The Mediterranean Way

The Mediterranean Way

Written by Claire Paparazzo

In our tasting group this week, we went back to ancient times and to the literal root of vinification with the celebration of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine. 

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One of our members showed up dressed for the occasion in a royal blue kaftan; one arrived with a Santorini Zoom background; and another shared stories of vacations past. Collectively, we agreed we like the Mediterranean way.

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Through history and the artifacts left behind, it is clear wine thrived in Greece way before any other culture could claim the industry. There is evidence that the first bit of wine produced in the country might have been overly sweet wine with floral notes, and that the most common way to enjoy this wine was to dilute with water—or with snow in the colder months, if you lived in the North. Documents tell cautionary tales of people who drank undiluted wine: It was so strong, they went mad.

 

Popular stories of the Grecian enjoyment of wine goes way back to mythology. You may think that Dionysus—that passionate deity of agriculture, wine, and theatre—is nothing but the stuff of legends. But whether you believe in the Greek myth or not, Greece is undeniably the birthplace of artistic civilization as we know it. Paintings and etchings preserved from ancient Greece show a world where people gathered, ate, drank, and succumbed to lavish pleasures, not only for special occasions, but as a way of life. This has led to the modern Greek lifestyle—living in a land where there is diverse terrain and thriving agriculture, and enjoying the products of that environment. This would explain why most of the consumption of Greek wines is in Greece itself. Records show that even in ancient times, wine was consumed in everyday life to compliment nutrition.  This is one of the reasons keeping a Mediterranean diet, especially in a pandemic, is a really great idea: Balance.

 

Keeping tradition alive with the use of native grapes can be challenging for most Greek wine producers, as there are around several hundred grape varieties that are unfamiliar to the international market. Luckily, avid local consumption keeps the market thriving. Some examples of popular Greek grapes are Assyrtiko, Muscat, Savatiano, and Xynomavro, to name a few. While modern day wine facilities keep adding to the allure of Greek wine, we also see more familiar grapes rising in popularity: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon for instance.

 

Having lived in Astoria, Queens for a several years, home to one of New York’s largest Greek populations, I have come to admire the spirit of Greek culture. Though this is the closest I have come to Greece, it is enough to have made me a forever fan. I revel in the cuisine: Feta and Halloumi cheese, Spanakopita, whole fish with lemon and herbs, Greek salad with caper berries and dill—these are just some flavors I have cherished. In Astoria, you can find Greek specialty stores and bakeries that maintain Greek cultural traditions and that, for many Greek immigrants, provide a connection to the homeland. One thing has become clear in my exploration of all things Greek: Dionysus is one of my people.

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Wines from our tasting:

Santo Wines Assyrtiko, Santorini 2018: This white was dynamic, coming from volcanic soils on the Island of Santorini, where the vines are trained in a basket shape called “Kouloures” to protect them from intense heat and wind. This wine also had an extended contact with lees, giving it added texture. The wine was clear to the sight, with a slight light gold hue an aroma of citrus fruit, and smokiness on the palate. This wine had layers to it, and it went from vegetal to fresh notes after being open a few hours. It was mentioned that one could draw a parallel to a Melon de Bourgogne grape used in Muscadet sur lie from the Loire Valley, France. A suggested food pairing that I tested out: Herb and tomato farro salad with garlic marinated shrimp, finished with lemon and olive oil.

 

Kir-Yianni Xinomavro, Ramnista, Naoussa 2016: From a long line of winemakers, Yiannis and his son Stellios have integrated sustainability into their production and have been certified by AgroCert since 2004. This Xinomavro comes from a higher elevation vineyard with good exposure to the sun, and is sourced from a single vineyard: ‘Ramnista’. The grapes are hand-picked and sorted on conveyor belts to ensure a selection of grapes that perfectly maintain the aromatic complexity. Aging takes place in a mix of French and American oak for 18 months with 6 further months of bottle aging before release. The result of all this hard work is an elegant wine coming in at 13.5% alcohol, making this a very versatile red that has some earthy notes, but that also has a balance of bright fresh acidity with a delicate floral bouquet. Ideal food pairing is grilled lamb or spanakopita.

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If you would like to buy these two wines please contact Shiraz Noor at Acker Wines. LBV Social Club members get a discount through our partnership!

 

Claire Paparazzo is an LBV Social Club member who also leads some of the Club's wine tastings. This is her reflection on the tasting that took place on July 29th, 2020. Find her on Instagram at @clairepaparazzo and @wineifyouwantto.

 

First image via Pinterest 

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