Wednesday, June 10, 2015

My white wine for the Summer of 2015 is Santorini's Superstar, "Assyrtiko" by Philip S. Kampe



                                                       Wines from Santorini

Maybe its the summer breezes…maybe it’s the sun…maybe its the beauty of nature…but, whatever it is, the crisp, salty, acidic white wines of Santorini lure me in, hook, bait and sinker.

Maybe I have a love affair with Santorini, where I spent ten glorious weeks during summer recess  from college. Maybe it was the donkey that I rode up the hill upon arrival to Santorini. Maybe it was the daily Mediterranean food…or maybe it was the just the local wine I consumed day and night.

Granted, Greek wines have an identity problem regarding varietals. Hard names to say and so many indigenous varieties. Santorini wines are less phobic for the amateur. There are only a handful of different grapes grown on the volcanic island.

A quick grape lesson for wines from  Santorini:
All varietals are influenced by the volcanic soil, strong winds and sun-drenched vineyards. The favored white varietal is Assyrtiko. Seventy per cent of Santorini’s white wines are made with this grape. The reason why Assyrtiko is the ‘chosen grape’ is because this grape has aging potential and can handle both acidity and high alcohol levels at the same time. The wines are easily recognizable, dry, mineral laden,briny and  full-bodied on the palate. The aromas are tropical, specifically lemon and lime with a hint of kiwi. Does the word, 'summer wine' ring a bell?

There are two other widely used white grapes in the production of wines from Santorini. Like Assyrtiko, Athiri and Aidani are grapes that can stand on their own or can be used in blending, specially the sweet wine of Santorini, Vinsanto.

The red varieties are mainly used to make sweet wines, as mentioned earlier.  The two red grapes of the island are Mavrotragano, a dark red grape with infinite tannins and Mandelari, a true blending grape.
                                               Estate Argyros wines
                                                              
               Assyrtiko pairs beautifully with Mediterranean food, especially seafood

As you can see, the grapes are easily memorized. Once you learn about the grape, Assyrtiko, the rest is easy.

Recently, I had the opportunity to sample 42 wines from Santorini and found that the whites showed an island minerality that was pure, crisp and refreshing, much like Chablis.  On the other spectrum, the dessert wines of Santorini,Vinsanto, were all well made with just enough residual sugar to make them interesting. My favorite Vinsanto  was from Estate Argyros, a 1990, made with a blend of Assyrtiko, Athiti and Aidani.  Othr Vinsantos that were commendable were from Gaia, Gavalas winery, Hatzidakas, Artemis Karamolegos, Koutsoyannopoulos Winery, Canava Roussos, Santo Wines and Domaine Sigalas.

The whites, all made with Assyrtiko, were all pleasant and a reminder that there are other choices for summer wine favorites. Maybe its time to forget New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs this summer and move the Assyrtiko grape of Santorini. These wines are affordable ($13-$20) and convincing.

My favorites include Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko, Athiri 2014, Gaia Assyrtiko Wild Ferment 2014, Estate Argyros Assyrtiko 2014 and Santo Wines Sparkling 2014.

The tag line for the tasting was “Volcanic Terroiristas UNITE!
And we did….

To learn more about the Wines from Santorini, visit: www.winesfromsantorini.com

Philip S. Kampe
Philip.kampe@thewinehub.com 

                               




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