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Snooth User: cjelepis

Greek Wine

Posted by cjelepis, Jun 26, 2011.

Our company is called Sonata Wine, and we import wine from all over Greece to the United States. 

Our company's mission is to educate the American wine community about the incredible complexity of the Greek wine world, and why the wines being produced there are a story that must be told.  Though Greek wines have sometimes been negatively stigmatized, the U.S. wine community will be impressed with the superior quality and authenticity of our diverse portfolio.  The portfolio we've built is very different than many other Greek wines coming into the country.  We've targeted the younger generation of Greek winemakers who are making wines much more accessible to the American marketplace.  The wines are from producers in Crete; Santorini; Komotini/Maronia; Naoussa; and Thiva. 

Replies

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Reply by dmcker, Jun 26, 2011.

Sounds good. What can you tell us about the details of particular wines?

Why not start with Santorini, since we had a brief discussion of those wines recently. Than move up Greece all the way to Macedonia with other wines? Lots of detail in your descriptions and stories will tend to get a better response here, I would think...

 

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Reply by cjelepis, Jun 26, 2011.

OK, let's start with Santorini.  First off, the island is breathtakingly beautiful, situated in the Southern Aegean Sea.  Single-story, cubical pure white houses adorn the island, peering out over the blue sea, with black pumice and ash providing the landscape.  The island is actually the remains of an ancient volcanic eruption; this cataclysmic geologic event has led to an incredily unique terroir with a pumice-ash soil structure (phylloxera-free, due to the absence of organic material in the soil) and steep, exposed cliffs that are and exposed to fierce Aegean winds. 

The wines here are made from the white Assyrtiko varietal (at least 75% by law).  The vines are grown close to the ground in a manner more reminiscent of crowns or baskets, and the grapes are grown inside, with the outer "basket" protecting the fruit from the high winds.

Despite a hot growing season and relative aridity, the wine has incredibly crisp tartaric acidity.  The moist sea air of the night deposits salt in the soil and on the vines. The note of salinity on the palate is tasted simultaneously with the sizzling, refreshing acidity of the tartaric acid. The wine seems remarkably solid and dense in the mouth, with strong notes of minerality and lemon.

Our Wine: Thira Estate Santorini


When we first arrived in Santorini, I met the winemaker - Artemis - and his family.  Artemis does not speak much English, and I speak even less Greek, but it was clear that we were to become friends.  His first comments to me - through an interpreter - were disappointment that I'd already booked a hotel room, and was not staying in one of the hotels that he owned.  "THIS," I though, "IS WHY I GOT INTO THE WINE BUSINESS!!!" 

Artemis proceeded to take me to his winery, where tasted the outstanding Santorini (in this case, 100% Assyrtiko), pictured above.  I won't bore you with too many of the technical details (email me at cjelepis@sonatawine.com if you'd like a Tech Sheet); but what I loved about this wine was the purity of the grapes, the clean mineral slate-like character, and the flood of lemon blossom in the mid-palate and finish.

An awesome wine with scallops, grilled octopus, or flaky white fish, this wine has the acidity to age (in reality, Santorini Assyrtikos can go for 15-20 years or more!!!), but also the punch to hold up against white meat or fattier meats. 

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Reply by dmcker, Jun 26, 2011.

Thanks for the response, here and in the other thread (where I posted a longer reply). Looking forward to hearing more!

Cheers

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Reply by dmcker, Jun 26, 2011.

BTW, brief though they are, here are some past Forum threads on Greek wines:

There're a few more, but this'll give you a feel for how skimpy our discussion here has been on Greek wines, up to now....

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Reply by cjelepis, Jun 26, 2011.

Well, before it's all said and done, I'll be adding a heck of a lot more about our entire portfolio of Greek wine!  But I'll start with just Santorini for tonight...

 

Thanks for the support!

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Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Jun 27, 2011.

Wow, and all this happening while I'm on Santorini. Small world!

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Reply by dmcker, Jun 27, 2011.

Another rough job that somebody's gotta do, eh Greg?

Probably crappy views out the window, too. Poor food, bad air. Life sometimes sucks, right?  ;-)

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Reply by Constance Chamberlain, Jun 27, 2011.

Always nice to see some conversation about the Wines from Santorini! Greg, I trust you are enjoying yourself?

I haven't heard of the winery Thira myself, but I'd be interested to taste it. I'm both an avid Assyrtiko lover and a member of the promotional team for the Wines from Santorini (www.winesfromsantorini.com) in the US so it's great to hear other producers on the island are coming forth. Unfortunately, one of the biggest problems for the wines from Santorini is the threat of tourism as more winemaking families are turning their land into places for hotels and restaurants.

A couple other notes on the wines/vines I think are important:Santorini contains of the oldest, if not THE oldest grape vines in the world. The basket vines that were mentioned, or "koulara" as they are called in Greece, are grown onto existing roots and woven as the vine ages. Generally, the vines are clipped from their roots only after 70 years when yields become incredibly small (you can generally count the age of a vine by the number of rings it has, similar to a tree.) However, the original rootstock is still in tack and these are the roots the new vines are grown on to - some of the rootstocks date back quite a few centuries.

As it was mentioned above, a wine labeled "Santorini" must contain 75% or more Assyrtiko by law, with the remaining percentage coming from two other indeginous grapes: Aidani or Athiri. The same percentages are used for another one of the island's classified wines, "Nykteri" which gained its name from a traditional harvesting practice where the wines were harvested at night (many wineries on the island still follow this) when it was cool and pressed within 24 hours. Finally, the sweet Vinsanto (often believed to have originated from Italy which was proven false through EU legislation) must be made from sundried grapes, aged at least 24 months in oak and consist of at least 51% Assyrtiko with the remaining percentage allowed to come from Aidani, Athiri and other local varieties. Vinsanto must have a minimum abv of 9%, though this is generally much lower than what is found on the island. Despite the high sugar levels in Vinsanto, the wines are incredbly balanced due to the high acidity levels in the Assyrtiko and the island's other grapes. The classficiations Santorini, Nykteri and Vinsanto fall under the EU's PDO Santorini and can only be printed on the labels of wines that follow the above regulations.

Undoubtedly, Assyrtiko is the island's star grape and is often referred to as a red grape in white's clothing due to its weight and ageworth tendencies (perfect for food too!) There is a small amount of red wine produced on the island from mavrotragano and mandilaria as well as some international varieties, but most of what we see here in the states is white wine.

Anyone seeking anymore info should definitely check out our website and/or shoot me an emails - would be happy to chat more about it too :)

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Reply by dmcker, Jun 27, 2011.

Good info, vinocc. But that 'red in white's clothing' analogy is more than questionable. Know plenty of riesling, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, chenin blanc, semillon, etc. that can age at least as long... ;-)

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Reply by Constance Chamberlain, Jun 27, 2011.

Thanks for your reply dmcker - those aren't my words or a marketing gimmick- I'm just a believer who's repeating information given to me straight from the winemaking source! makes a lot of sense to me! :) It's more so the weight than the aging ability!

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Reply by Stephen Harvey, Jun 28, 2011.

CJ

I am from Australia and we see very little Greek wine on our shores, which is surprising given the large Greek descendant population we have [third behind English and Italian]

If you had to drink only 5 Greek wines which ones would you recommend and can I get them in Australia?

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Reply by zufrieden, Jun 28, 2011.

Greg, I hope you took a trip to the Profitis Ilias Monastery (You may be Catholic, but then concordance is probably inevitable with the Eastern Chruch) to give thanks for being able to visit Santorini and sample the wonderful Assyrtico wines and dream of fair Atlantis.

;-)

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Reply by cjelepis, Jun 28, 2011.

Stephen,

 

If I had to choose 5 wines only (and that would be very sad if I could only choose 5), I'd choose:

 

1. Xinomavro from Naoussa;

2. Santorini Assyrtiko;

3. Malagousia, preferably from Northern Greece;

4. Syrah-Mandilari blends, particularly from Crete; and

5. maybe Samos Muscat.

 

Keep in mind that Greece has an incredibly diverse and complex topography, with countless indigenous and international grape varietals.  The more you look at what Greece is doing, the more interesting it becomes!

 

I regret that I don't know where to get the wines in Australia, however...

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Reply by Constance Chamberlain, Jun 29, 2011.

Top four regions & grapes:

1. Santorini Assyrtiko

2. Nemea Agiorgitiko

3. Naussa Xinomavro

4. Mantania Moschofilero

5. Samos Muscat

Unfortunately I'm not sure where you could find them in Australia either, but I will ask to see if I can find anymore information.

 

After some research, I just wanted to make one note on the Thira Assyrtiko. This is actually a private lable produced at Santorini's winery cooperative, SantoWines (www.santowines.gr/). This cooperative was formed in an effort to combat the effects of tourism and encourage continuous wine production as they purchase grapes from all the grape growers on the island that do not have their own means to turn those grapes into wine. SantoWines often will create private labels (as you see here) and are held up to exceptionally high quality standards. (Delicious too!)

Just wanted to clarify that as I was unaware at first myself!

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Reply by Constance Chamberlain, Jun 29, 2011.

*Naoussa...how embarassing.

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Reply by zufrieden, Jul 1, 2011.

Many Naoussa (especially if blended with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon) is quite quaffable and ageworthy even when spelled incorrectly.  Perhaps Νάουσα works best and avoids any missteps - not that I pretend to know any modern Greek whatsoever - but that is my own person loss.

Spelling aside, lets hope the vines of Greece - like the people that work them -  survive the current national trauma.  Saving French and German banks and wealthy Greek tax evaders is hardly the same thing and the distinction should be acknowledged.  


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