Robert Parker raves about Greek whites from Santorini

Greek wine is all the buzz in a recent article in Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate.  On this best of 2017 overview, the Wine Advocate reviewer, Mark Squires, highlights old vine Assyrtiko.

A wine grape indigenous to the island of Santorini, Assyrtiko thrives in the island’s arid climate and rich volcanic soil. Assyrtiko grapes have been made into wine for centuries on Santorini, but if you’re used to seeing the usual rows of neat vines as in Napa, you’ll miss them in Santorini.  The vines have to be trained to grow in a circular basket to protect them from strong winds blowing off the Aegean Sea and the strong summer sun.  The baskets both protect the grapes and retain moisture.  Assyrtiko wines are known for their distinctive crisp flavor that is made for seafood with lots of lemon.  In fact, you’ll love Assyrtiko with any dish asking for lemon.

In his review, Squires comments on the deep layered, mineral flavors of this white wine and highlights the diversity of the grape in his selections. He starts with a pick from a Santorini benchmark wine producer. He then chooses a ripened bold version, and his last choice even includes an Assyrtiko that is oaked.  Most Assyrtiko wines are fermented in stainless steel tanks and then bottled.

The review finishes its Greek wine selections with three more whites, which include a 90-point blend of Monemvasia and Aidani, two other grapes native to Greece. Squires mentions a Moschofilero, a lighter styled, more aromatic wine than Assyrtiko.  The review includes a positive review of wine made from the Moschofilero grape, noting that the grape does well after spending time in oak.   Finally, a Malvasia from Crete is called “a perennial favorite – and overachiever.”

The specifics are found in the article and I would grab one for drinking fresh and one for decanting. Yes, Squires details an urge to decant these mineral-rich whites. A side-by-side tasking of bottle fresh and decanted would be a great weekend or afternoon project. Either way, it’s safe to say this and other Greek white wines are generating the most buzz from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate.

The Real Scoop on Greek Wines

Take’s advice that wine cannot be separated from Greece. After all, Greece is home to the second-oldest grape wine remnants discovered, and boasts the world’s earliest evidence of crushed grapes. Its wine-making roots trace back over 6,500 years. In fact, Greece established part of Italy as a vineyard, naming one Italian peninsula “land of vines”; Greece may also have introduced viticulture to both Spain and Portugal.

While Greek wines can be hard to pronounce, the work is worth it. Since Greeks still believe that wine and food should go together, Greek wines are specifically made to pair magnificently with food. They are relatively low in alcohol with crisp acidity, which makes them a perfect pairing for a wide range of cuisines. Choose a Greek wine you like, and take a sip of history.

For Evan Turner, sommelier and self-proclaimed “Greek food and wine crusader,” Greek wine runs in his blood. Here are five Greek grape varietals he believes you will want to know about: The Real Scoop on Greek Wines.

Eight Greek wine regions to sample

For thousands of years, wine has been an essential part of Greek culture. Historians estimate that Greece began creating wine around 4,500 BC, making it one of the first places in the world to produce the drink. Today, Greece has eight unique wine regions, each of which is well-respected by critics around the world.

Many people believe that to get the full Greek wine experience, you must travel to Greece and visit the vineyards where the wine originates. An easier place to start is your local wine shop. Look for wine from each of the eight major regions: The Aegean Islands, Central Greece, Crete, Epirus, the Ionian Islands, Macedonia, Peloponnese and Thessaly. This will give you a broad overview of the flavors and aromas you can expect to find in Greek wine.

Once you have acquainted yourself with the basics of Greek wine, you will find that there are countless varieties to explore. There are currently more than 300 varietals of wine being produced in Greece, making it one of the most diverse wine countries in the world. Once you enter the world of Greek wine, you could spend years exploring it. Greek wine is as satisfying as it is diverse, however, and it is worth every minute of exploration.

Learn more about some of the top Greek wine varieties.

“It’s all Greek wine to me.”

Greece is so rich in native wine varieties that trying to figure out the way they’re classified can be tough, almost like learning Greek – but absolutely worth the effort. If you’ve never had a Xinomavro with your steak or poured Assyrtiko for guests, then learning the basics of the Greek system is your first step to a whole new world of delicious wines.

Here’s what you need to know, so get your notebooks out:

Greek wine, like all wine produced in the EU, is basically divided into Protected Designation of Origin wines, Protected Geographical Indication wines and Table wines.

The European Union, by means of wine legislation, has decided, among others, to include wines in the framework applicable to all other agricultural products, thus establishing the following wine categories:

(You may want to open a bottle of wine for this next part.)

Protected Designation of Origin Wines
“PDO products” bear a “Protected Designation of Origin” indication. This wine category comprises Greek wines bearing a Designation of Origin (VQPRD), in other words, all  AOQS and AOC wines. Quality Wines are strictly controlled and monitored for authenticity, so if you’re having your boss over for dinner or meeting the in-laws, this might be the bottle you go for.

Protected Geographical Indication Wines
You’ll often see “PGI” on these bottles, which are split into two categories. The first is Regional Wines (or Vins de Pays). These wines are more commonly found than Quality Wines, but that doesn’t always mean “lower” quality – for instance, this is where you will find the fine international wines. This category comprises all Regional Wines (or Vins de Pays) and any of the wines of “Traditional Designation” (or Appellation Traditionelle) which, simultaneously, have an established geographical indication i.e., Verdea and 15 retsinas (PGI wines of Greece.)

(There’s more. Time to pour a second glass.)

Varietal Wines
Varietal wines are a new wine category which includes those table wines complying with all the necessary prerequisites and controls as those are stipulated in the relevant EU legislation. In contrast to ordinary table wines, wines of this wine category are entitled to bear an indication of their vintage year and varietal composition but not of their geographical indication.

Table Wines
“Ordinary” table wines belong to a wine category which includes all wines which are neither PDO nor PGI but, in addition, are not in the wine varietals category either. The regulation stipulates that table wines in this wine category are still not entitled to display their vintage year or the varieties participating in their composition. Because in this case the regulations aren’t as strict as in the case of PDO and PGI wines, many winemakers take this as an opportunity to experiment. You ‘ll find some creative blends here, as well as the standard table and restaurant –quality offerings that are perfect for a big gathering or a casual get-together.

As with all wine classification systems, there’s much more to learn about Greek wine if you’re interested: Wine Categories

There’s no test but you may want to open your second bottle and say, “It’s all Greek wine to me.”

How about a wine from the 3rd Century BC?

Imagine how you’d impress your friends if you could serve a wine from its origins on the island of Crete more than 2,000 years ago. Interesting? Yes, but for taste, we recommend something a bit more modern. As written by Homer, the ancient Greeks traded their wines throughout the world inside sealed amphorae. As each city-state used a different style of amphorae, the largest wine centers in ancient Greece can be determined today from these archaeological remnants. Continue reading How about a wine from the 3rd Century BC?

Wine as a Way of Life

Ask a Greek what life is like in Greece and you’ll hear them talk about the sun, sea, food, wine, culture and history.  Ask a tourist about their trip to Greece and they’ll tell you the same. These are the components of Greek life and wine appears in every facet.  It’s no wonder with a wine culture that goes back 3,500 years that Greeks have built a social structure of which wine is an integral part. Continue reading Wine as a Way of Life