© by Sheral Schowe
The wine bar at last week’s Greek Festival is an Athenian tradition that dates back to the 5th century B.C. The original Greek festivals were associated with wine drinking, vine growing, and the harvest of the grapes. The most important festival, called the Anthesteria, was in honor of Dionysus, the god of wine.
Eight traditional Greek wines were available this year, each with interesting and unique flavors. The most common question was, "Which wine is sweet?" Other than the Greek communion wine, Mavrodaphne, and a handful of others such as Samos, Greek wines are typically very dry and acidic.
The wine selection began with the most traditional Greek wine of all, Boutari Retsina ($6.15), full of grape flavors, a strong fragrance and flavor of pine resin. There is no middle ground with this wine. You either love it or hate it, depending on your enjoyment of mountainous pine flavors.
Kourtaki Vin De Crete 1996 ($7.50) is a light, crisp, and delicate white wine with citrus flavors along with a hint of ginger and cream. The finish is snappy with citrus and some bitter almond.
Achaia Clauss Santa Helena 1996 ($7.95) is a simple, refreshing dry white wine with melon, citrus, and almond flavors. It is an easy-drinking, satisfying country wine from Triphylia.
The last white wine was the most complex, interesting, and flavorful of all. Lazaridi Amethystos Fume 1996 ($18.45) is 100 percent sauvignon blanc from the Drama region. The color is a brilliant green-yellow. The aromas and flavors are full of wood, nuts, honey, and some vanilla, with a long, aromatic finish. Because of the extensive barrel fermentation, this is not a reflection of the typical grassy, herbaceous sauvignon blanc. It bears a closer resemblance to an oaky chardonnay.
Kourtaki Vin De Crete Red 1996 ($7.50) is a refreshing and fruity, yet dry wine with bursting cherry flavor. It is made from the Greek varietals kitsifali, liatiko, and mandilaria.
Kouros Nemea 1996 ($8.65), made from the argiogitiko grape on the mountainsides of Nemea, is a rich, dark purple garnet color with strong earthy flavors and a little mushroom and leather on the smooth finish.
Boutari Nemea 1996 ($10.90), made from the same grape as the Kouros, is a bright cherry color. It is bursting with cherry and plum with a spicy, peppery finish. This is an excellent wine to pair with lamb.
Lazaridi Amethystos Red 1996 ($19.50) is a Bordeaux-style blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, and the addition of an indigenous Greek grape, limnio. The bouquet is full of berry, vanilla, and oak. The flavors are a velvety smooth blend of rich currant, blackberry, and a little earthiness. It is an excellent food wine or can be enjoyed on its own.
Sept. 16, 1999