Get to know your Red Greek Grape Varieties

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AGIORGITIKO
The most notable variety of Nemea. These wines stand out for their deep rep colour and aromatic complexity. Soft tannins in combination with acidity allow for both fresh, aromatic, young reds and extraordinary ageing reds.

KOTSIFALI
Pale-coloured, Cretan grape, that is a truly Mediterranean variety. Kotsifali has high alcohol content, intense red fruit aromas and moderate acidity. Kotsifali needs a blending partner that can add colour, acidity and tannins, usually Mandilaria.

LIMNIO
An ancient grape variety indigenous to the island of Limnos; first mentioned by Homer. The wines are full of fresh herbs and small-berried fruit aromas, coming across with clarity and intensity. The palate displays moderate tannins, relatively low acidity and moderate-full body.

LIMNIONA
Also Limniona is the rising star of the Greek red grape varieties saved from extinction when only few vines were left. The wines combine extract, concentration, acidity and flavour without leaning towards fatness and volume. Limniona is thought to be originating from Thessaly although it is increasingly found in other regions all over Greece.

KRASSATO
Krassato is the heart of Rapsani, the red dry wine made out of the vineyards of the “godly” Mount Olympus. Krassato yields wines with a deep ruby red colour, a nose full of character, showing leather notes and black, sweet fruits. On the palate they are rich, high in extract, dense in structure, moderate in tannin and relatively high in alcohol. Krassato responds very well to oak aging, especially in top quality new oak barriques.

MAVROUDI
The Mavroudi variety owes its name to the dark, nearly black colour of its berries. This dark colour is also the reason why Mavroudi is used mostly in the production of dark red wines, though they remain rare. Either on its own or as part of a blend, Mavroudi is stamped with such a forceful personality that no oenophile worth his wine can remain indifferent to it.

MANDILARIA
Also known as Amorgiano, mainly cultivated on the islands of Rhodes and Crete. The most deep-coloured variety in Greece with intensity of aromas and flavours. Relatively small bodied but with plenty of acidity and tannin. Therefore, Mandilaria’s role is frequently to act as a colouring agent in many blends.

MAVRODAPHNE
Mainly found in the Pelponnesean regions of Achaia and Ilia (as well as the Ionian Islands). Usually associated with a pale tawny-red, sweet, fortified wine. Silky, fine-grained and faintly tannic; impressive and extraordinarily complex when aged in oak barrels for years, even decades. Very promising dry varietal reds too.

MAVROTRAGANO
Relatively recent discovery, found on the island of Santorini, with deep, dense colour, a concentrated and “old viney” nose, but without a single note of hotness. It is rich on the palate and coated with graceful tannins that can stand up to two years in oak. A rising star.

STAVROTO
Stavroto is cultivated only in the area of Rapsani, central Greece, where together
with Krassato and Ximomavro it yields PDO Rapsani wines. Its resplendent colour is responsible for the ruby red in Rapsani wines while its ostensibly tough tannins soften quickly giving way to those of Xinomavro without, however, relinquishing their hold on its own spicy aromas and taste.

XINOMAVRO
The predominant grape variety in Macedonia, producing wines that rise to prominence with aging. Displays bright red colour, strong tannins, good structure and elegance. Xinomavro displays a complex aromatic character, with red fruits, tomatoes, olives, subtle spice, dried prunes, tobacco and nuts present, accompanied with wood ageing characteristics. Long ageing potential in bottle.

Get to know your White Greek Grape Varieties

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AIDANI
Steely, elegant oral wines, with fresh acidity and round texture. Mainly found in the Cyclades Islands and most commonly used in Santorini blends to round out and soften the structured Assyrtiko grape.

ASSYRTIKO
First cultivated on the AOC Island of Santorini. Firm structure, with fresh and crisp acidity and occasionally high levels of alcohol. Distinctive citrus fruit profile and intense minerality. Aged wines reveal a more solid structure and increased complexity.

ATHIRI
One of the most ancient Greek varieties, originating from the AOC Island of Santorini. Fresh, elegant, fruity wines with moderate to high alcohol, medium-body and soft acidity. Due to its thin skin it produces a very sweet juice, often used to add suppleness and softness to the more angular Assyrtiko.

MALAGOUSIA
Originated in the Nafpaktos region of Western Greece, and is now most commonly found in Macedonia. Intense, complex and idiosyncratic aromatic profile, with ripe peaches and apricots, coupled with hints of fresh green pepper. Moderate acidity, high extract and a full palate. When aged in oak, it shows excellent development and ageing potential.

MOSCHOFILERO
Found within the AOC region of Mantinia, in the Peloponnese. The grapes have grey coloured skins producing wines with intense flowery characters, with an emphasis on rose petal aromas, citrus and fresh fruit. The palate carries fresh flavours and acidity, with medium to low alcohol levels.

MUSCAT OF ALEXANDRIA
Mainly grown on the island of Lemnos but also in northern Greece, Muscat of Alexandria is a variety with a vigorous growth, susceptible to diseases that requires warm climate. The wines have medium to low acidity levels and explosive aromas of ripe grapes, citrus fruits and flowers. It is part of the PDO Lemnos and PDO Muscat of Lemnos designation.

PLYTO
The Cretan Plyto is remarkable case of a variety which was literally snatched away from the verge of extinction. At present, Plyto yields a small number of white wines. Modern irrigation methods in Irakleion’s contemporary vineyards seem not only to have helped this rare grape variety overcome its aversion to droughts but to have enhanced its lemony character and resplendent freshness as well.

ROBOLA
Most notably grown in the mountainous Cephalonia vineyards, producing delicately balanced wines with crisp lemony acidity, minerality and medium body and depth of fruit complexity. Interesting when aged in bottle.

RODITIS
Pink-coloured variety, very popular in Attica and Macedonia, Thessaly and Peloponnese where it is harvested for AOC Patra wines. Produces best results from low-yielding vines on mountainous slopes. The wines contain high levels of fruit -often reminiscent of ripe melon and honey- broad, dense structure on the palate and a refreshing, almost Sauvignon Blanc-like, lemony finish.

VIDIANO
Vidiano is a variety mainly found, in small acreage, around the area of Rethymnon in Crete. It is a white grape variety coming from Crete, used to produce white dry whites, sometimes aged in oak.

Wine List

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Don’t worry too much if you haven’t heard of many (or any!) of these wines before. It’s what Oinofilia is all about – bringing you a selection of great wines from all over Greece, and allowing you to try as many of them as you want in one place.

If you do want to get your eye in a little earlier, though, here’s the list for the day.

ARGYROS ESTATE
Atlantis white 2016
Santorini Argyros Assyrtiko
Estate Argyros Assyrtiko
Vinsanto 4 years barrel aged

GENTILINI
Gentilini Notes White
Gentilini Robola of Cephalonia
Gentilini Eclipse
Gentilini Robola of Cephalonia Wild Paths

KARAMOLEGOS WINERY
TERRA NERA WHITE
ASSYRTIKO
SANTORINI
PYRITIS

KECHRIS WINERY
Kechribari (Retsina, Appellation by Tradition)
Tear of the Pine (Retsina, Appellation by Tradition)
Roza (Retsina, Appellation by Tradition)
Xinomavro (PGI Macedonia)

KIR YIANNI
ΑΚΑΚΙES SPARKLING
AKAKIES
KALI RIZA
RAMNISTA

DOMAINE C. LAZARIDIS
Amethystos White
Chateau Julia Assyrtiko
Domaine Costa Lazaridi Syrah
Oenotria Land Cabernet Sauvignon Agiorgitiko

MERCOURI ESTATE
“DOMAINE MERCOURI”
“FOLOI”
“LAMPADIAS”
“AVGOUSTIATIS”

KTIMA PAVLIDI
THEMA WHITE
THEMA ROSE
THEMA RED
EMPHASIS ASSYRTIKO

PORTO CARRAS
WHITE SOUL
MALAGOUZIA
ASSYRTIKO
LIMNEON

SANTO WINES
SANTORINI ASSYRTIKO
SANTORINI ASSYRTIKO ORGANIC
SANTORINI NYKTERI
SANTORINI VINSANTO

DOMAINE SIGALAS
SIGALAS SANTORINI PDO
SIGALAS ASYRTIKO ATHIRI PDO
SIGALAS SANTORINI BARREL PDO
SIGALAS VINSANTO PDO

DOMAINE SKOURAS
Moscofilero Skouras
Saint George Nemea
Grande Cuvee Nemea
Cuvee Prestige Rose

TSANTALI
KANENAS
RAPSANI GRANDE RESERVE
AGIORITIKO ABATON GOLD SELECTION
MARONIA MAVROUDI

THEOPTRA – TSILILIS
THEOPETRA ESTATE MALAGOUZIA ASSYRTIKO
THEOPETRA ESTATE SYRAH LIMNIONA
THEOPETRA ESTATE LIMNIONA
THEOPETRA ESTATE CABERNET SAUV. SYRAH LIMNIONA

Menu

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There’s a phrase used in Greece, “strosse to trapezi”, which means “Let’s set the table”. Food is such an important part of Greek culture – next to family, it’s the most important thing. It follows then that the idea of sitting down with family to share a meal is basically the cornerstone of Greek society, and something we couldn’t ignore at Oinofilia.

The teams from Elyros and Epocha restaurants, and Prahran Market’s Sweet Greek have banded together to put together a true Greek feast, drawing on the concept of “trapezia” or a shared grazing table.

Kali Orexi!

MEZZE BAR

Olives
Pickled veg
Taramosalata
Melitzanosalata
Beetroot & Feta
Bastourma
Spanakopita triangle (via Sweet Greek)

SEAFOOD

Oysters
Pickled Octopus
Pickled Mussels
Cured Kingfish

MEAT

Pig from the Spit
Elyros Lamb Shoulder
Loukaniko (via Sweet Greek)

SALADS

Trahana – currants, almonds and parsley
Marouli salata- lemon and dill
Fennel Slaw (via Sweet Greek)

CHEESE

Merino Gold
Lathotiri
Barley Bread and Rusks

SWEET

Baklava Squares (via Sweet Greek)
Galaktoboureko (via Sweet Greek)
Gluten Free Cakes (via Sweet Greek)
Halva – Chocolate and Almond (via Sweet Greek)
Kourabiethes (via Sweet Greek)
Melomakarona (via Sweet Greek)

“There you go!” – The Greek Origins of Everyday Words

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words by Mihalis Boutaris

In the sequel of the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, one of the grandsons of Gus, the stereotypical Greek-American patriarch, has fully adopted the habit of deriving the origins of any conceivable word of American English directly from ancient Greek. Upon explaining (in a most incredulous way) the etymology of a random word, he echoes his grandfather’s exclamation: “There you go!”

This exaggeration is one of the key triggers of laughter in both the original film and its sequel. It is also the reason my foreign friends often tease me… But there is some truth to it: More than 50,000 English words are transliterations of Greek words. Some are used mainly in scientific terminology, but many are used every day.

For the sake of continuing the fun, I picked out a few that are related to the world of food and wine. Here are some geeky ones that come to mind:

  • Ampelography: the science of identifying and classifying different vines and grape varieties. It stems from the words “ampelos” (άμπελος) [vine in Greek] and “graphy” (γραφή) [writing, record-keeping]
  • Microclimate: “micro” (μικρό) [little] + “climate” (κλίμα) [climate]. It is the divergence from the average climatic conditions of an area that apply only to one of its sub-regions because of localized weather phenomena, that only occur there due to some special land formation. Microclimates are particularly important for winemaking. Especially in Greece due to the prevalence of mountains and islands on a highly variegated terrain, one can be surprised by how cool a north-facing plateau could be in South Greece during a hot summer day or how humid a valley could be in an overall arid place. Grapevines do generally thrive anywhere in the world, but every microclimate gives rise to different grape and wine characteristics. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that the Greek word for climate (κλίμα) is so close to the word for grapevine (κλήμα)… They are both pronounced as “klima”, but written in a slightly different way for the “i” sound – climate sounding more like “klima” and grapevine more like “kleema”
  • Biodynamic: “bios” (βίος) [life] + «dynami” (δύναμη) [force]. Biodynamic wines are becoming more and more known. The theory behind them is based on the aspiration of a biodynamic winemaker to become a mere steward of the life force of a vineyard and winery with all the micro and macro factors that come into play, to produce a product that is as free from artificial interventions as possible.

Furthermore, there are some ordinary cases that are not readily recognizable as words that come from the wine culture of ancient Greeks. For instance:

  • Symposium: < symposio (συμπόσιο) < “syn” (συν) [plus, together, jointly, added] + “pinw” (πίνω) [to drink] = literally “to drink together”. Today the meaning of the word symposium is used almost exclusively for scientific conferences. In ancient Greece, but sometimes still in modern Greece, drinking wine together was not an end in itself, but a means of gaining knowledge. The subject was invariably philosophical, but at the time, philosophy was all about science and politics and any subject of discussion for that matter to find the best way to live. So a wine gathering was really a way to expand the horizons of the mind and through discussion come up with better ideas about which way of life was better, how one could solve a technical problem and so on and so forth. The role of the symposia was to promote the intellectual curiosity and emotional maturity of free-born citizens.
  • Gastronomy: gastronomia (γαστρονομία) < “gastra” (γάστρα) [belly] + “nomos” [law] = the rules of what and how one should eat and drink wine, since for Greeks wines have been always been considered part of food – not an alcoholic beverage. Wine styles in different parts of Greece are markedly different from each other and they all seem to be an ideal match to the local cuisine.
  • Tragedy: tragodia (τραγωδία) < “tragos” (τράγος) [male goat] + “ode” (ωδή) [ode, song, oration] = literally and metaphorically “tragedy”. Tragic poetry in classical times originates from prehistoric rituals associated with wine drinking. Goatskins were used in ancient times to store wine, as well as to make bagpipes. The combination of ecstatic music, wine-induced inebriety, and feasts was central to these “tragic” rituals – all related to goats. Goat milk was also a liquid of living force like wine governed by the force of Dionysus, the wine deity worshipped by ancient Greeks to assign meaning to the seemingly miraculous phenomenon of winemaking and its psychotropic effects.
  • Crater: “kratir” (κρατήρ) = ornate jug to mix water with wine. It was not until the Age of Enlightenment in West Europe that sulfites at very low concentrations started being used in wine to stop bacteria from turning wine into vinegar. Until then, the main method of preserving wine was to keep it sweet. Antique wines like the Greek Vinsanto, medieval wines like the Italian Vinsanto and Madeira were examples of how wine could keep its fruit and weather through highly oxidative conditions. A combination of high residual sugar and alcohol would mean that the symposia would end up being too short to reach the goal set for learning, so ancient Greeks used a “kratir” to dilute the potent wines of the time with water. The other side of the same coin was that wine was used to actually disinfect water and make it potable – they had realized that stagnant water which was the norm would most likely kill them, unless they mixed it with wine. A kratir could be quite big depending on the size of the drinking party. Some really big “kratires” must have inspired the first geologists to call craters by this name…

Finally, there is one more case I’d like to point out: the etymology of the word sommelier. It’s not Greek in any way, although the profession of the sommelier is as ancient as Greece. The job of the sommelier in ancient Greece was to know the origins of the wine, source it and store it much like today.

In addition, the job entailed blending the selected wine with water in a kratir at a dilution rate that would keep all the guests at the same pace of sobriety and extend the wine drinking gathering as late as possible. Part of the job was to keep the guests sober, but tipsy enough to keep the symposium going.

Inspiration and eloquence were the objectives of the symposium members and the sommeliers “oinochooi” had the responsibility to unleash the magical powers of wine to this end. The Greek word for sommelier is “oinochoos” < “oinos” (οίνος) [wine] + “heo” (χέω) [to pour]. If I were to ask Gus or his grandson to derive the word from Greek, they would probably come up with something as far-fetched as this: “sommelier” < “soma” (σώμα) [body] + “elia” (ελιά) [olive, olive tree] = young wine waiter as slender as the divine olive tree, the gift of Goddess Athena, pouring her wisdom into my wine cup!

There you go!

Chris Morrison’s Wine Journey Through Greece

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Sommelier and wine writer Chris Morrison went to Greece (alongside BSC’s own Peter Marchant) with New Wines of Greece. Here’s what he learned about Greek wine. 

There is so much emotion and honesty in Greek food and wine. Few countries can match Greece’s history but even the future of Greek wine is set to stand out from previous generations, thanks to a new group of winemakers and grape growers coming through. Greece has a gastronomic DNA few countries can match.

I witnessed this first hand during a trip to Greece last year. The village of Dafnes is about 30 minutes’ drive from the city of Heraklion on the island of Crete. High in the mountains, surrounded by rolling hillsides cross–planted with grape vines, olive trees and grazing sheep, we ate a meal that for me captured the spirt of Greek wine.

To be honest, I don’t remember as much about the wines themselves, but more what went with them. The best tomatoes I have ever eaten, shortly followed by the best green melon.

The intensely briny dolmades, no bigger than your pinky finger, the lamb served ‘Flintstones-style’, huge and on the bone, from stone grills built into the walls of people’s houses. We sat in the town square as the sun went down with what felt like the entire village. Music, laughter, and food were everywhere.

That’s Greek wine for me. It’s part of a lifestyle and an ingredient in a recipe for life that the Greeks do better than most. Now with more Greek wines coming to the rest of the world, finally we have access to that key ingredient.

Varieties, Regions and Styles

Assyrtiko from Santorini
Postcard-perfect backdrops are nothing new to the winemaking fraternity of Santorini. But what is changing is the growing demand from sommeliers and wine buyers for this light- to medium-bodied dry white, with whip-cracking acidity and a dry, savoury mouthfeel.

Malagousia from Macedonia and Attica
Medium- to full-bodied white wine that can be as bold as chardonnay in texture and mouthfeel. Oak adds to the wine’s complexity and richness. It should be drunk young and shouldn’t be overly chilled.

Xinomavro from Naoussa
This is the king of wine in northern Greece. Wines can vary from light- to medium-bodied and savoury, to fuller bodied, dense, astringent wines with deep, dark flavours and gum-humming tannins.

Agiorgitiko from the Peloponnese
Greece’s most successful red variety – pronouncing this wine makes you feel like you have a mouth full of marbles. The dense, fruity, softly textured wines are consistent and eminently drinkable.

Three things you need to know about Greek wine.

1. Their ‘smashability’ will surprise you – but go for whites and rosés – these are wines wound tight with acidity, freshness and have a signature long lean palette feel. Reds are beautiful but need the gutsy flavour of local food to polish their rich tannin and high acid profiles

2. Pronouncing the regions and varieties of Greece can be like talking with a mouth full of marbles. Learn to spell phonetically to build confidence when ordering Greek wines. For instance, Assytirko – is A-see-ear-ko and Xinomavro is Zeno-mah-vro

3. One of the fascinating things about Greece is that nearly 90 percent of all its grape varieties are indigenous and unique to Greece. This, combined with the fact that eight out of every 10 wineries are less than 25 years old, translates into wines that are not only serious in their approach to quality but unique in terms of the raw materials used.

Peter’s Wine Journey Through Greece

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Bottle Shop Concepts’ own Peter Marchant spent a week touring the wine regions of Greece with New Wines of Greece. Here’s what he discovered during his time there. 

Flying in to Athens, I was struck by one thing in particular: the colours. The shades of the earth, the leaves, the plants. They were so very different to the almost thermonuclear colours of Australia. Compared to our vibrant green leaves, white sand, and blue ocean, the land I was flying over seemed muted. Not dull, but very different.

As we got closer, I saw the olive trees. Their leaves permeated the entire landscape, giving it the silvery gleam I could see from a higher altitude. The brown dirt underneath seemed the most natural backdrop for these life-giving trees and their fruit. I was to learn just how much they meant in the coming days.

During my week travelling through Athens, Naoussa, Amyndeon, Crete and back to Athens, I was privileged to be able to meet the people responsible for some of the most exciting wines I had tasted in recent years.

The responsibility they feel as custodians of this ancient land is almost palpable. They are proud – and rightfully so – of the work they are doing, of their wines and their place.

The wines fit. They make sense. When you sit by the beach eating freshly-caught red mullet and taste Assytriko, it makes sense. When you are high in the hills in Nauossa and drink Xinomavro with a slow-cooked lamb shoulder, it makes sense.

With wine, context is everything. This was proven again and again in Greece. Some wines are for more than a back deck and a packet of Doritos. They require more flavour, more depth, more everything. The generosity of spirit and the hospitality we were shown was incredible. It’s what the wines NEED. Good people, good food, great times.

I had one of the most incredible nights of my life on Crete, in a village called Dafnes. It was incredible because it was where everything clicked for me about varieties I was still trying to get my head around.

Drinking Vidiano in the village square, with the tiniest, most perfect dolmades prepared by ladies of the village while a group of children and teenagers in full Cretan costumes danced for us, made sense.

Then, the Liatiko came with the goat, or the lamb, or both, it didn’t matter. The spiced and slightly herbal red, grown on the hills around Dafnes, had crunchy acid, medium weight and could not have been a better fit for the food.

After spending the afternoon driving through the vineyards and seeing the steep slopes, the wind, the lack of topsoil, it gave me an understanding of the struggle these vines experience each year to produce fruit. It gives them an intensity, a savoury complexity that I haven’t seen in many other wine regions.

I tried to think of other varieties that could work here, with this food, this climate. I don’t need to. I think they have the correct varieties already there.

Three things you need to know about Greek Wine

1. Just because you can’t pronounce it, doesn’t mean you should be frightened of it. Not that long ago, I had a mate who wouldn’t order bruschetta for fear of mispronouncing it. Suffice to say, he was very hungry in the mid ‘90s.

2. The varieties native to Greece, with all of their syllables, are not necessarily familiar. But neither was Sauvignon Blanc, once. Agiorgitiko, Assyrtiko, Xinamavro, Roditis, Malagousia. Don’t be afraid. Open your mind.

3. Xinomavro is not for the faint of heart. After tasting nearly 30 of these wines in Naoussa, the tannins were certainly bracing. I remembered a Barolo tasting years before, and my face felt very similar.

Xinomavro does get compared to Nebbiolo, and this is primarily referencing the tannin. Xinomavro has more flesh, more weight, darker, more briary fruit. It also has perfume, and some of the lighter examples are pretty and have violets and dried flowers with a smattering of spice. As a general rule, these wines aren’t breakfast wines. They require food, they require thought.

We shouldn’t be afraid of tannin. It is a joy when eating, it gives us the ability to cut through protein, particularly anything with intramuscular fat or gelatinous braised dishes. This is where these wines come into their own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wine Regions of Greece: Naoussa

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Naoussa, in the hills of Macedonia, is another wine region. It’s most famous for producing Xinomavro… the King of Greek grapes. We asked sommelier and consultant Kavita Faiella to tell us what she knows about this lovely place.

1. The wine region of Naoussa is located in the north of Greece in the greater area known as Macedonia

Macedonia is both a region in northern Greece, a country in south-east Europe (Republic of Macedonia) and an ancient kingdom (Alexander the Great). 

2. Naoussa is also famous for its stone fruits.

In summer you will find orchards full of peaches, plums and the most delicious cherries! Hence the jam brand Naousa is also famous across Greece.

3. The weather of Naoussa is largely influenced by Mount Vermion (2000m)

The Vermio Mountains are the home of Greece’s ski resorts. That’s right – you can can ski in Greece!

4. Naoussa is the home of Xinomavro

Xinomavro, a tannic red varietal, is thought of as the King of Greek grapes, whose Queen is most certainly Assyrtiko. 

5. Wines of Naoussa are often referred to as ‘Greek Burgundy’.

The region produces some of the country’s most elegant and age-worthy wines made from Xinomavro, which are also lighter in colour.

6. Xinomavro literally translates to acid (xino) black (mavro) or black acid…

Sounds more like a heavy metal band, but also gives you an indication of the high acid levels of this wine. 

7. Just like oysters and Chablis or hot chips and Champagne…

The perfect pairing for Xinomavro is lamb. Bring on the souvlaki!