Friday, October 11, 2013

Calamari Plus

A major component of my "little" Wine Odyssey is to discover and experience wines from all around the globe. I definitely feel a tinge of excitement when I run across wines with unusual grape varieties - regardless of where they're from. Tonight's bottle is one of those "out there" bottles for me. I can't say that I know much about Greek wines - particularly the more premium bottlings. Most of my prior quaffing of Greek wines involve one of the ubiquitous, cheap and cheerful litre bottles found at Greek restaurants along with souvlaki and calamari.

I made a special effort, therefore, to head down to Marquis Wine Cellars - one of Vancouver's premium private wine stores (if it doesn't just outright take the crown) - when they featured this is one of their Wines of the Week, particularly since the wine was going to give me another two grapes to add to my Wine Century Club tally (#'s 162 and 163).

1450. Domain Mega Spileo White (Greece)

A blend of Assyrtiko and Lagorthi (the label says 60/40 while the website says 50/50), I wasn't going to get a whole lot of information from the bottle's label. It's completely in Greek and, while I may remember my Greek alphabet from fraternity days, it sure wasn't going to help me out here. It took a bit of time on the net to figure out what was going on with this bottle - particularly since Marquis said that the wine was made from the Lagorid grape. I didn't have any luck finding that one at all.

Lagorid. Lagorthi. It's all Greek to me.

Assyrtiko is one of the best known white wine grapes in Greece and I find it hard to believe that I haven't already added it to my Wine Century Club tally. I've definitely thrown back my share. I guess I just missed adding the variety as I'd assumed it was already there. Assyrtiko may be the third most widely planted white grape in Greece but it is most closely associated with the island of Santoríni.

The Domain Mega Spileo vineyards are located farther north in the mountains of Achaia in the north-west corner of the Peloponnese. More growers are planting Assyrtiko in the north as they're finding that it will keep its acidity and offer a bit more fruit on the palate than the grape tends to on Santoríni.

Lagorthi is relatively rare - it is only grown in a limited number of vineyards and is primarily found in northern Pelopennese and some of the Ionian Islands. The grape is known (as much as it is known) to maintain higher acidity levels than most people associate with white Greek wines. It is also known as Verdeca - a traditional variety grown in Puglia in southern Italy. The grape has a relatively neutral flavour profile with a noticeable minerality. Noting these traits, the folks at New Wines of Greece see it as an intriguing variety that can be found as a premium varietal wine or in some interesting blends - generally with grapes that can add a richness to the palate.

If the average wine drinker wouldn't know what Assyrtiko is, my guess is that the folks growing Lagorthi have got a ways to go before it'll ever be a household grape.

As for the winery, Domain Mega Spileo is found on lands with official references to the monastery vineyard that date from 1550. Viticulture on the lands ceased, however, as the monks gradually left the monastery. The vineyard was revived and replanted in 1999 by the current owners. This bottle is currently the only white wine that the winery makes.

While this wine definitely had more weight to it than I generally associate with white Greek wines, it still lacked the fruit that a BC boy like me is used to with favourite white wines. The minerality did shine through and I was thrilled with the exposure to Lagorthi but I don't think this is going to be a regular match to Boo's never-ending quest for the best calamari ever.

I should think that Boo could talk me into a visit to Greece to do a little research on calamari and Greek wines though. Hint. Hint.

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