Beyond Assyrtiko, Greek Whites Reach for Distinction

Από Eric Asimov

The country is full of obscure and unusual grapes. Some already make wonderful wines, but too many fall prey to formulaic production.

Among all the little-known grape varieties found in the ancient land of Greece, assyrtiko is the one that seems to have broken through. Yet its surfacing has been tentative.

A vanguard of curious and adventurous drinkers recognizes that assyrtiko from the island of Santorini displays many of the characteristics that are associated with great dry white wine. It has been by far the most popular among Greek whites, a category that has grown recently in the United States.

“There has been a significant increase in the sales of Greek wine in the U.S., and especially whites,” said Sofia Perpera, director of Greek Wine Bureau-North America, a trade group. “The hottest category, by far, is assyrtiko.”

Yet most people, including many who consider themselves wine lovers, still regard assyrtiko as something exotic, perhaps even alien.

So what might they make of other Greek whites with names that are vastly more obscure, like moschofilero, roditis and savatiano, to say nothing of athiri, robola and malagousia. Or is that malagouzia?

Spelling itself is a problem. The names of these Greek grapes must be transliterated into English from the Greek alphabet, which sometimes results in multiple renderings.

So moschofilero is sometimes spelled without the “h,” and malagousia with a “z” instead of an “s.” And forget about the red grape agiorgitiko, sometimes written aghiorghitiko or even as its English translation, St. George.

Having witnessed the rise in the quality of assyrtiko in the last decade or so, I was curious about these other Greek whites. Have they made a similar leap in quality? In an effort to answer this question, the wine panel tasted 20 Greek whites from recent vintages. We specifically excluded assyrtikos because we wanted to focus on these other emerging varieties.

For the tasting, Florence Fabricant and I were joined by two guests: Matthew Conway, general manager and beverage director of Marc Forgione in TriBeCa, and Joe Robitaille, head sommelier at Bar Boulud and Boulud Sud near Lincoln Center.

In a way, I thought, they were a little reminiscent aromatically of a mild version of retsina, the historic Greek white that is flavored with pine sap. I say this with some trepidation as retsina is generally as reviled as it is misunderstood, but I mean it as a compliment. Don’t worry; none of these actually tasted like retsina.

Our favorite was the 2017 Hoof & Lur from Troupis made from moschofilero grapes grown in Mantinia. Moschofilero, like roditis, is a pink-hued white grape, and it can sometimes make wines like this one that might appear to be rosés. Regardless of the tinge, this was a lively, balanced, deliciously herbal wine with citrus flavors.

An unusual wine, our second pick, is made from the ancient muscat of Alexandria grape, which is found all over the Mediterranean. Often, it’s used to make sweet wines, although I’ve had excellent dry examples from Sicily, where it’s called zibibbo. This bottle, the 2017 Terra Ambera from Manolis Garalis on Lemnos, a volcanic island in the Aegean, was dry, perfumed and floral.

Our third wine was the 2016 Theon Dora from Giannis Stilianou in Crete, crisp, fresh and minty. It was a particular study in obscurity, as it was made from three grapes that were unknown to me: vidiano, thrapsathiri and vilana, all indigenous to Crete.

The 2017 Notios from Gai’a in Nemea, an area better known for producing red wines, was our fourth choice. This bottle, made of moschofilero and roditis, leaned toward a more familiar Mediterranean style, but it was very well-done.

The next two wines were both made of malagousia, a grape that was on the verge of disappearing in Greece 30 years ago but has been resurrected and is now found all over the country. The first, rendered malagouzia, is the 2017 from Antonopoulos in the Achaia region in the northern Peloponnese: tangy, fresh and slightly more austere than the zesty, harmonious 2016 malagousia from Zafeirakis in Tyrnavos in the Thessaly region.

Also worth seeking out are two robolas from the island of Cephalonia in the Ionian Sea: the bright, succulent 2017 from Orealios Gaea, which we liked a little more, and the rich, textured 2015 Vino di Sasso from Sclavos. We also recommend the savory, herbal 2016 roditis (spelled “rhoditis”) from Kouros in Patras, and the earthy, floral 2015 moschofilero from Nasiakos in Mantinia.

It was plain from our tasting that these grapes have the potential to make wonderfully distinctive wines. They are already excellent values. None of the wines in our top 10 cost more than $24, and six of them were $20 and under.

It was also obvious that almost half the wines in our tasting — the ones we rejected — suffered from formulaic winemaking. None were undrinkable, but in wine shops already crammed with generic whites, it’s doubtful that the unfamiliar names have much shot of breaking through.

The niche success of assyrtiko offers a formula of a different kind: Figure out what is not already saturating the market and go for it.

Crete wines: the next Santorini?

Από Tim Jackson MW.

I was invited by Wines of Crete, a non-profit organisation formed by Cretan wineries less than 10 years ago, to spend 3 days exploring the wines, history and culture of the island.

What I found was a region steeped in vinous history, but which has only recently been rediscovering its potential. In the white variety, Vidiano, they have a high quality, indigenous grape with which to lead the renaissance of the island’s wines and with which to promote a quality perception for Crete wines.

The recent import of Assyrtiko from Santorini bodes well too as it is already producing high quality wines in a less austere style than Santorini, as does the recovery by Lyrarakis of remarkably herb-scented Dafni.

Whilst international varieties, especially Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon are grown, domestic varieties Kotsifali and Mandilari show promise as a blend, and Liatiko as a varietal red, though these varieties are not yet at the quality level of Vidiano.

Here are my notes, thoughts and opinions on the following dimensions of Crete wines:

  • History: overview of the 4,000+ years of winemaking history of the island
  • Current state: where the industry is now, and where Wines of Crete are heading
  • Varieties: summary of the principal red and white varieties, roughly ordered by indigenous then international, with what I think are better varieties first
  • Geography and vineyards: broad overview of the geography and regions, plus key vineyard features
  • Food and people: brief observations of two key support dimensions for Cretan wine progression
  • Wines: over 130 tasting notes and scores for wines tasted, ordered by producer



Crete’s wine culture dates back at least as far as the Minoan civilisation that flourished from 2200BC, through to its decline after the earthquakes and huge tidal wave of around 1450BC, that wreaked destruction around the Agean Sea, as a result of the volcanic explosion of Santorini……. Read the full article:


Την κατάργηση εδώ και τώρα του ΕΦΚ στο κρασί ζητεί η ΕΔΟΑΟ

Έκκληση στην κυβέρνηση να προχωρήσει χωρίς καμιά άλλη καθυστέρηση στην κατάργηση του ΕΦΚ στο κρασί απευθύνει η Διεπαγγελματική Αμπέλου και Οίνου, το ΔΣ της οποίας συνεδρίασε σήμερα και , μεταξύ άλλων, συζήτησε αναλυτικά  για το θέμα αυτό υπό το πρίσμα των συνομιλιών που είχε νωρίτερα αντιπροσωπεία του κλάδου σε συνάντηση  με τον υπουργό Αγροτικής Ανάπτυξης.

Ειδικότερα, όπως τονίστηκε στη συνεδρίαση, στα μεγάλα προβλήματα από την εφαρμογή έως τώρα του ειδικού φόρου προστίθενται και καινούργια μετά την απόφαση του ΣτΕ που ακυρώνει σημεία της σχετικής υπουργικής απόφασης, καθώς  δεν υπάρχει καμιά κατεύθυνση από τις αρχές στα οινοποιεία με αποτέλεσμα να επικρατεί σύγχυση και αβεβαιότητα που πλήττει τις συναλλαγές. Είναι ενδεικτικό μάλιστα ότι τις τελευταίες δύο εβδομάδες, δηλαδή στο διάστημα μετά τη γνωστοποίηση της απόφασης του ανωτάτου δικαστηρίου, διαπιστώνεται μεγάλη μείωση των πωλήσεων.

Σημειώνεται ότι απαντώντας στο αίτημα κατάργησης του ΕΦΚ   που είχε υποβάλει νωρίτερα η αντιπροσωπεία του κλάδου, αποτελούμενη από τον πρόεδρο της ΕΔΟΑΟ Βαγγ. Αργύρη, του ΣΕΟ Γ. Σκούρα,  της ΚΕΟΣΟΕ Χρ. Μάρκου και μελών της διοίκησης των 3 οργανώσεων, ο υπουργός Αγροτικής Ανάπτυξης Στ. Αραχωβίτης  προσδιόρισε τον χρόνο λήψης αποφάσεων  αφού καθαρογραφεί η απόφαση του ΣτΕ.

Κατά τη συζήτηση στο υπουργείο, έγινε επίσης μια  πρώτη συζήτηση για τα προβλήματα και τις εκκρεμότητες του αμπελοοινικού κλάδου, με τον υπουργό  να εκφράζει την απόλυτη στήριξή του στην «πρόκληση» του Στρατηγικού Σχεδιασμού για την Αμπελουργία δεσμευόμενος για επιτάχυνση του έργου της Επιτροπής που έχει συσταθεί. Ο κ. Αραχωβίτης εξέφρασε επίσης την πεποίθησή του για την αναγκαιότητα συνέχισης των προγραμμάτων προβολής και προώθησης των οίνων και τόνισε ότι θα σταθεί δίπλα στις πρωτοβουλίες του κλάδου για την ανάπτυξη του τομέα.

Nemea disclosed

By Yiannis Karakasis MW


When one talks about Nemea, it will classically be described as the largest PDO region of the country with approximately 2.500 hectares under vine. The variety that is considered the ultimate star is, none other, than the charming Agiorgitiko, which produces soft, fruity and easy-drinking wines. This may be a statement that involves much truth, but it is not the whole truth.

Nemea is so much more; it is a mosaic of vineyards that vary in exposure, altitude and soil, and this particular assortment is expressed in the wines. They come in a wide variety of styles and qualities.

One needs to walk through the vineyards and the larger area to fully grasp the diversity of the terroir. It is worth trying the wines of each locality separately so as to discern the breadth of all the different elements and how these are imprinted in the wines. It would not be an exaggeration, I think, if one were to say that Nemea rivals Naoussa in terms of the complexity of terroir.

Nevertheless, what I describe has not been highlighted during these recent years. Not only have these facts not been made known, but the image of Nemea has suffered. Oceans and seas of cheap, bulk wine supply armies of thirsty consumers damaging the reputation of the area, which has come to be associated with poor quality, dubious wine. If one bears all this in mind I actually wonder how well we know Nemea and because I like challenges, and the unattainable even more so, I set up a tasting during the Great Days of Nemea to show the diversity of the area.

The Basics

Before we start, let’s take a look at the basics because, without them, nothing can be done. The landscape of the zone is defined by 7 valleys which have been formed by the flow of rivers, such as Asopos. These are:

1. Between Nemea, Galata, Aidonia, Petri and Koutsi

2. Ancient Kleones

3. Ancient Nemea

4. Leontio-Gymno

5. Asprokambos-Psari

6. Kefalari

7. Malandreni


The altitude for the zone starts at 300 meters and reaches above 1200 meters, but vineyards are planted up to 850 meters in Asprokambos. Approximately 50% of the vineyards are up to 500 meters. The climate, although generally Mediterranean, in practice shows great difference even within short distances. The rain is theoretically at about an average of 750 mm and is 80% more common during the winter, however, it does not follow any rule thus affecting what we call a vintage to the maximum. There are years with minimum rainfall (2007 with 408 mm, 2008 with 515, 2013 with 541) and others where it reaches close to 1000 mm (1999 to 908, 2010 to 872, 2014 to 826). And, as if the rain were not enough of a problem, add the cool nights to the equation, and this makes it all the more exciting and complex.

The soils are characterized by the presence of clay and silt, but there is also limestone which seems to add a different feature to wines. Naturally, in the lowlands the soils are more fertile, whereas the farther one goes up to the hills, the soils become shallower, with more rocky features, and at the highest level one encounters marl which gives very good drainage and thus lower yields.

Up to now, all of what I have described above has not been highlighted. Everyone thinks Nemea is uniform without realising its many facets. To a certain extent this is justified by the fact that the majority of wines are blends. Koutsi has been singled out and there has been some discussion about Asprokambos and Ancient Nemea. Personally, I consider this an exciting puzzle that is worth exploring and tasting.

Let’s take a look at the various terroirs using the tasting I organized for the Nemea Winery Association and the Great Days of Nemea as a guide, since the reasoning was to compare seemingly dissimilar areas. // Read the full article:


Γενική Συνέλευση Διεπαγγελματικής Αμπέλου και Οίνου

Σε φάση δρομολόγησης περνά πλέον ο στρατηγικός σχεδιασμός για την αμπελουργία, καθώς δόθηκε ήδη στην ΕΔΟΑΟ η τελική πρόταση του ΕΛΓΟ ΔΗΜΗΤΡΑ με το πλάνο δράσης και μάλιστα έγινε και αναλυτική παρουσίαση του, σε συνάντηση ( στις 4/12/18) πριν από την Γενική Συνέλευση της Οργάνωσης, παρόντος του Υπουργού Αγροτικής Ανάπτυξης και Τροφίμων.

Ο κ. Σταύρος Αραχωβίτης εξέφρασε την πεποίθηση ότι το Στρατηγικό Σχέδιο θα είναι έγκαιρα έτοιμο και θα αποδειχθεί αποτελεσματικό, ενώ εμφανίστηκε θετικός στο αίτημα του κλάδου για κάλυψη του κόστους λέγοντας χαρακτηριστικά «τα χρήματα που θα χρειαστούν, υπάρχει τρόπος να αναζητηθούν. Ακόμη, ο Υπουργός εξήρε το πνεύμα ενότητας και λειτουργίας της ΕΔΟΑΟ, τονίζοντας ότι παράγει έργο, ενώ σχετικά με τον ΕΦΚ στο κρασί, είπε χαρακτηριστικά ότι ο κύκλος έκλεισε. 

Μιλώντας ο Πρόεδρος της Διεπαγγελματικής Αμπέλου και Οίνου κ. Βαγγέλης Αργύρης επισήμανε την ανάγκη κάλυψης του έργου από την Πολιτεία, ως ελάχιστη ανταπόδοση της υπέρμετρης επιβάρυνσης του κλάδου από την τριετή εφαρμογή του ΕΦΚ στο κρασί.

Ο κ. Αργύρης συνεχάρη, εκ μέρους του κλάδου, τα στελέχη του ΕΛΓΟ ΔΗΜΗΤΡΑ κ. Γεωργία Ουζουνίδου, και κ. Δημήτρη Τάσκο (παρουσίασαν στη συνάντηση τον αμπελουργικό σχεδιασμό για τη διαμόρφωση της τελικής πρότασης) ενώ αναφέρθηκε και στα προβλήματα σχετικά με τα προγράμματα Προβολής και Προώθησης σε Τρίτες Χώρες.

Τρία επίσης σημαντικά θέματα συζητήθηκαν πριν από τις εργασίες της Γενικής Συνέλευσης και συγκεκριμένα η ψηφιακή υποβολή δηλώσεων παραγωγής και οι επενδύσεις στο πλαίσιο της ΚΟΑ Οίνου (τις εισηγήσεις έκαναν τα στελέχη του ΥΠΑΑΤ) κ.κ. Λάζαρος Κιωκάκης και Διονύσης Γραμματικός), όπως επίσης και οι εξελίξεις στο πεδίο του οινικού Τουρισμού από την Πρόεδρο της Εθνικής Επιτροπής Οινοτουρισμού κα Μαίρη Τριανταφυλλοπούλου. 

Οι εργασίες της Γενικής Συνέλευσης ολοκληρώθηκαν σε ενωτικό κλίμα και ολοκληρώθηκαν με την έγκριση του απολογισμού του Διοικητικού Συμβουλίου.


Επιτυχημένα ξεκινά ο διαγωνισμός καινοτομίας του αμπελοοινικού τομέα Vitivini Lab που διοργανώνει η ΕΔΟΑΟ, σε συνεργασία με την Είναι ενδεικτικό ότι υποβλήθηκαν 20 προτάσεις, 14 εκ των οποίων προκρίθηκαν και παρουσιάστηκαν σήμερα, 7 από αυτές περνούν στην επόμενη φάση (επώασης). 

Τόσο ο κ. Αργύρης όσο και ο κ. Κόκκαλης Πέτρος εκ μέρους της εξέφρασαν την προσδοκία ο διαγωνισμός καινοτομίας να εξελιχθεί σε ετήσιο θεσμό. Στα αξιοσημείωτα της εκδήλωσης η μεγάλη προσέλευση κοινού, με πολλούς φοιτητές, ερευνητές και πανεπιστημιακούς αναμεσά τους και οι οποίοι συμμετείχαν και στην ψηφοφορία επιλογής. 

Λήγει η προθεσμία για τον διαγωνισμό Viti Vini Lab

Στην τελική ευθεία έχει μπει πλέον ο πρώτος διαγωνισμός καινοτομίας   Viti Vini Lab του αμπελοοινικού κλάδου, καθώς στις 15 Νοεμβρίου λήγει η προθεσμία υποβολής συμμετοχών. Ενός διαγωνισμού που διοργανώνεται από την Διεπαγγελματική Αμπέλου και Οίνου με τη συνεργασία της  και φιλοδοξεί να γίνει ετήσιος θεσμός.

Επόμενος σταθμός το   Demo Day, στις 4 Δεκεμβρίου, οπότε θα παρουσιαστούν οι προτάσεις που θα επιλεγούν στον αμπελοοινικό κλάδο.

Περισσότερες πληροφορίες στο  

TEXSOM: Judges’ Selections Winners Announced at ProWein 2019

Dallas, Texas (March 18, 2019) –– TEXSOM Co-founders and Master Sommeliers James Tidwell and Drew Hendricks today will announce the final results for the 2019 TEXSOM International Wine Awards. The Awards garnered 3,294 entries representing 32 countries and 18 U.S. States, a record for the competition.

Entries into the TEXSOM International Wine Awards were blind-tasted and judged by 66 internationally renowned industry professionals from 5 countries. The judges awarded 258 Gold medals, 859 Silver medals, and 1116 Bronze medals, for a total of 2,233 medals. Suggested retail pricing of medal-winning entries ranged from US $2.99 to over $700. Vintages spanned 36 years, the oldest red from 1983, and the oldest white from 1991.

On Monday, March 18th, Judge’s Selection winners — wines judged best for their categories – will be announced by Caro Maurer, MW during ProWein at a reception in the Enterprise Greece pavilion, sponsored by Enterprise Greece. The event is a culmination of a series of award announcements on TEXSOM social media channels, and website of the Award-winning wines. A comprehensive list of winners can be found on the TEXSOM IWA website:

Greek wines continue to show well at the TEXSOM wine awards, garnering significant medals annually. Enterprise Greece, the government agency responsible for export promotion, is sponsoring some of Greece’s leading wineries at ProWein. 

“The international recognition we receive at ProWein, indicates that the TEXSOM International Wine Awards has become one of the most internationally influential competitions in the world. From the caliber of the judges to the quality of the entries, the Awards set the standard for what key tastemakers and industry influencers believe are the world’s top wines.” Says Tidwell.

Award entries were arranged by category of beverage, place of origin, and type. The final list of all winners includes:  Judges’ Selections, Traditional Method Sparkling Wines, Other Sparkling Wines, Fortified (Dry and Sweet), Sake, White Wines, Rosé and Blush Wines, Red Wines, Ciders, and Fruit, Flavored and Honey Wines. 

Unique among all other wine competitions, the TEXSOM International Wine Awards also includes rising-star sommeliers and writing mentors in what TEXSOM refers to as the Sommelier Retreat. This group in addition to attending seminars and blind tasting practice with a Master Sommelier or Master of wine, are also responsible for expanding upon tasting notes for medal winning wines. These notes will be highlighted as Featured Wines on the TEXSOM International Wine Awards website, and in the TEXSOM publication, SOMMELIER. 

A list of this year’s judges may be found at


Founded in 2005, TEXSOM was started by Master Sommeliers James Tidwell and Drew Hendricks to help promote professional wine service standards, outline paths for further wine education and certification, and raise public awareness about the professional standards and certifications for sommeliers. Today the conference draws more than 1,100 attendees, of whom more than 800 are sommeliers and other beverage industry professionals. The TEXSOM group purchased the competition now known as the TEXSOM International Wine Awards in April 2014. One of the largest, most respected, and longest-running in the United States, the competition was founded in 1985 by journalist and wine expert Rebecca Murphy.