Monday, May 4, 2015

Exploring the 333 Indigenious Varietals of Greek Wine

Edible Skinny was lucky enough to recently attend an exploratory trade tasting for the Wines of Northern Greece at the super trendy Republique (seriously, you need to call for month out reservations at the bar…).

There’s so many jokes that could be made about how the wines of Greece are “all Greek” to most Americans, but we here at Edible Skinny are going to display some restraint on this other than to say it’s absolutely true!   There are 333 indigenous grapes to Greek wines, none of which you could probably name off the top of your head…  Fortunately in the name of broadening horizons, these ancient varietals are experiencing a Renaissance for their unusualness, fine quality, and reasonable price tag.    

Enter Domaine Porto Carras, one of the event’s featured wineries where we were able to experience a multitude of these exotic varietals.  Located on the western coast of the Sithonia peninsula in Halkidiki, Domaine Porto Carras is Greece’s largest vineyard at a total area of 4750 acres.  

The wines of Domaine Porto Carras began in the late 1960s when they began organically growing 28 select varietals on the property.  The microclimates of Halkidiki and eastern Macedonia make the region ideal for vineyards (many grown in intriguing looking “grape baskets”).  These conditions allow whites such as Asyrtiko, Athiri, Malagouzia, and Rhoditis  (now you get what I mean about not having heard of any of those 333 indigenous varietals…) and reds such as Limnio, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Syrah (okay, maybe you’ve heard of a couple of those…).   

White or red, all of Domaine Porto Carras grapes are hand picked.  
Greek white wines are notorious for being sweet and very much fruit forward.  While at Republique, I checked out Domaine Porto Carras’ myriad of white varietals including: Athiri ($19.45), with its expanding pear and peach palate; Assyyrithiko ($19.56), apples and citrus bubble on the tongue: and Malagounzia ($25.47).  My American palate favored the Malagounzia, mainly for the unusualness of it.  This wine was like nothing I had ever tried before; one sip was like drinking a summer salad with notes of peach, apricot, and mint.  

Domaine Porto Carras whites were charming, but I definitely loved exploring their reds more.   First up was their Limnio ($20.81).  Limnio is an ancient varietal mentioned in works by the great philosopher Aristotle and poet Hesiod.  This is the only wine on the market that is 100% Limnio (usually it is used more as a blending grape).   The wine was ruby red colored with a nose of pepper, currant, and cinnamon.  A medium body wine that was light on the palate, but swarmed your mouth with ripe black berries.
Next was there Magnus Baccata ($27.48), Silver Medal Winner at Concours Mondial de Bruxelles 2012, a cuveé wine of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.  The wine was very California friendly with aromas of chocolate and baking spice and an elegant background of black pepper and balanced tannins.   It is normally served slightly chilled, 10 minutes on ice is ideal. 

The last red (my favorite!) was the Chateau Porto Carras ($34.15).  An award winning cuveé of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Limnio, Merlot.  Known as the Best Bordeaux outside of Bordeaux (without the Bordeaux price tag…) this wine was a Silver Medal Winner ISWC 2012.  This was a delicious rich full body wine with a deep eggplant color.  The nose was dominated by blackberries and vanilla; the palate that was delicate, smooth, and smoky with a long velvety finish.

So if you’re looking for the taste of something exotic perhaps you should check out one of the 333 choices that Greece has to offer!

PS If any of these wines tempt you, you can find them offered at

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