In my series on Greek wines, I’ve explored Retsina, the wines of Macedonia, and how Greek wines are faring in light of the Greek economy.
This week I’m going to talk about a few Greek varietals that are easy to find outside of Greece: Assyrtiko, a white, Moschofilero, another white that comes from white to rosy grapes, and Xinomavro, a red.
Greek Wines: Assyrtiko
Assyrtiko (accent on the “i”) is an ancient grape that was originally grown on Santorini, eking out a hardscrabble existence in the island’s volcanic soil. Later it was also grown in Macedonia and Attica. Santorini’s mineral rich soil gives Assyrtiko a full-bodied acidity, with a citrusy dryness that gracefully accompanies fish and vegetable dishes — common fare on a Greek island. Assyrtiko becomes more fruity and mild when grown elsewhere, and is also a favorite blending wine with other whites to produce a sweeter vinsanto.
Greek Wines: Moschofilero
Our next white, Moschofilero (“mohs-ko-FEEL-er-oh”), is a rosy-skinned grape, issuing floral notes that are fresh and light. The Peloponnese peninsula, home to Moschofilero, produces Mantinia wines, of which Moschofilero is a primary component.
Mantinia is an appellation in a long southern valley in Nemea, with a continental-like climate, and cooler summer temperatures, allowing grapes to ripen longer, resulting in generally sweeter wines.
According to winesearcher.com, Moschofilero is believed to be one of many mutations of a Peloponnese grape “Fileri.” Some claim that there is no single “Moschofilero” grape. However, the name “Mantinia” as a protected designation must contain at least 85% Moschofilero grapes.
Greek Wines: Xinomavro
From the elevated foothills of Macedonia comes what has been argued to be Greece’s premier red wine, Xinomavro (also written “Xynomavro” and “Xenomavro”). With superb aging capability, allaboutgreekwine.com describes Xinomavro (“ksiˈno̞mavro̞”) as having hints of olives and spices. To that they add “dried tomatoes” and “gooseberry.” In case you were wondering, as was I, ripe gooseberry can yield a plummy-Muscat flavor spiked with mouth-puckering sourness. All together, the Xinomavro is a full-bodied, possibly surprising red that could remind you of a Barbaresco.
I would recommend setting up an evening of Greek finger foods and a variety of Greek wines. Nothing could be nicer than nibbling on Greek appetizers such as squashes lightly broiled and drizzled with olive oil, olives and bits of flakey fish, and feta cheese, while sampling a few purely Greek wines.
Kalí órexi (bon appetit)!