NEW YORK – Greek wine enthusiasts have for many years been aware of the wonderful white wines produced in Greece with their distinct flavors and indigenous grapes for many years. The New York Times recently focused on Greek white wines in an article entitled “Beyond Assyrtiko, Greek Whites Reach for Distinction.” The article by The Times’ wine critic Eric Asimov noted the recent growth in popularity, worldwide, of the Assyrtiko variety, but added that there are many lesser-known, and sometimes confusingly spelled, Greek white wines to enjoy. Among the varieties mentioned are “moschofilero, roditis and savatiano, to say nothing of athiri, robola and malagousia. Or is that malagouzia?” the Times reported.
Asimov and The Times’ food critic Florence Fabricant held a Greek white wine tasting with their guests Matthew Conway, general manager and beverage director of Marc Forgione in TriBeCa, and Joe Robitaille, head sommelier at Bar Boulud and Boulud Sud in Manhattan. What first impressed Asimov the most was how easy it was to find the Greek wines in Manhattan. He wrote, “Years ago, gathering a variety of Greek whites required visiting specialty shops in Greek neighborhoods, like Astoria in Queens. Now, they are carried in fine wine shops all over. Our tasting coordinator, Bernard Kirsch, was easily able to accumulate 20 bottles without the once-marathon legwork.”
In the tasting, the experts excluded wines that were made with international grape varieties like chardonnay which can be found almost anywhere and often have a “generic” taste. They were looking for the distinct flavors that make Greek wines unique, but also pointed out that modern winemaking techniques can often result in generic tasting wines regardless of the grape variety. Asimov wrote, “Wines like these are sound, refreshing and flawless, unless you consider boring and nondescript to be flaws. They could easily stand in for the pinot grigio at the corner bar.”
About half of the wines included in the tasting fell into this category, drinkable, but not very distinct from other white wines from the Mediterranean or other wine-producing regions of the world.
The excellent value of the wines was also noted in the article, “None of the wines in our top 10 cost more than $24, and six of them were $20 and under,” Asimov wrote.
Their top choice was “the 2017 Hoof & Lur from Troupis [$20], made from moschofilero grapes grown in Mantinia,” the Times reported, adding that “this was a lively, balanced, deliciously herbal wine with citrus flavors.”
Next on their list was “the 2017 Terra Ambera from Manolis Garalis on Lemnos [$22], a volcanic island in the Aegean, was dry, perfumed and floral,” which “is made from the ancient muscat of Alexandria grape, which is found all over the Mediterranean,” the Times reported.
“Our third wine was the 2016 Theon Dora from Giannis Stilianou in Crete [$24], crisp, fresh and minty,” Asimov wrote, adding that “it was a particular study in obscurity, as it was made from three grapes that were unknown to me: vidiano, thrapsathiri and vilana, all indigenous to Crete.”
Also on the list: Gai’a Nemea Notios 2017 $15 “balanced and clean, with fresh flavors of citrus, herbs and tropical fruits;” Antonopoulos Achaia Malagouzia 2017 $24 “tangy and fresh, with flavors of herbs, citrus and apple; Zafeirakis Tyrnavos Malagousia 2016 $19 “balanced and zesty, with flavors of citrus, herbs and peaches; Orealios Gaea Robola of Cephalonia 2017 $11 “bright and succulent, with flavors of herbs and tropical fruits; and Kouros Patras Roditis 2016 $11 “fresh and distinctive, with savory herbal and earthy mineral flavors,” the Times reported.