But I'm not here to tell you about the state of the roads in Ontario, what I want to get you familiar with are the wines and grapes of Greece - and the Greeks went on a road trip of their own to promote just that.
The day started with a Greek wine seminar to familiarize us with this historic winemaking country and facts like: there are over 300 indigenous grape varieties in Greece, and it is the 3rd most mountainous country in Europe. But it wasn't for these factoids that I was in attendance, nor was it the pictures of vineyards, the coastline or the wonderful food (though all had me wishing for a few more shekels in my pocket so that I could hop the next plane out); it was for the wine.
Seminar Wines ...
Ten wines were poured, all made from grapes you may never have heard of, like Roditis, Malagousia, Avgoustiatis, Krassato and Aedani. All the wines were of interest but here were my top 5 selections:
Oenoforos Asprolith 2010 (Wine: white; Grape: Roditis) - grape is planted throughout central Greece. Very pretty nose, almost creamy in the mouth, soft, easy and delicate with a nice finish. (*** 1/2)
Biblia Chora Areti 2009 (Wine: white; Grape: Assyrtiko) - this is a grape that has the ability to make fresh whites even in this hot climate. Soapy aromas yet with nice fresh flavours and decent minerality (a la soapstone), to say the wine is clean is as much a pun as it is true. (*** 1/2)
Alpha Estate Axia 2010 (Wine: white; Grape: Malagousia) - grape was rediscovered in the 70's and grows in central Macedonia, it was on the verge of extinction. Aromatics are outstanding here, they really jump out of the glass: floral, grapefruit, tangerine and spice which all follow into the mouth and linger. (*** 1/2+)
Tsantali Rapsani Reserve 2007 (Wine: red; Grapes: Xinomavro, Krassato, Stavroto) - Xino is northern grown and is considered to be rough with tannins; the other two grapes add roundness and softness to the more aggressive Xino. Olive and tea aromas with woody and tea-like tannins, there's also an aggressive array of spices - the wine should evolve nicely with time. (*** 1/2)
Parparoussis Taos 2005 (Wine: red; Grape: Mavrodaphne) - usually made as a sweet wine but this shows what Mavro can do dry. Aromas are slightly medicinal with herbal, bay leaf and wintergreen mint. Palate is a tad chalky with herbal, tea leaf and floral nuances. Very intriguing wine. (*** 1/2+)
Other Wines ...
Quite an array of wines from approximately 36 producers pouring an average of 3 wines each (~108 wines). My selections below all scored three-and-a-half stars and above - some are available in the Ontario market through their agent (I'll remark on any LCBO connection where possible) - for the rest of you, in a non-communist-style wine selling area of the world, search out some of these wonderful wines, they will not disappoint.
Alpha Estates (one of the most interesting and consistent wine producers I tried today)
- 2007 Estate Red ($29.95 - Nov. 12, 2011 at Vintages) - ****
- 2007 Xinomavro Reserve Old Vines - *** 1/2+
- Xinomavro Single Vineyard "Hedgehog" ($18.95 - Fall 2011 Release at Vintages) - plumy red fruit, a real winner for the priced ... ****+
Antonopoulos 2005 Private Collection (red) - quite juicy - *** 1/2
Boutari 2004 Naoussa Grande Reserve (red) - *** 1/2+
Cavino 2004 Nemea Grande Reserve (red) - dark fruit and spice, really quaffable - ****+
Gaia Wines (another winery showing really good consistency)
- 2009 Agiorgitiko (red) - *** 1/2
- 2006 Estate (red) - *** 1/2+
Domaine Gerovassilou 2009 Viognier (white) - not an often seen grape in Greece, but a really good version that is just so ... yum. ****
Kourtaki NV Mavrodaphne of Patras (sweet red) - I've liked this wine since I tried it several years ago, great after dinner bevvie and an alternative to Port, though somewhat lighter. *** 1/2+
Katogi 2005 Xinomavro (red) ... *** 1/2
Kir Yianni (we have seen their wines in the market before and they are worth picking up)
- 2007 Diaporos (red) - nice dark berry, spice and peppered notes ... ****+
- 2008 Ramnista (red) ... ****
Nico Lazaridi 2006 Magic Mountain (red) - made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, as much as I could get that blend anywhere this one had something worth exploring though still needs time to evolve ... *** 1/2+
Papaiannou Estate 2003 Microclima (red) ... *** 1/2
Pavlidis Estate 2008 Thema Red (red) - very jammy ... *** 1/2+
Skouras 2008 St. George (red) - quite fruit driven ... *** 1/2
As you can see there is plenty of choice and lots of good wines (mostly red) coming from Greece ... next time you're feeling like something new on the table head to the Greek section and grab a bottle - don't be afraid of the amateurish label or daunting grape names - what's in the bottle is what counts.