Another Greek treat
Over the past couple of years, I've touted the Greek wine Mavrodaphne of Patras as a great way to toast a loved one on Valentine's Day. This seductive Greek red wine is not only a relatively modest alternative to Port, it goes unusually well with chocolate, the lovers' repast.
But there's no need to wait for Valentine's Day to share a sweet treat with your sweetie ... how about the Summer Solstice, which just happens to be coming up tomorrow at 3:11 p.m. U.S. Eastern Daylight Time.
I was prompted to try a glass by the recent arrival of a new shipment of Mavrodaphne from Boutari, one of the two major producers of this wine widely available in the U.S. (the other is Achaia Clauss).
Since this wine is not usually vintage-dated, you can't easily tell whether a specific bottle is a recent arrival or has been around for a while. But Boutari made it easy this year by switching labels to a new black-and-gray style, replacing a previous version that was mostly black. (Readers of our HTML/graphics version will see the new label with my tasting report below. If you're reading the text version, you can click to the illustrated tasting notes online. Today's tasting report is archived at
Boutari's Mavrodaphne (pronounced "Mah'v-ro-dahf-nee") is made with about equal measures of the Greek Mavrodaphne ("Black Laurel") grape and the indigenous Korinthiaki ("Corinthian") variety, grown - as the name implies - in Patras, a coastal strip along the northern edge of the Peloponnese, the peninsula that makes up the southern half of Greece.
Like Port, Mavrodaphne is a "fortified" wine, with a dose of brandy added to stop fermentation while the wine remains naturally sweet. The brandy adds warmth and strength and preserves the wine. Mavrodaphne is also a bit like Madeira in that it is intentionally exposed to heat while it ages in barrels, baked outdoors under the Grecian sun.
Boutari Mavrodaphne of Patras ($12.99)
The clear cherry-red Greek dessert wine breathes warm, heady scents of stone fruit, plums and prunes, with overtones of brown spice and an odd, intriguing waft of bay leaves. Ripe and full in flavor, it's soft and very sweet, but there's sufficient lemony acidity in the background to keep the sugar from cloying; overall, the lingering black-fruit impression in the finish seems more snappy than sweet. Very pleasant dessert wine and a good value. U.S. importer: Paterno Imports, Lake Bluff, Ill. (June 19, 2003)
FOOD MATCH: Best served as a dessert or for snacking with nuts or sharp cheese. Try it with chocolate!
VALUE: Competitive in price and quality with other fortified sweet wines including mass-market non-vintage Ports, Sherries and similarly priced Australian "Port."
WHEN TO DRINK: I have never tried aging Mavrodaphne and don't know anyone who has. But considering its kinship to non-vintage Port or Madeira, it should be nearly bulletproof in cellar and ought to last, if not gain complexity, over quite a few years.
WEB LINK: You'll find Boutari's English-language pages at
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Friday, June 20, 2003