“Any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we're doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.”
― Homer, The Iliad
You are doubtless expecting another deeply knowledgable, deftly presented educational newsletter. Well, April Fools! This month we are featuring wines made from grapes with which I am perfectly unfamiliar and cannot even pronounce from regions with which I have never crossed palates. However, perhaps because I competed in the Classical Olympics and was captain of my high school quiz bowl team, I can say that I have a strong feel for, or connection to, the idea of these wines, even though they are all Greek to me! While I know next to nothing about specific Greek varietals or the characteristics of the areas in which they are grown, I am intimately familiar the with wine induced ecstatic states associated with the followers of Dionysus, the ancient Greek god of Wine, and therefore feel tangentially qualified to tackle the subject. Being a wine crazed woman finally pays off.
Let’s get to knowing what it is we don’t know, shall we? My first dive into information about modern Greek wines revealed that Greece produces copious amounts of lovely and unpronounceable whites. This wasn’t very helpful to me - all of our picks this month are reds! Perhaps another trip to Greece will be in order this summer... But for now, our first Big House wine is the 2014 Papargyriou Le Roi de Montagnes Cab/Mavrodafne/Touriga Nacional from Corinthia. I am using my usual “producer, grape, region” order of presenting the wine, so that translates to Papargyriou as the producer, Le Roi de Montages as the title of the wine, followed by the grapes it is made from (Cabernet Sauvignon, Mavrodafne and Touriga Nacional) and the region it is from, Corinthia. The bulk of this wine is Cabernet Sauvignon, a decidedly non Greek grape, but to make up for that, it tastes nothing like a Cab. Tasting it blind (which I essentially did, as the label was in Greek) I would/did not come close to guessing Cab. Natural born cheat that I am, I did see the shape of the bottle, which was decidedly not Bordeaux-y and that may have influenced my impressions. Which were, “Damn. That’s good. What the hell is it?” It’s Greek. Winemaker Yannis Papargyriou is the second generation to tend these vines. The philosophy here is very much in keeping with Pour House ideals. This is a winemaker who is interested in exploring - exploring varietals, terroir, winemaking techniques. Because of this willingness to take risks, I imagine some of his bottlings might be oddballs, but this one is absolutely beautiful! He is truly pushing Greek wines into the consciousness of the world.
There are many flavors and textures dancing around in this wine (I had the opportunity to taste it a second time), ripe fruit notes, flowers, herbs, fresh tilled earth, a perfect glass of Greece. It is totally age worthy, but you can drink it today if you like! I advise savoring it over the course of several hours. It will pair very well with lamb or some other meat rubbed with herbs on the grill, a burnt offering pleasing to both the gods and man.
Our second Big House pick is the 2013 Aivalis Nemea Agiorgitiko from Nemea. The grape here is Agiorgitiko (translation, St. George’s grape), from the Nemea region. The rich, deep red of this wine is attributed to the fact that the vines are grown in soil soaked by the blood of the Nimean lion that Heracles slew millennia ago (labor #1!). I like it! I think this is one of the things that I love so much about wine, it is so intertwined with our human history and mythology, religion, politics and science all combining in the glass. It is endlessly inspiring and thought provoking for me. Especially when I have had a glass or two.
Agiorgitiko is one of the most widely planted red grapes in Greece and it is the only grape allowed in the Nemea PDO (the Greek regional classification system, similar to the AOC of France or IGT in Italy). Back to our specific wine, winemaker Christos Aivalis practices biodynamic farming techniques in his vineyards and this particular bottle was created by his son, Sotiris, recently returned from studying in Burgundy. This wine itself is soft and balanced, with may layers of spice (from black pepper to clove), plummy fruit and slightly burnt toast-ies. Same food pairing recommendation as the Le Roi, but you could try pairing it with a mild yellow cheese as well.
Onwards to the Poor House picks, leading with the 2013 Aidarini Merlot/Xenomavro from the Slopes of Paiko. Xenomavro is the second (or first, I couldn’t find a definitive stat) most widely grown red grape in Greece. And this grape is a very different animal than the agiorgitiko from the preceding paragraph - light, acidic and savory are the descriptives I came across most often. Which probably explains blending with merlot, a rich, round fruity varietal much more familiar to New World palates.
After some fairly time consuming surfing, I came up with almost nada on this wine. This is all I found, from the website of the importer: “The Aidarini family has been making wines since the early 19th century! Christos Aidarini is ably assisted by the Burgundian trained Mike Michaelides. Very little of the production of this fine estate makes it’s way out of Greece. They can be found in some of the finest Greek restaurants in the world such as Mavromatis in Paris.” And at the Pour House in Truckee! Yep, that’s it. But I can give our my tasting impressions - light bodied, dark fruits, bitter chocolate and tea. So, a food wine. I’m thinking charcuterie, cheese, olives, all consumed in the orchard on a summer’s day. The orchard in my mind. Yum.
Our final wine of the month! The 2012 Vriniotis Iama (means “Cheers”) Red Vradiano/Syrah Evia. So, our fourth wine is a blend of a forth indigenous Greek grape blended with yet another French grape, from another different region. I think we should spend more time in Greece in the future, there seems to be a lot to explore! So, Vradiano. Ummm. ??? Again, very little on the intra-webs. But I did learn that the winemaker, Konstantinos Vriniotis decided to revive this grape, which had been disappearing even in the Greek Isles. His grapes (planted by his ancestors in the 1850s) are organically farmed and the wine is fermented in barrel and on the lees (meaning unfiltered, which means there are spent yeast shells floating around. It adds a lovely, interesting richness).
The name of the wine means “Cheers” and it is a great little glass to raise, while our first April snowstorm arrives. Take a sip, feel the gentle breezes of Aegean, and remember your youth, “like that star of the waning summer who beyond all stars rises bathed in the ocean stream to glitter in brilliance.”
― Homer, The Iliad
I hope you enjoy your wine journey!
The Pour House
10075 Jibboom St.
Truckee, CA 96161