Ontario Misses Out On Greek Wines

(TORONTO, ON) – For most wine producing countries, we only receive what the LCBO bureaucracy deems worthy. If there was a privatized liquor distribution system in Ontario I am sure we would witness an explosion of Greek wines and many other wines from diverse countries in the marketplace.

I have an upcoming trip to Greece for over a month coming up and I intend to probe as far as I can into Greek wines, because what I am getting here in Ontario is but a pathetic dribble.

In years past I rated the Lazaridi Amethystos 2012 a 92, so let’s move on to 2014 vintage.

In colour, very black cherry. On the nose, gigantically approachable as a warm, inviting, and smooth wine. At the risk of being mundane, a very Mediterranean wine that takes me to southern France. Rustic may be word I am looking for, but cheap n cheerful it isn’t.

Amethystos-wineOn the palate, moderate tannins which seem to gain intensity as the wine opens up. Charcoal, dark chocolate, blackberry, blueberry, and mountain herbs. Moderate finish.

Given the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in addition to the Agiorgitko, I can almost surmise this has been developed for the New World market. I see on the label Michel Rolland of France is a consultant on this wine and his reputation is for saleability. He is a master blender loved by many. However, he is equally distrusted.

Rolland’s blended wines emphasize drinkability for the supermarket crowd of buyers seeking wines that give immediate pleasure rather than emphasizing local terroir.

This one is a friendly and approachable wine, rather completely in opposition to the quirky Xinomavro, so widely trumpeted by the wine press as Greece’s gift from the wine Gods.

Not to make erroneous comparisons, but this wine reminds we very much like a regional Lisboan wine from Portugal, more than willing to add internationally recognized grapes to indigenous varieties. The results are very agreeable.

It also reminds me of the super Tuscans from Italy, which were reduced to a low categorization under Italian wine laws because they added international grapes to their indigenous blends. But these super Tuscans became venerated worldwide as wine superstars.

Excellent with Greek Roz Bif or with stuffed vegetables or even with Souvlaki. This will improve and be drinkable until 2022.

(Domaine Costa Lazaridi Amethystos Rouge 2014, PGI Drama, Domaine Costa Lazardi, Adriani, Greece, $24.95, 14%, 750 mL, LCBO #724831, Square Media Group Rating 90/100)

Again we mix a Greek grape, Assyrtiko, with the world renowned Sauvignon Blanc. Assyrtiko is akin to a Chablis, if you ask me, with its acidity and minerality. It has been brought to prominence as the main grape on the Greek island of Santorini, but this version comes from Drama in northern Greece.

It has a light gold colour. On the nose, there are elements of both grapes that are detectable, but none wins the battle for prominence. Loads of minerality with notes of gravel, lime, guava, and pine nuts.

On the palate, the acidity of both grapes is muted. But, make no mistake, the acidity seems ready to bounce like a jaguar. It is steely and austere.

The finish is short. There is melon, pineapple, and lime. This is a wine of sensation rather than identifiable fruit.

A tremendous match for simply prepared Greek seafood, particularly whole grilled fish with a green salad. For vegetarians a Swiss Chard and cremini mushroom lasagna might do the trick.

The wine is not a great sipper and demands food, as does Chablis. An equal to Chablis with Malpeque oysters with their iodine and brine. And for the price, a better bargain.

I would say this wine will last until 2019, but will not improve with age.

(Thema 2015, PGI Drama, Ktima Pavlidis, Drama, Greece, $18.95, 13%, LCBO #178442, 750 mL, Square Media Group Rating 85/100)

To be fair, I note that Susan Kostrzewa of The Wine Enthusiast rated this a 92. In the category of French and Portuguese wines rated by Roger Voss of The Wine Enthusiast, our scores are identical most of the time. Susan and I must have different taste buds.

I do not rate wine in conjunction with food. I rate what is in the glass before me. If I were to rate the wine with a plate of Greek seafood, and looking out at the Ionian Sea, I might just agree with a 92 rating.

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About the Author

Robert Stephen (CSW)
Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC. Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he loves The Square. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write." Email Robert Stephen