2012 Boutari Santorini, Assyrtiko, Santorini, Greece

The Wine of the Week
 by Annette Tomei

Annette is the founder of VinEducation, where she is a food and beverage educator and consultant. She is also a professional chef who frequently contributes delicious recipes to EatSomethingSexy.com.

boutari santorini assyrtiko2012 Boutari Santorini, Assyrtiko, Santorini, Greece

Centuries of civil wars, world wars, and financial upheaval have isolated Greece and its wines from the rest of the world. It wasn’t until the first years of the 21st century that Greece entered the world wine market in earnest. Although Greece is now growing many traditional European grapes, the most interesting wines are being made from indigenous varieties, several of which are the oldest known varieties in the world.

The Assyrtiko grape is native to the island of Santorini and represents over 80% of the wine grapes grown there. This white wine grape maintains its acidity as it ripens, which is important in a hot climate. Characteristic aromas are citrus, earthiness and mineral; it is especially concentrated when grown in the volcanic soils of Santorini.

Santorini is a volcanic island in the center of the Aegean Islands. Wine has been made here since thousands of years BC. The Greek wine classification system was instituted in 1981, including PDO Santorini (Protected Designation of Origin) – similar to an AOC designation for French wine. Grape vines here are trained into low baskets, known as ampelies, to protect the grapes from the sun and wind. Assyrtiko is the predominant variety in the production of Santorini’s wines with the designation “Appellation of Origin of Superior Quality”. This grape is also used to make a sweet, nutty vinsanto dessert wine.

The Boutari family began commercial wine production in 1879. Since then they have played a great role in the (re) development of Greek wine, especially from Santorini, both viticulturally and economically by introducing modern winemaking techniques and raising quality standards for the region. The Boutari Santorini winery began production in the early 1990s.

The 2012 vintage is now being replaced by the 2013s, but is still available. The bottle I tasted had rich aromas of red apple and oranges, with a touch of hazelnut and dry leaves. This wine has a delicious balance of tartness and astringency with a rich, smooth roundness and lingering finish. Assyrtiko, by nature, is easily oxidized, and the bottle I tried showed some signs of this (nuttiness and less citrus fruit aromas and minerality than expected), though I did not consider it a fault because is was mild and actually pleasant. If I wasn’t expecting something different, I would not have noticed at all. Oxidized or not (I’ve enjoyed both), this is a great choice of wine to accompany grilled or roasted fish, roasted poultry (I’m thinking Thanksgiving turkey right now), and it is wonderful with a silky butternut squash soup.

Tio Pepe Fino, DO Jerez (Sherry), Andalucía, Spain

The Wine of the Week
 by Annette Tomei

Annette is the founder of VinEducation, where she is a food and beverage educator and consultant. She is also a professional chef who frequently contributes delicious recipes to EatSomethingSexy.com.

NOTE: This week’s post is a “Throw Back Thursday” edition. One year ago this week, we introduced sherry to the Wine of the Week line-up. One of the many good things about sherry is that it is timeless, so the meaning of these words are not dated (though looking back, I think my writing – like good wine – has improved over time). I hope this will encourage you to go out and enjoy some sherry!

Tio Pepe FinoNV, Gonzales Byass, Tio Pepe Fino, DO Jerez (Sherry), Andalucía, Spain 

Sherry is a fortified wine, a category that calls for the addition of grape-based spirit to the wine to preserve and ‘strengthen’ it; Port, Madeira, and Marsala also belong to this category. That is where their similarities end. Sherry can only be produced in the Jerez (Xèrés) region along the seashore of southwestern Spain in the province of Andalucía.

Most sherries, including the Fino style, are made from the Palomino grape. But, what makes sherry so distinct is its method of production. Once the wine is made and fortified, it goes through a complex blending and aging process in a solera system, “a complex network of old barrels….Depending on how the wine moves through the solera, different styles of Sherry can be made.”[1] The Fino style is reliant on a particular type of yeast, flor, which forms along the surface of the aging wine providing a seal, protecting the wine from oxidizing, while contributing to the styles characteristic aromas.

Tio Pepe – the best selling brand of Sherry in the world – is a product of Gonzalez Byass, which was founded in 1835 and is still run by the founding family, now in its 5th generation. The Tio Pepe solera has been in constant operation since 1844. The Tio Pepe Fino Sherry spends an average of 5 years aging in the solera.

Aromas of roasted Marcona almonds and sea air – if you can hear the ocean waves crashing on the beach in a conch shell, you can smell it in a glass of fino sherry. Fino should be enjoyed well chilled. It is bone dry, bright and crisp, with the mouthfeel of cool silk. The strength of the added alcohol is present, but not off-putting. The lingering flavor of toasted almonds and slight salinity are a reminder that Sherry is at its best with food. The crisp delicate aromas, and complex but refreshing flavors of a fino Sherry are best with seafood, especially shrimp; but also with olives and Marcona almonds, or other simple tapas.


[1] MacNeil, Karen. The Wine Bible, 2001, Workman Publishing, NY, NY

2013 Cantele, Negroamaro Rosato, Salento IGT, Puglia, Italy

The Wine of the Week by Annette Tomei

Annette is the founder of VinEducation, where she is a food and beverage educator and consultant. She is also a professional chef who frequently contributes delicious recipes to EatSomethingSexy.com.

Cantele Rosato2013 Cantele, Negroamaro Rosato, Salento IGT, Puglia, Italy

Rosé, rosado, rosato – the name may vary by place of origin (France et al, Spain, and Italy, respectively), but the concept remains the same. A classic rosé is made from the juice of red wine grapes that was removed from skin contact after a brief extraction, then handled similarly to a white wine for the remainder of the vinification process. Once, most rosé was a byproduct of the red wine making process, it is now most commonly made for its own sake.

Within the pink wine category, as with red and white wines, there is a great range of styles as well as quality. Though some are quite sweet, the majority of rosés are dry (no residual sugar). Flavor profiles vary with grape variety, region of origin, and winemaking, as do hue and color intensity.

Negroamaro is a very dark-skinned grape that has a 1500-year history in southern Italy. Depending on the growing conditions, wines made from this grape can range from savory earthiness to rich, sun-baked berries, accompanied on either end of the spectrum by dark spices. Negroamaro grows best in its home region of Puglia (the heel of the boot), especially on the hot, dry Salento peninsula where it shares the number one position with another dark red favorite, Primitivo. Salento holds an IGT designation – the category added in 1992 to accommodate experimentation and creativity in the vineyards.

This wine has an intense rose-pink color that draws the eye of rosé lovers who seek a cold weather version of their summertime favorite. The promise of a taste of warm, sunny, southern Italy is alluring, as well. Aromas of strawberries, fresh herbs, and roses lead to an almost-full bodied wine. Dark cherry and black pepper flavors are balanced on refreshing acidity and a hint of tannins. This is an ideal match for seared duck breast, or even with duck confit atop a warm lentil salad. Also, try with roasted beet farrotto (risotto made with nutty farro), or pasta with a southern Italian-style fruity tomato sauce.

2007 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, “Les Grandes Terrasses”, Cornas, France

The Wine of the Week by Annette Tomei

Annette is the founder of VinEducation, where she is a food and beverage educator and consultant. She is also a professional chef who frequently contributes delicious recipes to EatSomethingSexy.com.

Jaboulet Aine Les Grandes Terrasses2007 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, “Les Grandes Terrasses”, Cornas, France

Cornas, the tiny appellation at the southernmost end of the northern Rhône Valley, is – in its entirety, smaller than the primary estate of the d’Arenberg family in the McLaren Vale in Australia (110 hectares vs. 113 hectares) – same grape, different world. The wines of Cornas are made from 100% Syrah, the primary dark-skinned grape of the northern Rhône Valley (commonly known as Shiraz in Australia).

The steep, sundrenched slopes of Cornas assure that machine farming will never be practical, just as they also assure low yields and intense, supple wines. Though long considered to be the “country bumpkin” compared to its sophisticated neighbor, Hermitage, Cornas is now experiencing a revival of sorts, both at home with renewed attention to quality and abroad in the international media

Paul Jaboulet Aîneé has produced wine in the Rhône Valley since 1834. The Frey family acquired the company in 2006. Under the care of Caroline Frey, they have made significant improvements to the quality of the wines, and renewed the energy and reputation of this long-respected name. “Les Grande Terrasses” is a reference to the extremely steep, granite terraces where the 45+-year-old vines grow. This wine is aged for 12 months in 20% new oak.

The 2007 vintage, though still available, is not the current vintage (that would be the 2009 at this time). This wine is deep garnet in color with aromas of roast meat, black pepper, and ripe plums. The rich flavors are consistent with the aroma and have a lingering smoky spiciness. The hearty tannins are well balanced by a plum-like tartness. If you’re planning ahead for Thanksgiving, this is a red to consider, especially if your tastes lean toward the more savory flavors of the season – roast meats, hearty roast vegetables, and game birds. This is also a wonderful accompaniment for duck confit, cassoulet, or earthy lentil soup.

2013, Vale Do Homem, Vinho Verde DOC, Portugal

The Wine of the Week by Annette Tomei

Annette is the founder of VinEducation, where she is a food and beverage educator and consultant. She is also a professional chef who frequently contributes delicious recipes to EatSomethingSexy.com.

Vale do Homem Vinho Verde2013, Vale Do Homem, Vinho Verde DOC, Portugal

Though the literal translation of Vinho Verde (pronounced ‘vino verd’) is green wine, the reference is to young wines that can be white, red, or rosé – all are recommended for drinking within their first year. The Vinho Verde DOC was designated in 1908. It is located in northwestern Portugal along the Atlantic coast and extending inland along the Douro River. Its cool, wet climate provides challenging conditions for ripening grapes; hence the characteristic high acidity and very low alcohol content of the average wine from this region.

Many Vinho Verde wines have a touch of effervescence, a slight prickle on the palate. This is attributed to malolactic fermentation taking place in the bottle. Though this may be considered a fault in other wines, it is happily accepted, even desirable, in Vinho Verde wines.

The primary white wine grapes of this region include Loureiro, Avesso, Trajadura, and Arinto (aka Pedernã). The Vale Do Homem 2013 is a blend of Loureiro, a variety known for its floral attributes, and Arinto for its minerally nature. The grapes of Quintas do Homem are grown in accordance with Integrated Production methods that regulate environmental and economic sustainability practices.

Floral aromas are spiced with lime zest and white pepper. This is a mouthwateringly acidic wine with refreshing stone fruit flavors and an astringent minerally finish. At 11.5% ABV, it is light to medium body and is a wonderful wine to pair with oysters and other shellfish. It will also go well with simple seafood preparations; or better yet, as the temperatures drop, a steaming bowl of miso ramen.