A Wine Tasting of Myth and Legend
So the other day I was lucky enough to be included in a tasting of wonderful Greek wines at Taste of the Valleys one of my fave wine bars in Pismo Beach and put on by FreshBuzzMedia and Old World Vines. We tasted around 9 wines both whites and reds. What was most exciting to me about this experience was that the owner Michael was there and provided wonderful historical information about the wines, vines and regions both Naoussa in Greek Macedonia and Porto Carras.
We started with the whites from Domaine Porto Carras a historical vineyard located in the most famous resort area of Porto Carras and is located on the western side of Sithonia, Halkidiki. The vineyard was planted in the 1960s and the wines produced retain the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) Slopes of Meliton identification. Today the vineyard is held as a standard of modern organic grape-growing. After the vineyard matured the famous French oenologist and wine-maker Emile Peynaud,who revolutionized wine making and is considered the “forefather of modern oenology” was brought in to cultivate it. He propagated one of the first Greek Cabernet Sauvignons’ which garnered great international success because of the limestone shale soils the vineyard provided. This region produces 27 different grape varietals 2 of which we tried, the Assyrtiko and Athiri as well as a Pinot Grigio from Slovenia (more on that later).
The Assyrtiko pronounced:A SEER-tee-ko, is one of the most iconic ancient grape varietals in Greece and is now planted on the slopes of Mount Meliton, but originated on the island of Santorini. This 2013 Assyrtiko is made using the “skin contact method” or Maceration technique creating an acidic but quite balanced wine and produces a flavor profile of tart crisp green apples, with an earthy minerality that is almost forest floor like. Assyrtiko is often blended with Athiri to create the more commonly recognized but notoriously known Greek wine Retsina.
We moved on to the Athiri, pronounced: ah-THEE-ree and is the “modern name for Theriaki, an ancient grape variety appearing in many historical, wine-related documents”. It is considered the Jurassic Park of vines being the 4th oldest varietal in the world and grows a root structure that reaches down as far as 60-70 feet. This varietal produces a golden-green, medium-sized grape that offers a lower alcohol content but is high in acid. The vines like the Assyrtiko originated on Santorini and there is a school of thought that its modern name came from the ancient word for Santorini “Thira”. This is a steel fermented wine that also used the “skin contact method” leaving it for just a few hours, and there are only 30,000 bottles produced by the winery.
The last white we tasted, a 2011 Kuplijen Joze-Jeruzalem Sivi Pinot Gris was from Ljutomer – Ormož in north-east Slovenia. It is a traditionally family run winery and vineyard that traces back to 1836. The terrior boasting this wine is famous for producing wines that can age an unusually long time, in fact they say the whites can age 5-10 years, allowing for a layer opening experience over time. This is a very tasty wine and Doug’s favorite of the whites. It is dry and offers a minerality reminiscent of river rock and slate with apple and citrus notes.
Now we are on to the reds. We had several from Domaine Porto Carras so we will start there. The first wine is historically relevant and that really got me excited about trying it. The Limnio pronounced: leem-NYO is so old that Aristotle described the grape as a specialty coming from the Greek island of Limnos. According to Michael, he also claimed it was Plato‘s favorite wine and Homer wrote about it in the Iliad and the Odyssey in 800 B.C.E. Additionally linked to drinking this wine varietal, are Hesiod and Polydeuces. This is possibly the oldest and most ancient red wine varietal and has been used in wine making for millennia. Oz Clarke, an expert in wine and reigning champion of the World Wine Tasting Championship,has said Limnio is
“One of Greece’s most important red vines.”
Though it can only be found in Greece, there isn’t as much growing on Lemnos now. It is considered a great blending wine as well as a single varietal. The 2011 Porto Carras Limnio is ruby-red, light to medium bodied and herbaceous (Aristotle mentioned oregano but now a days it’s more like bay leaves), bringing in blackberries, cherries, and hints of black pepper with a slight minerality to round it out. The wine is aged for about a year in oak barrels and the tannins are moderate as is the acid. For me trying to compare it to another wine varietal is an exercise in futility, as it is so unique it is incomparable.
The 2005 Chateau Porto Carras is a blend of 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Cab Franc, 20% Merlot, and 10% Limnio. This was my friend’s favorite one and it is a very layered and interesting wine. It is aged in French oak barrels for 24 months and then in bottles for 1 year. The color is rich and deep purple showing black berry fruits and oak leading to a long, smooth finish. You could age this wine for 25+ years, that is if you can wait that long to drink it.
Making our way to the 2 Naoussa wines and the only varietal allowed to be grown under the Naousa appellation and given the PDO, Xinomavro or Xynomavro pronounced: ksee-NO-ma-vro /XEE-noh-MAH-VROH which means “acid-black”. The 2008 Vanei Xinomavro has been cultivated there for hundreds of years and is grown on the southeastern slopes of Mount Vermion. It’s a dry red wine, that is aged in French oak barrels for one year imparting wood and spice notes, and then 6 more months in the bottle.
Following that up was the 2006 Naoussa Grande Reserve a classic Greek red wine, it is garnet in color and from selected vineyards. Extraction lasts for 5-6 days and it is then aged for two years in French oak barrels, and an additional two years in the bottle. The production is only 25,000 bottles, and can be aged for another 3-5 years. This wine should be decanted and served at cellar temperature for the best overall experience.
The final wine was eye-catching because the bottle is so unique and sexy which makes sense since, Amphorae is a type of specially shaped container used in ancient times to transport wine. The Erzetic 2008 Rdeče Amfora is from Slovenia, and borders northeastern Italy. The blend is 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Merlot, and aged for 15 months in mixed French oak. It is then aged again for 1 year in an immense 7’ Georgian clay amphora that is partially submerged in the cellar floor. The resulting wine is a deep ruby-red, with notes of red fruits, vanilla and spices. It’s a full-bodied wine with a rich mouth feel and nice tannins. This fine fella can age another 5-7 years and can stand up to a nice, juicy steak.
You can taste some of these great wines and more this upcoming weekend at Sunset’s Savor the Central Coast. You can find out about the activities and events going on at Savor by clicking this link and purchasing tickets here. I’ll be there tweeting and Instagraming away so be sure to say “hi” and check in on our feeds.
There were many ships carrying wine brought from Lemnos, sent by Euneos, Jason’s son, whom Hypsipyle bore to that leader of men ~ Homer
Stin iyia mas!!!
Awesome upcoming events: Savor the Central Coast 9/25-28/14, Morro Bay Harbor Festival 10/4-5/14, Harvest Wine Weekend 10/17-19/14, 68th Annual Pismo Beach Clam Festival 10/17-19/14 Bubbly Fest 10/24-26/14, Paderewski Music Festival 11/6-9/14, Harvest on the Coast 11/7-9/14, Wine Tourism Conference 11/12 – 14/14, Winter WonderSLO 12/19/14-1/4/15