by Markus Stolz

red wines

byMarkus Stolz
April 24, 2012, 2 Comments

Greek white wines have certainly taken the lion share of the attention received by the wine media. This is a result of the overall consistent quality, the availability (quantity), and the focus on indigenous grape varieties like Assyrtiko, Malagousia, Moschofilero, Robola, Roditis or Savatiano.

For the Greek red wines, quantities are dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, Agiorgitiko, Merlot, Syrah and Xinomavro. Xinomavro is slowly but surely being recognised as Greece’s most distinguished red variety, and deservedly so.

What captures my attention is the potential of a fair number of indigenous red varieties that are not widely known (yet).

Avgustiatis: Grown in the Western Peloponnese and on some islands. Red fruits, plum and Mediterranean herbs. Has a velvety structure with fine tannins, expressive.

Black of Kalavryta: Limited to Aegiala and Kalavryta in the northern Peloponnese. This can rival fine Pinot Noir.

Koniaros: Limited to Serres in Northern Greece. It yields a muscular, full bodied red with firm tannins.

Liatiko: Its home is in Crete, best known for the production of sweet wines. Dry wines can be stunningly complex, with finesse and balance that capture the senses.

Limniona: Originated in Thessaly. The wine is silky, concentrated, with a lot of finesse. This variety is well on its way to become sought after. It is serious, has the ability to please crowds, and is well priced.

Mavrotragano: From Santorini, the wines are complex, full bodied, masculine and tannic.

Mouchtaros: Rare variety grown in Central Greece. Stewed prunes, blueberries, sweet spices. A medium bodied wine with silky tannins and explosive fruit, quite harmonious.

Vertzami: Grown on the Ionian Islands (mainly Lefkada), also Peloponnese, Central Greece and Epirus. Cassis, black berries and truffles. Bold and rich, with gentle tannins, breathtaking harmony.

Vlahiko: Cultivated in the high altitude, cool climate zones of Epirus. The wine has moderately low alcohol, fine tannins, and a high acidity, very elegant in style, the opposite to heavy and rich.

While I appreciate that all of the above grape varieties are produced by only a handful of growers (and in some cases, only a single one), they are a true showcase of the exiting diversity my adopted home country is bringing to the table. These varieties are a Sommelier’s dream. It would be a great initiative to have them included in a future trade/media event for Greek wines.

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  1. Kostas KatsoulierisApril 25, 2012, 12:51 am

    Nice one Markus! However a few points:
    1) I agree with Theo that Pinot & Mavro Kalavrytino are oranges & apples. What you may have meant is that MK is more “bang for the buck” & more consistent than many PNs – otherwise I don’t think they can be compared. I mean some of the red fruit aspect yes but I didn’t get any sous-bois or tha much earth from MK. Don’t get me wrong I like MK very much but it is a stretch to compare it with PN. Having said that it blends well in Mega Spileo’s wonderful red blend with Mavrodaphne.
    2) You missed out on old (and oft unloved) Mavrodaphne which is coming on in leaps and bounds in its dry form both in blends and as a single variety bottling… Show it some love!
    3) Greek Pinots leave a lot to be desired, it’s too warm here I think (possibly also why Riesling isn’t very good here) and none of the ones I have tried are impressive. Indeed apart from Papaioannou’s none of them have any “pinosity” – and that is a Papaioannou with some bottle age on them.
    4) Stavropoulos also uses Avgoustiatis in his “4 Varieties” blend with Merlot & Aglianico. Avgoustiatis is also in one of my favourite Greek reds, Antares, which I feel is criminally underrated by many wine critics in this blessed/cursed realm.
    5) I think Mouchtaro would go down a storm in many wine bars in the UK, it’s an easy, fruity and quite feminine wine.
    P.S. look forward to your video introductions to Avgoustiatis and Tinaktorogos!

  2. elloinosApril 25, 2012, 1:04 am

    Kosta, love to have you back in the comment section!
    1) Please keep in mind that the audience is international. Just throwing out “Mavrokalavrytinos” won’t achieve anything. The earthiness component of the MK leads me to Pinot Noir, and I think readers might relate to that.
    2) I did include Mavrodaphne in the first draft of this post, with references to Sklavos and Parparoussis. I cut it because the variety is not really unknown.
    3) In my view, they are very limited areas in Greece where Pinot might be worth exploring. MK has more potential.
    4) Serious potential for Avgoustianos.
    5) Not limited to UK :)
    P.S. Me too