The Greeks have one of the longest traditions of wine-making of any civilization out there. They have been producing wine for over 4,000 years, and yet Greek wines as a category remain a mystery to American wine drinkers. But don’t shy away from the unfamiliar; there are great wines (and great values) worth searching out in Greece!
From the Greek Islands to the mainland, the variety of terroir in Greece is astounding. Even more astounding (and head-ache-inducing) are the 300+ grape varietals native to Greece. It’s no wonder that grapes names like Malagousia, Xinomavro, Agiorgitiko, and Roditis haven’t stuck in our memories so easily. Yet these indigenous varietals are part of millennia of wine-making tradition in the region. If any wine region has the experience and wherewithal to know its terroir and produce great wine, it’s Greece.
We’re excited to have a couple new Greek wines on the shelves at the Markets. Swing by for a trip to Greece in your wine glass. (It’s cheaper than a plane ticket!)
2009 Chrisohoou Naoussa Xinomavro – $16.99
Naoussa is the center of wine production in Macedonia, situated just an hours-drive west of the city of Thessaloniki. It’s here that the grape Xinomavro is the star. Greece’s most noble of its red varieties, Xinomavro is widely planted and made in various styles. It’s a typically late-ripening grape with somewhat aggressive tannin, so it often takes a bit of time for wines made from Xinomavro to mellow out and reach their peak. Some often compare Greece’s Xinomavro to Italy’s Nebbiolo, both for its similar flavor notes and its ageability. Chrisohoou is a family-owned estate established in 1978 and today run by the young winemaker, Nana. 2009 is her current release of the Xinomavro from Chrisohoou and we think it’s stunning for the value. Don’t be fooled by its lighter color; it’s lush with full of notes of dark fruit, singed herbs, and mouth-coating tannin. This would be perfect with grilled lamb chops and eggplant!
(Available only at Bi-Rite Market 18th Street.)
Yiannis Boutaris founded Kir-Yianni winery in 1997, when he broke away from his family’s Boutaris wine brand, a large wine producer in Greece. Today he is the mayor of Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city located in the region of Macedonia, and his son, Stellios Boutaris, has taken over the operation at Kir-Yianni. Stellios is focused on producing wines of character using grapes native to the region. The Petra is made from the indigenous grape Roditis blended with a small percentage of Malagousia. Roditis is a lightly pink-skinned grape that can produce lovely whites and roses from hot climates like Naoussa in Macedonia. We find it reminiscent of Muscadet from the south of France. It’s light in texture with briney minerally notes and hints of pine, herbs, and lemon zest. Mouthwatering acidity on the finish make this an easy pairing with seafood dishes like simple grilled octopus with lemon!
(Available at both Markets.)
Vaeni is one of the world’s greatest wine co-ops, on par with famous names like Produttori di Barbaresco or La Chablisienne. As we mentioned earlier with the Chrisohoou, Xinomavro needs some time in barrels and bottle to let the acidity and tannins come to a balance. The Vaeni Grande Reserve is aged for a minimum of five years in wood and another four years in barrels before release. The additional aging gives the wine an added weight, depth, and complexity that add up to greatness. With all the time spent on aging the Xinomavro, Vaeni’s Grande Reserve is surprisingly affordable. We dare you find any Nebbiolo that is as complex as this wine, even at twice the price.
(Available only at Bi-Rite Divisadero.)
18th Hour Cafe – Thursdays, 6-9PM – Drop-In – At 18 Reasons
Spirit Tasting with Barr Hill – Saturday, July 26th, 1-3PM – At Bi-Rite Divisadero
Wine Tasting with Christian Adams from Rudi Wiest Selections – Sunday, July 27th, 12-2PM – At Bi-Rite Divisadero
Beer Workshop: Hops – Tuesday, July 29th, 7-9PM – At 18 Reasons
Don’t hesitate to call us with any questions or special requests (415.241.9760 for 18th St. or 415.551.7900 for Divis) or email email@example.com.
Matt Rupert and the Wine and Cheese Team