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Some very lovely Greek wines April 16, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Wine And Spirits.

As Aristotle lay dying, the story goes, his disciples asked him to anoint a successor. In his gentle way, the philosopher asked for flagons of wine from the Greek islands of Rhodes and Lesbos. He tasted both, and said: “Without any disparagement to that from Rhodes, I think the Lesbian wine is most delicate.” And so his pupil from Lesbos won the post.

The Greeks have been making wine for at least 3,600 years. For a few centuries, there was one little glitch: Winemakers tended to seal the tops of the amphorae, the ceramic jugs that held their wares, with pine resin. It made the wine taste like Lysol.  Luckily, the retsina fad peaked in the 1960s, and most Greek wines today are resin-free.

What’s better, Greek vineyard owners have largely resisted the economic pressure to tear out native vines and replace them with merlot, chardonnay and other international grapes in order to boost exports. They go on happily growing grapes with names like agiorgitiko, assyritiko, athiri, moschofilero, roditis and xynomavro. Some of them make lovely wines.

The white table wine made of the moschofilero grape by Boutari Winery is delicate, even gentle, relatively low in alcohol at 11.5 percent, with flavors of key limes and kiwi and a tiny hint of sweetness. A marvelous aperitif wine.

The crisp, minerally white wine called Santorini, made on the beautiful Aegean island of the same name from the assyritiko grape, is touted for serving with grilled octopus and Asia Minor-style hummus. It’s the best-selling wine in Greece.

Other grapes come from Macedonia on the north, the town Naoussa on the island of Paros; and Mantinia on the mainland.

The wines listed here are readily available in better wine shops. If you want to drink them in the manner of the ancient Greeks, leave them to the final half of the evening meal, the part called the symposion. Bring in three kratirs, or bowls, of wine, and make sure each guest gets an equal amount.

In Greek literature, in a play by Euboulos, the ceremony is described by the wine god Dionysos: The first bowl is for health, the second for love and pleasure, the third for sleep. Works for me.

2005 Boutari Moschofilero Dry White Wine, Mantinia Region, Greece (moschofilero grape): aromas and flavors of flowers, Key limes, kiwi; light-bodied, gentle, tiny hint of sweetness.

2005 Boutari Santorini Dry White Wine (assyritiko grape, island of Santorini): tart lime and mineral flavors; very crisp; medium body.

2001 Boutari Grande Reserve, Appellation of Origin Naoussa (xinomavro grape): red berry and bitter almond flavors; light body; crisp.

2003 Boutari Evinos, regional wine of Macedonia (xinomavro, merlot): red berries and cinnamon; light body; crisp.

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