Last Wednesday we had the distinct pleasure of hosting Christina Boutari in our offices for a brief tasting and overview of Greek wines. Christina is a 5th generation Boutari and head of exports. Founded in Naoussa in 1879, the company is one of the most recognizable names in Greek wines. They account for 40% of wines exported from Greece and they are available in 38 countries. With an 18 million bottle production they are indeed one of the largest, too. In the US alone they account for 20% of greek wines sold.
We tasted a few wines. First up was the Moschofilero (pronounced mas-co-FEEL-er-oh), the first greek wine I ever tried. Bright and floral (really floral!) with fresh acidity and lovely texture. Great wine and it retails for only $14.99.
Next up, a wine from Santorini, the beautiful island where Boutari also has a boutique winery. The nose of the Santorini (also the name of the wine) was quite different from the Moschofilero, with a distinct mineral character. Christina mentioned the volcanic soil and the old, original vines used for this wine, which may account for the aroma characteristics. There is some honey there and almost a nutty character, very similar to Italian white wines. So if you’re a fan of some of Tuscan Italian whites or even northern Italian whites, this is a wine for you to try.
Santorini is an ancient, volcanic island, known for its beautiful beaches and water. The vines here are on original rootstock, being immune to phylloxera. Also unique is the method in which the vines are trained, known as “basket” training. Rather than stakes, vines are woven as the grow, creating a basket shape. This ancient method protects the vines from wind and heat. Everything here is dry farmed, using no irrigation, and the resultant wines reflect the combination of distinct contributions from the soil, the old vines and the vine-training.
We also tasted the Elios red, a name inspired by “helios,” the greek word for sun. The Elios wines (they make a white and red) are blends of traditional grape varieties (Chardonnay & Cabernet Sauvignon) with Mediterranean grape varities. Designed to appeal to the wallet and palate, these wines are bright and fruit-forward, ready to drink and enjoy with food. The red was lovely and imediately made me think of Chianti, or other lighter-bodied Tuscan reds. Dusty tannins, plum, some spices – great acid and a perfect food wine.
Loved seeing Christina and tasting these wines – Greek wines are still hard to find in the US market, though Boutari has done a wonderful job bringing their bottles into the country and introducing people to Greek wines. If you have a hankering to learn to pronouce the greek grape varieties and learn more about the country and its wines, check out BoutariWines.com as they are an excellent resource.