorite varietal?