Why Greek wines are about to become the next big thing

Why Greek wines are about to become the next big thing

Greek wines are as intriguing as their popular French and Italian counterparts, and they’re half the price

(Illustration: Jack Dylan)

Pine-scented retsina has left a bitter taste with many wine drinkers, but Greek wine has moved on, and it’s poised to become the next big thing, with more Greek labels making their way into trendy restaurants beyond the Danforth. More than 300 indigenous grapes are grown in the country’s 28 wine-growing appellations, which are home to more than 650 wineries. And the quality and value has only been getting better over the last 10 years. The new Greek wines combine the firm acid and mineral structure of many European wines with the ripe, bright fruitiness often found in hotter New World regions. The country’s core strength is aromatic yet steely whites, like moschofilero and assyrtiko, that will appeal to riesling and gewürztraminer fans. Lighter-weight, complex reds like xinomavro and agiorgitiko are similar to pinot noir and Italian nebbiolo. The LCBO’s selection is still meagre, but Vintages carries some excellent-value bottles, while Kolonaki Group, an Ontario-based Greek wine specialist, offers great buys by the case. Here, nine bottles worth trying, even if you’re not serving souvlaki.

Boutari 2010 Moschofilero
Boutari 2010 Moschofilero
Boutari 2010 Moschofilero
$11.95 | Mantinia | 86 points Mantinia on the Peloponnese is the homeland of the aromatic moschofilero grape. With scents of lavender and apricot fruit and a soft, rich, almost oily texture, it’s similar to gewürztraminer, but with a black pepper spiciness and lemon on the finish. Try it with spicy seafood dishes. LCBO 172387
Boutari 2004 Grande Reserve
Boutari 2004 Grande Reserve
Boutari 2004 Grande Reserve
$16.95 | Naoussa | 88 points The xinomavro grape grown in northwestern Macedonia produces pale-coloured, savoury, tart and tannic reds similar to Italy’s nebbiolo (the Barolo grape). This is a maturing example with dried sour-cherry fruit and dusty, earthy notes from 24 months in the barrel. The length is excellent. Best with savoury red meats. Vintages LCBO 140111
Domaine Gerovassiliou 2009
Domaine Gerovassiliou 2009
Domaine Gerovassiliou 2009
$19.95 | Epanomi | 89 points Domaine Gerovassiliou, a champion of indigenous grapes, has regenerated the all-but-extinct malagousia variety, which is blended here with crisp assyrtiko. It pours yellow with intriguing scents of dried tropical fruit, apricot and anise. It’s mid-weight, soft and dry with a spicy, herbal finish. Similar to France’s viognier. Vintages LCBO 999714
Kir Yianni 2007 Diaporos
Kir Yianni 2007 Diaporos
Kir Yianni 2007 Diaporos
$50 | Imathia | 90 points This unorthodox and expensive collector’s red is a cutting-edge blend of 87 per cent native xinomavro and 13 per cent syrah. It’s modern and sinewy, with rich aromas of chocolate truffle, sour cherry–plum fruit and pencil lead. It has finesse but tannin grittiness as well. Plays in the big leagues. Cellar it for three years. www.kolonakigroup.com
Kourtaki Muscat
Kourtaki Muscat
Kourtaki Muscat
$14.95 | Samos | 92 points An unbelievably low-priced dessert wine, this sweet muscat hails from an eastern Aegean island known for growing muscat. It has very lifted, fine, fragrant aromas of dried apricot, mango, lychee, ginger and chai. It’s full-bodied, smooth and wonderfully balanced. Pairs sublimely with chocolate. Vintages 938407
Estate Papaioannou 2006 Agiorgitiko
Estate Papaioannou 2006 Agiorgitiko
Estate Papaioannou 2006 Agiorgitiko
$20 | Nemea | 89 points This maturing red with an old fashioned label will appeal to fans of traditional northern Italian reds. It’s medium-bodied, sinewy and savoury, with complex leather, sour red fruit, woodsy and herbal notes. It’s well-balanced, but not heavy, with the intensity to match red meats and pastas. www.kolonakigroup.com
Skouras 2010 Zoë Rosé
Skouras 2010 Zoë Rosé
Skouras 2010 Zoë Rosé $11.95 | Peloponnese | 87 points A bright, sunset-hued rosé that’s a blend of 70 per cent red agiorgitiko and 30 per cent white moschofilero, which lends lilac notes to the pomegranate-cherry fruit aroma. It’s medium-weight with a hint of sweetness that gives way to a bra­cing, slightly bitter minerality. Serve chilled. Vintages LCBO 225045
Sigalas 2010 Santorini
Sigalas 2010 Santorini
Sigalas 2010 Santorini
$24.95 | Santorini | 90 points This substantial and spicy white is made from the tart, dry yet floral assyrtiko grown on old vines on the windswept volcanic island of Santorini, a favourite stop on the Aegean cruise circuit. It’s peppery with guava and grapefruit flavours that are surprisingly powerful. A salty, stony tang on the finish. Made for calamari. www.kolonakigroup.com
Thalia 2009 Mediterra Red
Thalia 2009 Mediterra Red
Thalia 2009 Mediterra Red
$9.95 | Crete | 86 points This light, savoury red blends native kotsifali and syrah in equal parts. It doesn’t have dynamic or distinctive aromas (red plum, tobacco, spice), but it’s nicely balanced, with some fruity sweetness, moderate alcohol and a dry, spicy, slightly tarry, peppery finish that syrah fans will enjoy. www.kolonakigroup.com