In both the Iliad and Odyssey, Homer regularly repeats the epithetical “wine dark seas,” and when one thinks of Greek wine, it’s probably the reds, not the whites, that come to mind.
At The Purple Pig (500 North Michigan), sommelier Liz Martinez smashes that paradigm of red Greek wine’s hegemony as surely as Cyclops smashes out the brains of Odysseus’ men on their way back home. Some of the Greek whites she poured were simply mind-blowing; all were terrific values.
I asked Martinez and John Lenart, the brains behind The Honest Pour podcast, to give me their opinions about three of the wines we tasted.
Lenart prefaced his comments by saying, “These wines represent exceptional value to wine buyers. However, the long names of the often-unfamiliar grape varieties might put off some people.” He’s right. It’s usually possible to take an approximate shot at pronouncing names of grapes and wines from France, Italy and Spain, but Greek pronunciations pose special challenges. (Did you study Greek in school? Me neither.)
Here are just three Greek wines to keep in mind. All are featured on The Purple Pig’s menu. Most are also available at Binny’s.
2015 Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko, Santorini
“A pretty wine with great structure and depth,” says Lenart. “Bright layers of citrus are backed up with mouth-watering acidity and a chalky minerality. This wine should continue to improve with three to five years of cellaring (if you can keep yourself from drinking it now).”
Martinez digs it too, describing it as a “pristine wine from the island of Santorini” that “boasts juicy precise acid and white stony minerality. This is a seriously driven wine, with hints of lemon oil and chalk. One could even drink this wine in place of Muscadet or Chablis, paired with oysters or fresh crudo.”
2015 Domaine Skouras Moschofilero, Nemea
Lenart believes “This wine shows a fair amount of restraint with light aromas of fresh white flowers. On the palate, its medium body leads with flavors of lime, green apple and a wet stone minerality. Perfect for raw seafood.”
This, explains Martinez, is the wine of another “indigenous white grape, this time from the Nemean peninsula. It graces the palate with fresh rose petals and lychee, aromatics similar to a northern Italian Gewürztraminer. It is a unique wine, with youthful acid, easy to drink, yet very thoughtful.”
2015 Alpha Estate, Turtles Vineyard, Malagouzia, Amyndeon
An “explosive floral aroma of rose petal, sweet spices and lychee,” says Lenart. “While full bodied, this wine is far from clumsy. Think honeydew melon, apple and minerality that reminds you of the rain on the sidewalk on a hot summer day.”
Martinez, who has visited the vineyards of all these wines, explains that “the Turtles Vineyard in Amyndeon is a step up in weight from the Assyrtiko and the Moschofilero. This wine sits on its lees a bit, adding richness and texture to a wine with a cornucopia of fruit flavors. Cantaloupe and honeydew melons, with hints of white flowers and fresh herbs, this wine is a stunner!!”
All three of these wines are suitable for exploration, at a price point that makes it possible to sample them all without blowing a lot of drachmas. (David Hammond)