I’m Drinking What He’s Pouring (or This Ain’t Circe’s Wine)

Above: despite his modesty, wine writer David Lynch is no second-string sommelier (center, with enologist Antigoni Karamvali and marketing director Valerie Tsakiris of Boutari).

It seems that Greek wines are in the air: Eric included a wine from Santorini in a post and column this week and I recently learned that the 2008 Food & Wine Classic in Aspen will include a seminar on Greek wine led by David Lynch — wine writer, top-flight sommelier, and all-around good guy.

Week before last, David and I attended a tasting of wines by Boutari (whose website is written entirely in Greek). Besides Boutari’s winemaker and marketing director, we were also joined by Mitch Frank of The Wine Spectator, a former political writer (whose insights into the current campaign were fascinating).

David likes to joke that he’s a “J[unior] V[arsity]” member among NYC’s top sommeliers but, let me tell you, this guy really knows his stuff: few can rival his knowledge of Italian wine and he’s tasted and poured with the best of them.

“95% of the value of a wine in a restaurant,” he said, “is the serving temperature and the stemware. Serve a $35 bottle of wine at the right temperature and in the right glass, and it’s worth twice that much.”

Above: of the whites, I really liked the Moscofilero (left) but the Santorini (center) blew me away.

While the higher-end blends of native Greek varieties and Bordeaux grapes were international in style and heavy on the wood, the lower-end bottlings were fresh, clean, and delightful. The Moschofilero (white) was distinctive, slightly musky, and delicious with grilled octopus and I really liked the Santorini, made from Assyrtiko grapes, a white with balanced mineral and fruit flavors.

As Eric mentions in his post, the vineyards on the volcanic island of Santorini are a sight to behold (I’ve never been but have seen photographs): the vines are trained in “bushes” (or baskets, as enologist Antigoni Karamvali called them). Bush training helps to protect the vines from strong winds (the same training methods are used in Sicily and Apulia). The bush training also allows the vine to “migrate”: Antigoni showed me images of vineyards originally planted in perfectly straight rows, where the vines had crept — at slightly different rates — to more humid parts of the vineyard. Drinking this wine, you really get that sense of place, that sensation that this wine could have been made no were else in the world.

The wine that surprised me the most, however, was the Nemea (a place name), made from 100% Aghiorghitiko (also known as Agiorgitiko) grapes: the wine was light in color and in the mouth, with wonderful red berry flavor, a perfect wine to serve slightly chilled on a summer’s eve with filleted branzino (otherwise known as Mediterranean sea bass). From what I understood, the price-point for this wine should weigh in under $20.

This was no wine of Circe.* And, hey, if David is pouring, I’m drinking.

In other news…

Thanks to everyone for the messages and positive vibes for VinoWire, which launched this week with a scoop about the changing of the guard at the Bruno Giacosa winery. I am proud to report that VinoWire was the first publication — Italian or English — to to break the story and to reveal the name of the new winemaker. Stay tuned to VinoWire for more…

* For [the painting] “The Wine of Circe” by Edward Burne Jones.

Dusk-haired and gold-robed o’er the golden wine
She stoops, wherein, distilled of death and shame,
Sink the black drops; while, lit with fragrant flame,
Round her spread board the golden sunflowers shine.

Doth Helio here with Hecatè combine
(O Circe, thou their votaress!) to proclaim
For these thy guests all rapture in Love’s name,
Till pitiless Night give Day the countersign?

Lords of their hour, they come. And by her knee
Those cowering beasts, their equals heretofore,
Wait; who with them in new equality
To-night shall echo back the sea’s dull roar
With a vain wail from passion’s tide-strown shore

Where the disheveled seaweed hates the sea.

— Dante Gabriel Rossetti

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