Tuesday, March 25, 2008
A few weeks ago, Mario of the PMW tasting group selected a theme, told us nothing, and selected eight wines for us to run through and discuss. Unfortunately, I could not help but notice one of the wine's turquoise capsules poking out of the bag. Without so much as a sniff, I had a fairly strong hunch what we would be tasting. My first job in the business was selling wines imported from this country, and even though it has been four years since I have regularly tasted these wines, they have left their indelible mark on my palate and career trajectory in the wine business. So while I knew what the theme of the evening would be, and was feeling nostalgic for my years working for a fledgling import company, I of course kept my mouth shut. It would be fun, I thought, to see how many wines I could guess, as there is still a fairly small number of wines imported from this country into the states. Well, fellas, we were to be tasting the wines from Hellas (ok, that's Greece to us Americans).
FLIGHT 1, THE WHITES
Tselepos Moschofilero Mantinia 2006
I nailed this one. As well I should have - I used to rep the wine and it is very distinctive. Mantinia is an appellation situated on a moderately high plateau in the Peloponessos (southern Greece). In Tselepos' hands, the wine is simultaneously aromatic, floral, tense and nervy. White peach, tarragon-chervil notes on the nose lead to a crisp palate that lacks a bit in the middle, but is super clean and finishes well. It's like a Greek answer to the ubiquitous (and, I would say, fairly well done) Crios Torrontes, but less fruity, drier, and more mineral.
Moraiti Sillogi Moraiti Paros 2006
An interesting organic, Macedonian blend of the fleshy, Viognier like Malagousia and the more chalky, tensely structured Assyrtiko. I guessed that this was another Peloponnesian specialty, Roditis, given the mineral and citrus character. I was also thinking maybe Santorini, but it didn't have the explosive minerality.
Sigalas Santorini 2006
A top producer, though I still prefer Argyros, whose Santorini wines I find to be cleaner, more crystalline and simply better. Not to slight the Sigalas rendition, though, which is still chalky, fresh, and perhaps a bit more aromatically expressive and melon inflected. Maybe there is more Athiri and Aidani added to this wine, which adds some heft to the leaner Assyrtiko.
Kir-Yiann Petra 2006
Formerly known as Samaropetra. As a five syllable, white Greek field blend of Roditis, Gewurz and a few others, this wine surprisingly never sold well for me. Now the name has been shortened, and it consists of 100% chardonnay (??). Or so I was told. It was fresh and clean enough, with fleshy stone fruit and good persistence. Yeah, I suppose unoaked chard would make sense given how the wine tasted.
FLIGHT 2, THE REDS
Tselepos Agiorghitiko Nemea 2005
As much as I liked his Mantinia, I did not much care for this 100% Agiorghitiko wine. It was a correct wine. Fruit was just dark enough, the French oak elevage just the right time to appeal to critics. A real boring wine though, and a shame, as I'd love to see what could be done with his grapes vinified and aged in concrete, or inox.
Chateau Halaftis Athanassiadi Nemea 2005
Now this one went to the other extreme. Our previous wine was reductive, oaky and contrived in a new school sort of way. This example of aghiortiko was a bit rancio, not at all fresh, thin and astringent on the finish.
Kir-Yianni Ramnista Naoussa 2003
Yes, a return to good wine! Though this was a bit more generous, ripe and fruity than usual (leading me to think that it was a xinomavro based blend with international varietals thrown in). The funky, red fruited nose, though, and pure red berry fruits on the palate, with dry finishing tannins, screams Naoussa. This is what they drink in the Macedonian region of Greece, with lamb. Think Nebbiolo, with a bit more rusticity but every bit as much character and very similar tannin structure.
Dalamaras Paliokalias Naoussa 2004
More of a dark fruited, black cherry nose led to darker fruits on the palate as well, with great acidity and very dry tannins. I like this one quite a bit - should be interesting to re-visit in five years. I later learned that this bottling is produced from 40-60 year old, organically farmed xinomavro vines. At $35 it's not cheap, but it shows the enormous potential of xinomavro based wines - which appear to only be getting better with each successive vintage.