TN: Greek Wine Birthday Tasting Dinner (18 Greek wines)

GREEK WINE BIRTHDAY TASTING DINNER - Mezes Restaurant, San Francisco, California (9/22/2009)

To celebrate my birth this year, I decided to turn to the land that is the cradle of winemaking: Greece. A terrific seminar two and a half years ago featuring stars of Greek winemaking really turned me on to how good (and food friendly) modern Greek wines can be, so I’ve been collecting a slew, especially hard-to-find reds with bottle age on them to share with fellow wine geek friends. My birthday seemed like a good time to tap into that stash, and Mezes was very accomodating, and has excellent food to accompany these wines.

We started with a couple of lovely bubblies before our first Greek flight of whites. I think Greek whites are spectatcular, with wonderful acidity, minerality and, often, complexity, and Sigalas is my favorite Greek white producer, so our flight featured two of his Assyrtikos from Santorini. We also had a wonderfully floral Moschofilero, which was very different from our Moschofilero-Roditis blend. Our dishes for the Champagne and white flight included spreads (w/ dolmas, taramosalata, tzatziki and melitzanosalata), kolokithokeftedes (zucchini cakes w/ feta, dill, onions and herbs), horiatiki (salad w/ tomatoes, cucumbers, green pepper, red onion, olives and feta), and fried calamari served with garlic spread.

I really wanted to focus on the reds at this tasting, as most Greek reds that are available here lack bottle age, and as a result tend to be tight, tannic and highly acidic, so I wanted us to see how these wines can show after two to seven years in the bottle. Our first red flight was primarily Agiorgitikos (the Greek varietal also known as St. George), which are often compared to Merlot and Bordeaux blends. Our second red flight was mainly Xinomavro, which is most usually compared to Nebbiolo and other acidic Italian red varieties. Both flights showed quite well, I thought, with most of the Agiorgitikos coming across as quite Bordeaux-like, or as a cross between Right Bank Bordeaux and a Super Tuscan, and the Xinomavros being particularly impressive for their depth of flavor and structure. Our dishes for these flights included melitzana imam (half grilled eggplant stuffed w/ vegetables and feta), grilled meats and seasoned sausage. We concluded with a flight of three very different sweet wines, and a platter of Greek pastry and sweets. The company was equally delicious, including a few people who’d had a lot of experience with Greek wine (including visits to Greek wineries), and others who were relative newbies. Not a bad way to spend a night in which one turns another year older.
Champagne Flight
The Marcel Moineaux was particularly tasty, and is a new producer for me.

White Flight


  • 2004 Kir-Yianni Samaropetra - Greece, Macedonia, Vin de Pays Florina
    Slightly oxidized, hazelnut nose; light oily texture, tart citrus, mineral and grapefruit rind palate; medium finish (blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer, and Roditis) (88 pts.)
  • 2005 Sigalas Santorini - Greece, Aegean, Santorini
    Creamy, floral, ripe lemon nose; tasty, tart creamy lemon palate with minerality; medium finish (92 pts.)
  • 2005 Sigalas Assyrtiko-Athiri - Greece, Aegean, Santorini
    Floaty, light floral, lime cream nose; lovely, creamy lemon, mineral palate with good acidity; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)
  • 2006 Tselepos Moschofilero - Greece, Peloponnisos, Mantinia
    Lovely deep floral, hyacinth, jasmine flower, orange nose; tart orange, mineral, citrus palate with good acidity; medium finish 92+ pts. (showed even better than the couple times I’ve had it in the past; the extra year or two in bottle seems to have contributed something, especially to the bouquet) (92 pts.)
  • 2006 Skouras Roditis-Moscofilero - Greece, Peloponnisos
    Light citrus, mineral nose; tasty, tart citrus, tart orange, floral palate with good acidity; medium finish 90+ pts. (90 pts.)
  • 2007 Emery Athiri Rhodos Amoryano - Greece, Aegean, Rhodes
    Herbal, tart white fruit nose; tasty, tart white fruit, tart peach, herbal, mineral palate, very poised; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)

Agiorgitikos Flight
An excellent flight overall, and Steve summed them up well by suggesting that most tasted like a cross between Bordeaux and Super Tuscans. We had two vintages of the Skouras Megas Oenos, and the '04 was particularly strong for me, but it was great to compare the '00 to see how they can age. All of them have years to go.

stuffed eggplant

  • 2000 Skouras Megas Oenos - Greece, Peloponnisos
    Opaque, bricking, dark red violet color; nice maturing plum, Bordeaux-like nose; mature, Bordeaux-like, plum, berry, mineral palate; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (this was a bottle my sister brought me back from a trip to Greece over a year ago; I wish older vintages of this and other Greek red were available in the States) (92 pts.)
  • 2003 Palivou Estate Nemea - Greece, Peloponnisos, Nemea
    Dark red violet color; berry, red currant nose with lift; tart berry, currant, mineral, baked fruit palate; medium finish (91 pts.)
  • 2003 Skouras Agiorgitiko Grande Cuvée - Greece, Peloponnisos, Nemea
    Dark red violet color; roast plum, berry nose; tasty, a little tight, plum, mineral, berry palate with depth; medium finish (92 pts.)
  • 2004 Skouras Megas Oenos - Greece, Peloponnisos
    Dark red violet color; reduction initially on nose that blows off, earthy, berry, mineral nose; tight, currant, berry palate, with depth, quite lovely and reminiscent of a good Right Bank Bordeaux; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)
  • 2004 Domaine Mercouri - Greece, Peloponnisos, Vin de Pays des Letrinon
    Dark red violet color; berry, cherry, mint nose; mature berry, black fruit, mineral palate with herbal notes; medium finish 91+ pts. (much improved by aging from when I had it two and a half years ago; blend of Refosco and Mavrodaphne) (91 pts.)

Xinomavro and Red Blends Flight
For me, this was a very instructive flight. From our two samples from 2003, that vintage appears to have been a particularly strong one for Greek reds. The '03 Alpha Estate was my WOTN, and the best Greek red I’ve tasted to date. I’m glad I have a couple more bottles in my cellar, and look forward to trying them out in blind tastings against top reds from other regions. I also quite liked the '03 Boutari Skalani.

  • 2000 Boutari Grande Réserve Naoussa - Greece, Macedonia, Naoussa
    Slightly bricking dark red violet color with pale meniscus; berry, currant, earthy, VA nose; tart berry, currant and mineral palate with depth; medium-plus finish (my sister and brother-in-law obtained this at Boutari on a trip to Greece over a year ago) (92 pts.)
  • 2000 Kir-Yianni Xinomavro Ramnista - Greece, Macedonia, Naoussa
    Dark red violet color with pale meniscus; nice berry, currant, red fruit nose; tight, structured, tart red fruit, herbal, red currant palate with grip; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2002 Tsantali Rapsani - Greece, Thessaly, Rapsani
    Dark red violet color; deep berry, plum, a little cooked on nose; tight, baked tart currant, plum palate; medium-plus finish 88+ pts. (Xinomavro blend) (88 pts.)
  • 2003 Alpha Estate Xinomavro - Greece, Macedonia, Amyndeon
    Opaque dark red violet color; deep berry, plum, blackberry nose; berry, blackberry, dried berry palate, layered, with wonderful character and depth; medium-plus finish 94+ pts. (94 pts.)
  • 2003 Boutari Skalani Archanes - Greece, Crete, Archanes
    Dark red violet color; berry, mulberry nose; tasty berry, tart plum, mineral palate; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (Kostifali/Mandelari blend) (92 pts.)
  • 2004 Boutari Skalani Archanes - Greece, Crete, Archanes
    Dark red violet color; berry, oak, smoky nose; tart plum, berry, vanilla oak palate; medium finish (Syrah/Kotsifali blend) (90 pts.)

Sweet Flight
A simple but well made Muscat Vin Doux up against a very idiosyncratic (and quite tasty) Italian sweet wine and a very solid, mature Sauternes, may have made for a rather too diverse flight for some (I’m thinking of your very honest comment Keith), but I enjoyed them all. Great reminders of what a wide world the category of “sweet wine” comprises.

  • 2007 Union of Winemaking Cooperatives of Samos Muscat Vin Doux - Greece, Aegean, Samos
    Medium orange color with red lights; orange Muscat, aromatic nose; tasty, orange Muscat, honeyed, orange honey palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2002 Ajello Shams - Italy, Sicily
    Light orange color; big orange, blood orange, dried orange, lime nose; tasty, tart sweet lime, grapefruit, chalk, mineral palate; medium-plus finish (white blend of Moscato, Grillo, Catarratto and Inzolia) (93 pts.)
  • 1986 Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey - France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
    Medium orange color with red lights; apple, brown sugar nose; tasty, baked apple, lemon, brown sugar, apricot palate; medium-plus finish 93+ pts. (93 pts.)

Posted from CellarTracker

Looks like a lot of fun Richard. One of my regular stops in NYC is Molyvos restaurant. They have a great list of Greek wines. I usually just go with what they recommend as I know little about these wines. I need to learn more.

Wow, brilliant. Some wonderful wines there by the looks of it!
I tried to start up a thread on current Greek wines on another forum but not much support. Pity.
I have the Alpha in my cellar so look forward to opening without any hesitation!

wow! the wines look awesome food looks simply superb! looks like you had great fun… i have been a big fan of greek wines, i have been so far able to collect a little on greek wines