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Greek wines making name for themselves May 16, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Taste World, Wine And Spirits.

Chances are you’re familiar with a few already. They range from bright and food-friendly reds to complex and age-worthy whites and seductive, aromatic roses from Greece.

In fact, pronouncing them might be the only obstacle. “Half the people come in here and say ‘What’s Greek wine, is it good?,'” says Telly Topakas, owner of Parea Wine Bar & Cafe in San Francisco. “They’re choking on it a little, so I’ll say it slowly and break it down for them phonetically, and they get it.”

Allow us. Here are some grapes to say, try, buy, and ultimately, embrace. They’re all vying to be your Next Big Thing. So, if you find a white to rotate with your staple chardonnay, or a new blend for July’s barbecues, we’ve done our good deed. See you on the beach!

Xinomavro > Xinomavro is the king of native red grapes in northern Greece, and means “acid black.” Don’t let that deter you. Whether blended or on its own, Xinomavro can produce wines of great range and character, from a modern, fresh and clean style, even a great rose, to its unmistakably age-worthy and complex characteristics of red fruit, sun-dried tomatoes, Kalamata olives and spices. Greece’s wine renaissance is in full swing, and a new crop of talented winemakers is making it easy to forget the pine nightmare that was Retsina.
Pronounce it > KSEE-no-mav-ro.
Eat it with > Greek salad. It stands up to the olive oil and lemon.
Producers > Kir-Yianni, E. Tsantali, Alpha Estate.
Where to find > Parea Wine Bar & Cafe, 795 Valencia St., S.F., 415-255-2102; Du Vin Fine Wines, 2526 A Santa Clara Ave., Alameda, 510-769-9463.
For fans of > Dry, tannic reds.

Aromatic whites > If you crave medium to full-bodied wines with exotic floral and white fruit aromas yet crisp acidity, the whites of Greece are for you. Assyrtiko hails from the island of Santorini, where the volcanic soil produces wines of body and high acidity. Think juicy wines that can cleanse even the most difficult-to-pair South Asian meal. Malagousia is a rare variety grown mainly in Macedonia; imagine white peaches spritzed with jasmine. Moschofilero, a gray-skinned grape grown in central Peloponnese, has vibrant acidity, violet aromas and makes a superb rose. These are the wines of romantic myths.
Pronounce it > Assyrtiko: a-SEER-tee-ko; Malagousia: mah-lah-gou-ZYA; Moschofilero: mos-ko-FEE-le-ro.
Eat it with > Vegetarian Indian dishes.
Producers > Domaine Gerovassiliou (Malagousia); Ktima Pavlidis (Assyrtiko); Antonopoulos (Moschofilero).
Where to find > Parea, S.F.; Du Vin Fine Wines, Alameda; www.Allaboutgreekwine.com has useful audio pronunciations.
For fans of > Aromatic, exotic whites.

One of the Greek vintages, which are becoming voguish and are drawn from such consonant-heavy, indigenous grapes as moschofilero and xinomavro. Greek wineries are developing modern techniques and modern techniques don’t come cheap. You will be particularly pleased when you have landed to a Greek cabernet sauvignon, Tsantali Mount Athos Agioritiko Avaton, which happens to be the state wine served at the Kremlin.

It’s from Mount Athos, which is an all-male monastic community in Halkidiki peninsula, Northern Greece. Mount Athos is known for its “Avaton” which means no females are allowed to enter. No women are allowed, including many female animals. 

If you ever happen to visit Mount Athos, you will admire several priceless relics on display in the Mount Athos capital of Karyes, including the first founding charter of the autonomous monastic community bearing the signature of Byzantine Emperor Ioannis Tsimiskis, an artifact shown only to dignitaries. You should also tour the Mount Athos Protato Cathedral and the monasteries of Iviron and Stavronikita.

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