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.
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.