Geek on Greek Wines
We've been meaning to feature the wines of Greece for awhile, and we could not be more pleased with this six-wine lineup; a selection that just scratches the surface, but still presents a colorful and complex picture of this amazing wine culture.
Argyros Santorini 2016
It would be hard to find a wine that could better represent Greece. The Santorini of Argyros is classic. From the hot, windy, and dry island of Santorini, a destination far better known for its scenery than its wine, come some of the world's finest dry white wines; crisp, mineral beauties that bely the torrid climate of their origin. Their 2016 is full of white and green fruit flavors, definitely citrusy and saline, there's also a smoky and herbal quality that flits about; it is complex and subtle, quite reminiscent of the very best Melon of Sevre et Maine, but with more weight and power. More about length than upfront flavor, it builds like Bolero to a monumental finish. You gotta drink at least a little Santorini every summer; it is so good.
Skouras Moscofilero 2018
Aromatic grapes like Moscofilero (think Gewurztraminer, Viognier, Muscat, Malvasia, Scheurebe...) are so fascinating, but examples tend to be expensive, or worse, tedious and cloying in their over-the-top perfumes. Skouras has an impeccable reputation for excellent Moscofilero, and their juicy 2018 is a testament to their talents. This delightful sprite is simply irrestistible but hardly simple: full of lifted floral and fruit notes, without a trace of heaviness, slightly stony and herbal, eminently refreshing... another must-try, this stuff is cool, and the price is fabulous.
Lyrarakis Plyto 'Psarades Vineyard' 2016
I did just say the wine above is "cool", so what does that make this guy? Also cool. Probably cooler. Domaine Lyrarakis is on Crete and they are great champions of the many indigenous, and often incredibly rare, Cretan grapes varieties. You will not find another wine from the Plyto cultivar; Lyrarakis makes the world's only available example. It comes from their Psarades vineyard, planted in the 90s at 480 meters in altitude (fresh!). In order to maximize complexity, Lyrarakis often does multiple harvests for one wine, and in 2017 they did two for their Plyto; early for freshness and late for richness; the result is is a disctintive and delicious beauty. Fruit leads the way, while hints of nuts, olives, herbs and white flowers follow. Textured and nearly full-bodied, stony and nutty flavors play together next to rich pear and peach notes. Not something you see every day, this wine alone will make the trip tomorrow worthwhile.
Skouras Zoe 2017
We would have liked to avoid French grapes at this tasting, but this wine has 10% Cabernet Sauvignon... oh well, it's 90% Agioritiko (can you say that? it's something like "eye your eat eco") so we're happy enough. Super juicy and pure, with lots of fresh berry and plums flavors, this is not to be taken too seriously, but we're sure there will be lots of fans.
Thymiopoulos Naoussa Xinomavro 2014
A little bit about Thymiopoulos: certified organic vineyards, biodynamic practices, high density plantings, a diversity of terroirs within their native region, no inoculation with commercial yeast, no enzymes, no filtration or fining, no chemical additions... they do it right, and the wines show it. The great Xinomavro grape, responsible for many of Greece's finest reds, is their specialty and they will tend to render a few versions in any given vintage. In 2014, they did not make their high-end wine, Uranos, and blended all of their best fruit into this wine; it is immensely complex, and it is a spectacular bargain. Xinomavro is often spoken of as reminiscent of fine Nebbiolo (think Barolo and Barbaresco) but not all examples live up to the comparison; this wine certainly does. We haven't tried it for awhile, but we remember that it improved a lot with air, so we'll decant it for the tasting tomorrow .
Thymiopoulos Naoussa Xinomavro 'Uranos' 2016
Uranos (aka Earth and Sky, or Ghi kai Uranos) is the flagship Xinomavro of Thymiopoulos, and they only make it in certain years. We last tasted the 2016 Uranos in November, and it was tight and understated. Red and blue fruits were intense and tart, but compared to the exuberant 2014 Naoussa, featured above, it came across as closed and brooding. Hints of delicate flowers and green herbs, as well as richer and darker flavors (tar and spice) began to emerge with time in the glass. The grip and purity of the finish was impeccable and telling; I immediately bought a few bottles for my personal stash; I expect it to improve for at least another 5 years. Jancis Robinson recently published an interesting note on the 2016 Uranos, saying "This does smell like red Burgundy!". For any fan of Burgundy, this should be an eye-opening remark when it comes from one of the world's leading wine writers and critics (if you don't know Jancis, do yourself a favor and check out her website, there's lots of great free material). We'll decant this juice first thing tomorrow, see if we can't figure out what she's talking about.