By Robert K. Stephen (CSW)
(WINDSOR, ON) – The international press seems to have had its fill of Greece and is now setting its sights on Spain as the beginning of the end. The Greek unemployment rate is climbing to 22%, private pensions are being attacked, mouldy oranges are being fed to hospital patients, political extremism seems on the rise and supposedly misery is setting in. Tourists are frightened by exaggerated news reports of riots, tear gas and poor souls self-immolating. Despite the media doom and gloom the Greek spirit lives on and yes the civil unrest is there and is evidence of the Greek passion for life and expression and by no means a failure of Greek society. You see this as a failure? Think of it as a success.
The media has retreated from its view that the collapse of the Greek economy means the end of the civilized world hoping perhaps that the collapse of the Spanish economy makes an equally good substitute. I have no 10 point, 10 year plan to save Greece and the rest of the world, but a good start is to explore and buy Greek wines This often means breaking out of the international rut of tried and true Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc grapes. Greece offers a goldmine of indigenous grapes producing strong alternatives to the same old stuff. Expand your palate and you’ll be doing your palate and the Greeks a big favour, and potentially saving the world economy from collapse.
Now you red wine lovers out there you really must back down in the midst of sweltering summer heat! Give up the reds for July and August and try some Greek whites. Let’s move to a Sauvignon Blanc/Vilana blend from Crete. Crete has a unique culture and is geographically part of Greece but has its own spirit, culture and its own wines. The resistance of the citizens of Crete to the Nazi occupiers in the WWII is legendary. This wine is light gold in colour and has aromas of fresh baked Greek monastery bread, honey, jasmine, cinnamon, ripe apple and Heraklion market smells. Way back in the wine there are faint hints of pineapple and banana. You will note a flinty and slightly rough edge to the wine on the palate making it a perfect foil for grilled pork lightly marinated in frube, lemon and olive oil. Also love the charcoal and brioche on the palate! This is a medium weight wine with some heft and weight. A whopping 75,000 cases were produced and vinified in stainless steel tanks. Just enough acidity to be the ideal outdoor wine sitting in a bucket of ice and the price! Load up on this value packed crassi! $9.95!
(Thalia Mediterra 2011 White, PGI Crete, Mediterra Winery, Heraklion Crete, 12.5%, 750 mL, $9.95, Square Rating 89/100).We are all familiar with Sauvignon Blanc but Vilana? Vilana blends quite well with Sauvignon Blanc cutting the latter’s acidity. It is no wonder considering its fruitiness. The www.greekwinemakers.com website describes Vilana as such;
“Vilana produces fresh, low alcohol wines perfectly suited to quaffing in their region of origin. Despite the appellation, however, Vilana wines can display a wide range of quality. They are prone to oxidize and quality is greatly affected by vineyard elevation, orientation and yields. At its best, Vilana produces Granny Smith fruit on the nose and mouth.”
Yes on another hot summer day in Ontario we move on to a white blend of Assyritko (75%) and Athiri (25%). Medium gold in colour with aromas of honey, almonds, moussaka and gallaktaburiko (Greek custard pastry). To top everything off some peach, orange marmalade and ginger lingers on the nose. On the palate some Fix peach jam, almonds, Greek vanilla on a spoon in cold water and bacon. No wimpy white for sure and exhibits power. Superb balance of sweetness and a touch of bitterness leading to a powerful conclusion. Acidity is completely under control despite the Assyrtiko’s reputation as a grape with high acidity. A long damp peach finish that grows with intensity and fades so very slowly. Greek personality personified! This is no tourist wine to be quickly consumed with the setting summer sun. Has the stuffing to chug through a Canadian winter! I’ll buck convention which says go with Gewurtz and Alsatian Rieslings to pair with Thai and Indian. This would be a marvellous match. If you are wanting to crack this open this summer it is a great sipper and a marvellous accompaniment to either chicken coated with spicy jerk sauce or grilled tofu marinated in ouzo, honey and thyme. (Siglas Agirtiko/Athiri 2010, PDO Santorini, Domaine Siglas SA, Santorini, Greece, 750 mL, 14.2%, $16.95,Square Rating 92/100). 11,000 cases produced. Fermented in stainless steel and no oak. The alcohol content of 14.2% sure doesn’t show in the glass in a flashy way. It is extremely well integrated. Again we go to www.greekwinemakers.com for a description of the Assyrtiko grape;
“This variety is often described as Greece’s best white wine grape. The enthusiasm of those who produce and enjoy wine from Asyrtiko is well-justified, although, in part, the top status of this cultivar results from something of a monopoly that is eroding slowly as increasing numbers of lesser-known white varieties undergo modern vinification. Asyrtiko has the distinction of being a southern Mediterranean white grape that ripens to high acidity. Soil, climate and elevation have significant effects on the outcome of vinification. The Santorini whites in which it plays a dominant role are among the most elegant in Greece.”
Give these Greek whites a try. You will hopefully realize there is more in the wine world than the usual tried and true. The more “different” you know the higher your wine I.Q. will be and that is not a bad thing at all.