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Greek wines are making strides in quality, availability

| Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012, 9:02 p.m.
wine bottles for column. PTR-LIV-wine-100312

During the past few years, labor strikes, government austerity programs, street protests and relentless rumors of withdrawal from the European Union have clouded news from Greece.

Meanwhile, traditionally maligned Greek wines have staged a rally by making significant strides in quality and export sales.

According to the “New Wines of Greece,” an organization dedicated to promoting awareness of Greece's quality oriented wines, the growth of Hellenic Republic's wine exports to North America now rivals Argentina, Chile and Spain. Promotions such as Greek wines being featured at this weekend's Greenwich 2012 Food + Wine Festival in Connecticut have driven consumers' discovery of the wines' terrific compatibility with food.

American restaurant sommeliers have increasingly embraced selling hitherto exotic Greek varieties such as Assyrtiko (pronounced ah-seer-teh-koh ) and Xinomavro ( see-NOH-mah-vroh ), which pair especially well with popular Mediterranean cuisine. Following the trend, the PLCB has improved the Greek wine selection at its luxury stores.

Try the following for a fun and tasty tour of wines from land of Homer's “Iliad” and “The Odyssey”:

2010 Boutari Assyrtiko, Santorini Greece (Luxury 18338; $16.99): Greece's famous Aegean Islands fan out to the north, east and south of the mainland and include, most importantly from a grape growing viewpoint, Santorini and Crete. Assyrtiko, a wonderfully aromatic and zesty white variety, traces its roots to Santorini's sandy, volcanic vineyards.

To battle persistent, potentially damaging maritime winds, the Boutari firm cultivates the vines low to the ground in a basket shape. The grapes grow protected in the center and ripen early in August while retaining refreshing acidity.

The wine opens with peach, ripe apple and tantalizing grapefruit aromas. Round, fruity flavors unfold in the glass balanced by zesty acidity through the dry finish. Try it as an everyday aperitif or pair it with shrimp scampi with plenty of garlic. Recommended.

2011 Lyrarakis Assyrtiko, Crete, Greece (Luxury 45663; $21.99): To the south on the island of Crete's eastern side, Assyrtiko again does especially well in arid, high-altitude vineyards with rocky clay. Highly aromatic grapes with bracing acidity produce wines with personality and verve.

In this case, floral lemon and lime aromas mix with green-apple notes. Elegant, zesty citrus and peach flavors balance beautifully with bracing acidity and mouthwatering mineral notes. The fruity, yet bone-dry finish lingers pleasantly. Pair it with steamed fish or steamed octopus with sea salt and smoked paprika. Highly recommended.

2010 Domaine Skouras Moschofilero, Peloponnese, Greece (Luxury 27665; $16.99): Moschofilero vines grow primarily in sandy soils west of Athens on the Peloponnesian Peninsula, home to famous ancient Greek cities such as Corinth and Sparta. The vines produce pink and light purple-skinned grapes used to make aromatic, dry white wines.

To preserve freshness, this wine fermented is in stainless-steel tanks. The winemakers blocked secondary malolactic fermentation to conserve the fruit's natural crisp acidity. Brief aging on the lees — the spent yeast cells — imparted a touch of pleasant creaminess.

In the glass, just the slightest hint of dusty pink colors the wine. Floral honeysuckle and beguiling rose aromas blend with citrus notes. A sip of the wine reveals fresh citrus and peach flavors balanced by bright acidity and a touch of bitter orange rind. The wine finishes dry and delicious. Pair it with seafood salad. Highly recommended.

2010 “My Big Fat Greek Wine” Agiorgitiko, Peloponnese, Greece (Luxury 28586; $10.99): Heading up the peninsula toward Athens, red-skinned Agiorgitiko grapes becomes prominent. Cool nights alternate with bright, sunny days to ripen the fruit consistently.

By using a play on the name of a popular movie, this wine introduces American consumers to an otherwise completely unfamiliar grape variety. The light-purple color offers raspberry and rose-petal aromas. Raspberry flavors balance with light tannins and a dry, fruity finish. The wine provides a versatile, easy drinking red.Recommended.

2007 Boutari Naoussa Red, Naoussa, Greece (Luxury 20268; $15.99): In northern Greece near Macedonia, xinomavro grapes thrive. The wine's opening aromas of plum and red berries have pleasant herbal accents. Plum and fresh, red-cherry flavors balance with firm acidity for a clean, dry finish. Pair it with burgers or lamb meat gyros. Recommended.

Dave DeSimone is the wine writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at ddesimone@tribweb.com.

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