There are certain things that happen in life that are so completely unforeseen, and yet so completely enriching, that you wonder what life would have been like without them.
Such a thing happened to me a little over a year ago, when I met Markus Stolz on Twitter.
Markus is a German-born financier and wine aficionado who fell in love with a Greek woman, moved to Greece to raise a family with her – and then, to his bewilderment, fell equally in love with Greek wines.
Within a few weeks of reading Markus on Twitter and on his very informative, and very popular blog, elloinos.com, I found myself asking about Greek wines whenever I walked into a wine store. Then of course came the part that I hadn’t expected: I, too, fell in love with Greek wines.
So for the last several months I’ve been researching, learning, reading, hunting, tasting, pouring, pairing and thoroughly enjoying discovering the richness and exquisiteness of the wines made in that stunning country.
For the next few weeks I’ll be writing about my discoveries, and pairing Greek wines with seasonal, gourmet, yet simple recipes. (You can read Gentilini Robola of Cephalonia, paired with roasted asparagus salad and Thimiopoulos Vineyards Uranos, Xinomavro paired with Pan Bagnat both published in June 2011… More coming soon!)
The wine featured today is a magnificent rosé from one of the most reputable wineries in Greece: Gai’A (pronounced “yeai-ah”) Wines. (By the way, the most challenging part of Greek wines hasn’t been tasting them, but pronouncing their names, hence the phonetic inserts I’ve included here.)
Founded in 1994 by Dr. Yiannis Paraskevopoulos (PhD in enology from the University of Bordeaux) and Leon Karatsalos, Gai’A Wines owns vineyards in two different areas of Greece: Nemea (on the southern peninsula of the Peloponnese) and Santorini (the famously stunning island). They have devoted themselves to exploring indigenous Greek varieties and have crafted exquisite wines with great expertise and care.
And every drop of that brilliant labor shines through the wines that I’ve had the pleasure to taste from Gai’A, including their 14-18h Rosé.
Producer: Gai’A Wines
Grapes: 100% Agiorgitiko
I recommend not serving this wine too chilled in order to savor its complex fruit, herbal and mineral flavors.
Agiorgitiko (pronounced “ah yor YEE ti ko”) is the second-most-planted black grape in Greece and is well known for its fruitiness and concentrated red color. It’s mostly used for the production of red wines, but also makes intensely colored rosés.
(The 14-18h acquired its name because the skins are left in contact with the juice for 14 to 18 hours. This is how the wine acquired its deep pink color and magenta hues.)
At first sniff, intense aromas of red cherries, ripe summer peaches and a hint of strawberry fill your nostrils and are quickly followed by a whiff of salty air from the sea and herbal notes.
At first sip, the seductive aromas expand: plush sour cherries, ripe summer stone fruits and hints of mint, anise and hibiscus. The lovely acidity keeps the luscious fruit flavors in check and makes the wine as alive on the tongue as it is to the eye. Round, smooth and juicy, this rosé begs you to take another sip.
What I had in mind for this delectable rosé was this lentil salad with baked beets, spinach and yogurt-mint dressing. The wine turned out to be delightful with it. The sour cherries flavors paired perfectly with the intense flavor of the baked beets, while the herbal element in the wine harmonized with the yogurt-mint dressing. The wine’s acidity danced beautifully with the vinaigrette while its weight stood up to the earthy, protein-rich lentils.
All in all the Gai’A 14-18h Dry Rosé is a fantastic wine at an extraordinarily good value. It’s easy to think of drinking this wine all summer long. In fact, I would happily drink it all year long.
Where to buy Greek wines
In the US: Astor Wines in New York City has a wonderful selection of Greek wines. They ship around the country. My advice is to start with any of the wines above $12.
Grand Wine & Liquor in Astoria, New York also carries many Greek wines. Not all are listed on their site, so call the store directly at (718) 728-2520. They ship!
In Europe: 600 Bottles sells outstanding Greek wines online.
Where to taste Greek wines
One of the best ways to taste Greek wines is in restaurants. In New York, Sommelier Michael Madrigale of Bar Boulud and Boulud Sud features many superb Greek wines on his wine lists, including vintages available nowhere else. Molyvos has an outstanding wine list offering wines from every part of Greece. Snack Taverna has a small but excellent wine list. They also offer wines by the glass.
Next time you see a Greek wine on a restaurant’s wine list, don’t be shy, try it – there’s much to discover and enjoy!