Sunday, March 22, 2015

Greek Wines: Surprisingly Delicious and Affordable

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Okay, I don’t have a ton of experience tasting Greek wine. There are a couple reasons for this: I haven’t visited the country; the labels are confusing and plastered with words I can’t pronounce; and I don’t come across many Greek bottles here in the States.

But I’ve been missing out.

I recently tasted through six Greek wines and found lots to like. I’m especially intrigued by the unique flavor profiles and food-friendly approach of wines made from the indigenous red grape, Agiorgitiko. For my palate, the wines from Claudia Papayianni stole the show, especially the Viognier-Assyrtiko blend, which would be killer with all sorts of seafood.

These Greek selections come from Stellar Imports, and they were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2013 Claudia Papayianni Viognier/Assyrtiko - Greece, Macedonia, Chalkidiki
SRP: $25
Light gold color. Hugely aromatic, popping with lime, lemon and grapefruit zest, mix in some lemon oil, honey and wildflowers. Zesty and tangy on the palate, with mouth-tingling acid, but also some richness to the body. Lime and lemon mixes with white peach and apricot fruit. Laced with dandelion, white tea and margarita with salt. Some interesting pith, wax and nutty elements that evolve with air. Not your average hot weather quaffer, this is complex and possibly has more to show in the cellar. I’m quite surprised by how damn fine I find this wine. A 50/50 blend of Viognier and Assyrtiko that harnesses the best of both varieties in a bright but tropical mix. (90 points)

2014 Palivou Estate Vissino Rosé - Greece, Peloponnisos, Nemea
SRP: $17
Vibrant light ruby color. Smells like candied apple, strawberry jam, mixed with roses and rhubarb. Palate shows moderate acid on a medium-bodied frame. Red apple peel, grapefruit and wild strawberry mixed together, the wine also has an airy sense of hay, wildflowers and sea breeze. White pepper spice and sea salt notes linger on the finish. A crisp, fun, delightful blend of 90% Agiorgitiko, 10% Syrah. (86 points)

2013 Nasiakos Agiorgitiko - Greece, Peloponnisos, Nemea
SRP: $17
Bright red cherries and currants on the nose with roses and smoke, a Beaujolais-like element of granite and violets. Fresh and bright, a medium-bodied wine with some balanced acid. Juicy red cherry and currant fruit, even some fresh watermelon flavors, along with hints of red licorice, cinnamon and light roast coffee, which add a slight level of complexity. A drink-me-know approach, this begs for a sunny bistro and some tapas. (85 points)

2011 Nasiakos Agiorgitiko - Greece, Peloponnisos, Nemea
SRP: $19
Deep ruby color. Black and red cherries and some currants on the nose, along with smoke, rose hips and smashed rocks. Palate shows lots of vibrant acidity, smoothing out the dusty tannic structure and making the wine bright and easy to drink. Flavors of currants, cherries and berries, red and black equally divided. A very zesty wine with notes of balsamic, green olive and black pepper glaze. Interesting smoke, cedar and hazelnut notes on the finish. (86 points)

2012 Palivou Estate Single Vineyard Selection - Greece, Peloponnisos, Nemea
SRP: $25
Medium ruby color. I get aromas of cherries, but kind of like they’ve been left out in the sun a bit, along with some red currant jam, violets and roses. With time, some pretty loamy and rocky aromas come out. On the palate, fine tannins and refreshing acidity, a clean and fresh wine but some moderate structure. Bright red cherries and raspberry fruits are matched with notes of hazelnut, cedar and vanilla. Accents of granite and dusty soil linger on the finish. Drink in the near term. Made from Agiorgitiko. (87 points)

2008 Claudia Papayianni Chalkidiki - Greece, Macedonia, Chalkidiki
SRP: $25
Medium ruby color. These aromas are interesting things: wild raspberries and strawberries (throw the leaves in, too), notes of pickle, white pepper and roses, some underlying mushroom and tobacco. High acid on the palate, the tannins have been toned down a bit but still sport a fine-dusty structure. The acid tears across this wine, cutting through the tart wild red berries. I like the complex notes of tobacco, oregano, garlic and white pepper. I also get a sense of wet earth, moss and downed trees from this wine, a damp forest of goodness. A nerdy, interesting, but ultimately food-friendly wine that make a great ringer in a blind tasting. Not a ton of structure for long cellaring, but it is drinking just fine right now. 50% Xinomavro, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Syrah. (89 points)

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