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It’s All Greek to Us

Posted: Thursday, 20 June 2013 12:25

Tasting: It’s All Greek to Us

June 20: Gregory Kontos of Athens-based Aegean Intertrade Co was in Delhi last week with about 16 labels of wines, liqueurs and spirits for a private tasting where he showcased wines from all the four wine regions to establish that the Greek wines are unique, pleasurable and have a distinct personality. He didn’t disappoint but has an uphill task as Greek wines are unknown in India, writes Subhash Arora who had a private tasting with him

Click For Large ViewIf Moschofilero, Assyrtiko, Agiorgitiko, Xinomavro sound Greek to you - by golly, you are right! Some of you may have tasted wines from these popular grapes from Greece. But due to no concerted efforts in the past (with the exception of a couple of groups of Greek enthusiasts who visited India during the last decade) by either the Greek embassy or the government (which is too stretched and strapped for funds now in any case and would not be able to do so for a while), Greek wines have not been

Gregory Kontos of Aegean braved it alone to India last week in order to conquer palates. He has been tasting with a few importers and journalists individually. Having tasted a few Greek wines while judging during international wine competitions and always willing to venture out for new wines, I could not resist accepting the invitation for a private tasting at Hotel Eros-Hilton.

Facts about the Mediterranean Greece

 But first a few important facts about Greece: Surrounded by Ionian Sea on the East, Aegean Sea on the West and Mediterranean Sea to its south it is truly a Mediterranean country; a major portion of the healthy Mediterranean diet is attributed to Greece. Looking at the country map, several dots appear in the sea. Counting these, there are 1200-6000 islands with about 2500 significant ones ; not all of them are inhabited. The country shares borders with Albania, Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria and Turkey and is linked with Italy through the Ionic Sea.

Greek Geographic Appellations

All the wine producing islands are grouped in the Geographic appellation known as Greek Islands. The volcanic Santorini (think Etna or Vesuvius in Italy), Rhode, Crete, Samos are some of the better known islands internationally and perhaps in India as well. Central Greece encompasses Athens. To the east, the Peninsula of Peloponnese is the third geographical boundary for wine and is barely connected to the mainland-otherwise it would have been the biggest island of Greece. Northern Greece forms the last of the four regions and includes Macedonia.

The wine laws were effected in Greece in 1971, 10 years before it joined what is now EU. After the recent mandate by EU there are 2 important classifications for quality - the highest being PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) which signifies the equivalent of DOC and DOCG in Italy. The IGT is referred to as PGI (Protected Geographic Indication). The system allows the mentioning of the grape varietal or the area on the label.

Click For Large ViewThere are around 300 grape varieties indigenous to Greece. Moschofilero, Assyrtiko, - the whites - and Agiorgitiko, Xinomavro - the reds - are the main grape varieties and were the protagonists in the wines tasted this evening. Almost 80-85% of Greek wine produced is white wine. Gregory had arranged 6 whites, 1 Rose, 3 reds and 3 dessert wines made from white grapes. A few bottles of spirituous liquids didn’t interest me.

Wines showcased were from Domaines Skouras, Evharis and Sigalas, Chateau Pegasus and Douloufakis Wines. White wines were generally aromatic, very drinkable, had low alcohol-generally 12-13%- a big positive despite Greece having some very hot areas where protection against the summer heat is possible only through canopy management and North facing slopes are ideal to avoid strong sun. The whites were generally dry with good acidity-they would be good match with Indian fried snacks ranging from samosas to fried fish fingers.

Santorini wines made with Assyrtiko grapes were my hot favourites due to their minerality and being from volcanic soil they reminded me a bit of Etna whites and the steely dry Chablis. This grape is becoming increasing popular and replacing Pinot Grigio, generally a boring and monotonous simple grape-one must get a taste of it whenever there is any opportunity. Even Vidiano was a cheerful wine that is compatible with fish but primarily a great match with aperitifs.

 Skouras Nemea was an impressive red made from 100% Agiorgitiko (ah-yor-yee-ti-co) red grapes and had sweet spicy aromas and a good personality and was easy to drink although I felt it was a bit short at the end. Domaine Skouras Synoro (2008), a single vineyard blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Agiorgitiko was my favourite, partly because it had a rather international flavour-full of black fruit and concentration, juicy end and a charming personality of its own.

The most interesting wine of the evening had to be Pegasus Naoussa 2007. The owner of Chateau Pegasus does not release wines automatically every year but tastes before releasing a vintage. If he thinks it is not ready, he waits another year and skips the release. PDO Naoussa is from Northern Greece and is always made from 100% Xinomavro (ksee-no-mav-roh) grapes. It has mushroom and tomato aromas, ages well and is an elegant wine that needs evolution on the palate. But it was a great value-for-money quality wine that will age well for another 7-10 years.

I did not have time to taste the dessert wines made from Moscato in Samos islands near Turkey. As it is, sweet wines may have little market in India in the near future.

Click For Large ViewIt was rather brave of Kontos to have taken the exploratory journey to India on his own. Most people don’t know that Greek winemaking has a longer history than most wines in the world. Greeks took the grapes to several countries including the neighbouring Italy, by sea. The wines have a unique personality and special character and yet are compatible with the Indian palate. Unfortunately, the prices appear a tad too high for the Indian market, especially if you consider the taxes and compare the post tax prices with a host of similar wines available from other countries, especially the New World wines.

But one thing is for sure. The Greek wines I tasted had a unique and attractive personality and the exploration of the various geographic areas in the evening as I tasted 11 wines, made me yearn to be in Greece again, this time exploring their mountains, beaches, the beautiful islands and the delicious wines, of course.

For more information visit www.aegeanwineselections.gr or www.newwinesofgreece.com (it will take you to a dream journey instantly) contact Gregory Kontos at gregory@aegeanwineselections.gr

Subhash Arora 

List of wines Tasted

Tags: Gregory Kontos, Greece, Greek Islands, PDO, PGI

Comments:

 

Cornelius Wesseling Says:

Please also view graperover.com for a complete picture of 200+ Greek wineries, 150+ Greek grapevarieties, tasting notes, reviews, pairing recipe's, prices and ratailers worldwide.

Posted @ February 28, 2014 14:32

 
       

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