Beyond Retsina: Greek Wines Come of Age

Over the past few years I have had the pleasure of discovering the diversity and versatility of Greek wines. Winemaking in Greece dates back almost three thousand years. The ancient Greeks even had a God of Wine, Dionysus.

Despite this, Greece remains unknown to many wine drinkers, and is rarely top of mind when considering which wine to buy. While climatically Mediterranean, Greece is in fact eighty percent mountainous, many snow-capped all year round. It is this dramatic topography, and alternation of land and sea that enables Greece to produce both full bodied red wines as well as refreshingly crisp whites.

More on these wines, plus notes on pairing, where to buy, and more information on buying wine through the internet, below...

Greece is home to about 200 indigenous grape varieties, with which over the past fifteen years, quality focused, passionate winemakers have been transforming the image of Greek wines. Today, I am going to focus on a few top quality and interesting white varieties and wines.

Assyrtiko (A-seer-tee-ko): From the volcanic island of Santorini and produces crisp, bone-dry wines with citrussy aromas, and earthy, mineral notes. Moschophilero (Mos-ko-fee-le-ro): Distinctly aromatic variety from Mantinia in the Peloponnese, (Gewürztraminer meets Sauvignon Blanc). Wines are refreshing with floral notes of roses and violets and hints of spice. Robolo (ro-bo-lo): From Cephalonia, yielding distinguished wines with citrus and peach aromas and smoky, mineral notes. Somewhat reminiscent of
Viognier.

So, what kinds of wines can you find out there? Here are some suggestions, from wines that I have recently tasted, and which are incredibly food-friendly.

• 2006 Kallisto, Mercouri Estate, Made from a blend of Assyrtiko and Riobolla Gialla. Refreshing with crisp acidity, minerally, with lemony-lime aromas and flavors, and spicy notes on the finish. $15
• 2006 Notious, Gaia Estate: 50% Moschofilero and 50% Roditis. Elegantly combines the citrus character of Rhoditis with the floral and spicy notes of Moschofilero. $12
• 2006 Domaine Spiropoulos: 100% Moschofilero. Vibrant with pronounced aromas and flavors of violets and roses intertwined with spice and herbal notes. $12
• 2006 Robola, Gentilini 100% Robolo. Striking with intense peach and floral aromas and flavors, with hints of allspice, anise and orange peel. $14

All these wines work really well with Asian as well as Mediterranean dishes. The Kallisto is also wonderful as an aperitif, and the Robolo can even work with meats such as lamb kebabs, moussaka and stuffed vine leaves.

These and many more exciting Greek wines are becoming increasingly available throughout the United States. Some of the most widely distributed producers include Boutari, Tsantali, Skouras, Gaia, Gentilini, Spiropoulos, Sigalas, Tselepos, and Katogi & Strofilia.

Stores that carry a good selection of Greek wines include:

Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PA)
Astor Wines (Manhattan, NY) –
Gotham Wines (Manhattan, NY)
Grand Liquors (Queens, NY)
Winerz.com (Orange, CA)
Total Wine & More (various cities, FL)
Sam’s Wine & Spirits (Chicago, IL)

Direct Shipping
The structure of the wine and spirits industry in the United States is very complex and dates back to the repeal of Prohibition and the 21st Amendment. This gave each state the right to control or restrict the alcoholic beverages trade. This means that each state imposes its own excise taxes and rules governing who can and who cannot buy and sell alcoholic beverages, how they can be sold and so forth. In addition, the 21st Amendment sought to avoid the corruption and marketing abuses within the earlier two-tier system by creating what we have today in the U.S.– the mandatory three tier system–thus separating suppliers from retailers.

Wine distribution law is changing rapidly and profoundly in the U.S. The Direct Shipping Laws have been the focus of much debate and controversy are being challenged as unconstitutional. Twenty years ago, only four states allowed for legal, regulated direct-to-consumer wine shipments. Now, more than 33 states allow such shipments from out of state wineries. Many resources exist to help consumers understand the laws in their state such as http://www.shipcompliant.com, http://www.wineinstitute.org and http://www.freethegrapes.com.

So until next week enjoy some Greek wines.

- Mary

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Faith is the executive editor of The Kitchn and the author of three cookbooks. They include Bakeless Sweets (Spring 2013) as well as The Kitchn's first cookbook, which will be published in Fall 2014. She lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband Mike.