Must-drink grapes from Greece

Grapes from Greece to enjoy ... in a bottle!

Considering the inroads Greeks have made for us moderns in architectural design, mathematics, theater and more, wine is no exception, writes Claudia Angelillo. Greece is an indisputable forbear of grape growing and winemaking. Every sip of Greek wine represents expertise and intuition spanning centuries.

These days, Greece’s indigenous wine grapes are crushing it, as it were, in the United States. While there are over two hundred native varieties, the following four Greek grapes have a growing presence in key US markets. The grapes have evolved to thrive in Greece’s extremely hot and arid conditions. They are an opportunity to try something truly distinctive and significant in the context of wine history. It’s time to unearth the essence of Greece’s four flagship grapes.

Assyrtiko

When you see Assyrtiko, think Santorini. The Greek island’s signature winds combine with desert climate to create ideal conditions for highly concentrated, mineral-driven dry and sweet white wines. Assyrtiko has an innate ability to retain a high level of acidity while achieving full ripeness. The winds help ensure that ripening is slow but sure.

Most of Santorini’s Assyrtiko vines are ungrafted and believed to date back five hundred years or more. (Talk about the true definition of “old vine”.)

Your experience with the wine will be full of fresh squeezed citrus, apricots, and salty mineral notes. It is one of the best wines you will ever pair with fish. Octopus is a perfect choice.

Moschofilero

This delicate, pink-skinned variety is known for intensely aromatic white and rosé wines, especially when grown on the six hundred meter plateaus of the Mantinia region. The altitude creates a cool-climate vibe marked by high acidity, light body, and low alcohol.

You’ll find lots of freshness amidst the potent aromas; it’s like twists of giant lemons and limes over rose petals in your glass. These are ideal poolside patio wines, renowned for being light and crisp. Don’t miss out on pairing a Moschofilero with sushi this summer.

Agiorgtiko

Agiorgtiko literally means “St. George’s Grape” and it is Greece’s most widely planted variety. While the origin of its name is not known for certain, it may refer to St. George’s Day. (While St. George is England’s patron saint, the day is celebrated in the Greek Orthodox Church.) It could also refer to a chapel or village named after St. George.

Regardless, Agiorgtiko’s thick skinned berries are capable of a wide range of styles. It is a chameleon of a grape, producing everything from light reds to cherry fruit bombs.

Agiorgtiko is the cornerstone variety of Greece’s Nemea appellation. At their richest, Nemea Agiorgtiko wines have a burgundy hue and luscious tannins with a dash of cocoa and spice. This grape simply adores oak and can be incredibly age-worthy. Break out an Agiorgtiko for your next steak barbecue or hibachi.

Xinomavro

While this variety is considered Greece’s answer to Italy’s Nebbiolo, there is simply no other grape like it in the world. Xinomavro means “acid black” in Greek, and this grape is just that.

Look to the Naoussa region for bottles that are high in both tannin and acid. Their aging potential is tremendous, as the robust tannins soften their edges over time. Savory herbal notes such a tomato leaf and olive are Xinomavro’s signature. Tart fruit flavors are quiet but present, especially in young wines. You’ll find strawberry and gooseberry notes on the palate. In this way, Xinomavro merges the energy of cool-climate Pinot Noir with Barolo’s stature.

It’s a great bet for Mediterranean themed salads or Marcona almonds and aged cheeses.

(Source: SNOOTH)

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