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After spending an amazing summer studying in Greece and returning there for travel over the years, I’ve developed quite an affinity for Greek wines. The food and wine are such a tremendous part of the rich culture. I adore cooking and serving Greek food and wine for clients and friends alike!
Many are skeptics, having had a bad bout with the notorious pine resin-y retsina, but most leave converts.
I was so pleased to be invited to a blind tasting recently by two Greek brothers who run a wine import and distribution business here in DC. We blind tasted 22 Xinomavros and enjoyed a generous spread of authentic Greek food at Mourayo in DuPont Circle.
Jason and Nasos Papanikolao. “You captured us perfectly! He is always out front and I am always in the background drinking wine!” – Jason
The hard to pronounce varietal is an oft over-looked, but a delicious and bold red wine perfect for pairing with lamb and summertime grilling season! It has deep, dark fruit flavor profiles and a nice earthy balance. This wine is often best decanted before service. If you like big, tannic, full bodied red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah, give this Greek stand out a try for a fraction of the cost!
One of my favorite things about Greek wine- and Xinomavro in particular- is the outstanding value. Below is one of my favorite wines for the money. It showed well at the tasting against pricier bottles, but is delicious at around $20/bottle! For a big, bold wine to pair with red meats, that’s a steal!
This bottle is a go to when enjoying lamb and delicious homemade tzaziki.
Do you ever enjoy Greek Wines?
I get asked a lot about various wine gadgets, but truth be told, I like to keep things pretty simple. Great stemware is nice and I’m more than partial to my favorite corkscrew, but one thing that I notice wine drinkers not doing enough of: decanting their wines.
In addition to aerating wines that need a bit more time to open up, decanters are also ideal for older and unfiltered wines that may have accumulated a bit of sediment. Plus, they take a regular wine experience from everyday to festive in a flash!
As we move into the colder months, people tend to drink bigger, bolder reds. Often, these are the most prime candidates for decanting. And while decanters CAN be pricey, they needn’t be! Check out some of my favorite elegant decanters that won’t break the bank- all are under $40!
Do you decant your wines?
Lately, there seems to be a delegated day (and a corresponding hashtag) to just about everything- in case you didn’t mark it in your calendar, today is #TempranilloDay.
In light of this most important holiday I wanted to share 5 fun facts about this popular grape:
- While Tempranillo is most closely associated with the Rioja region of Spain, it is also grown domestically in California, Arizona and Texas.
- Spanish Tempranillo is categorized into 4 age categories: Cosecha, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva. Typically, younger wines are more fruit forward and lighter in body, while older Tempranillos develop bolder, more earthy and nuanced characteristics.
- Younger wines should be consumed while young, while Reservas and Gran Reservas (the latter is only produced in outstanding vintages) are more suitable for aging.
- All Tempranillo is high in acid and medium bodied, making it an extremely versatile pairing wine. Try it with roasted pork or charcuterie for a can’t miss pairing!
- Tempranillo is the most widely planted grape in Spain.
What’s your favorite Tempranillo?
I’m taking a cue from my clients and giving a few pointers on some of the differences between Old World and New World wines this week. It’s a class that I teach a lot, and it’s a lot of fun to see people who “hate [insert wine variety]” realize they don’t in fact hate ALL of it!
To start, it’s helpful to know what we’re even talking about here. “Old World” is Europe (Turkey, Lebanon and others are also generally included in this category). “New World” is….everything else! America, South America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa- they’re all New World.
Obviously there is quite a bit of variation in these regions, so take these generalizations with a grain of salt.
- New World wines are typically more fruit forward, whereas Old World wines typically exhibit more earthy elements respective of their terroir.
- New World wines are more typically aged in American oak, which imparts more flavor than French or Hungarian oak.
- New World wine also tend to be a bit higher in alcohol than Old World wines.
- Some find the flavors in New World wines to be a bit more accessible, whereas Old World Wines are typically described as subtle or nuanced.
- It’s possible to find Old World style wines in the New World, and vice versa!
There’s no right or wrong preference- just as in art, wine is highly subjective and you should drink what you like. Just remember to branch out sometimes- you just may discover that that wine you thought you hated is more about the region than the grape!
Do you prefer one style over the other?
This week Washington DC is hosting the The Green Festival. The wine industry is currently undergoing it’s own “greening” process, and clients are making more and more informed decisions when purchasing wine.
But what does “drinking green” look like? (And no, I’m not talking about kale smoothies!) It can be a complicated process and there are many ways to go about it!
Although vintners make countless choices in their efforts towards sustainability and environmental harmony, there are a few main categories that have a major impact on how green your wine choices are.
1. Organic Wines:
This one can be a bit misleading, because the meaning of organic wine varies from country to country. The certification process also varies, and can be prohibitively expensive for smaller wineries. Many wineries that grow their grapes organically are not certified for this reason. Often, the bottle will give you an indication of whether the vineyard employs organic practices.
Often, “Old World” (European) wines use fewer and less harsh pesticides than their “New World” counterparts. This is largely due to their environmental laws prohibiting the use of certain harmful chemicals, as well as the wine making tradition of generations working with the land before the advent of chemicals and machinery.
2. Sustainable Wines
Sustainable wine practices include the planting of beneficial plants and wildflowers, use of bio-diesel fuel, water conservation practices, cork recycling programs, or the elimination of machinery. Hand-picking grapes and plowing by horse are just a few sustainable practices winemakers employ to reduce their environmental footprint. Economic viability and impact on the community- such as fair trade practices- are also often taken into account with sustainable wine making. These practices are often used in conjunction with organic or biodynamic practices.
2. Biodynamic Wines
Biodynamic wine making is similar to organic farming practices in that both take place without chemicals. However, biodynamic farming takes a broader approach, viewing the vineyard as an ecosystem, and incorporating astrological influences and lunar cycles. Biodynamic wines also avoid cellar manipulations such as adjusting yeast or acidity.
4. Drink Local
I was recently at an environmental fundraiser that paid careful attention to providing vegan meal options and flying in hi-profile environmental advocates. However, when I visited the bar I was shocked to see them serving non-sustainable, non-organic, non-biodynamic from the other side of the globe?!
I love foreign wine, but the cost and energy of transporting wine is not without its own environmental impact. Although it’s difficult to grow grapes organically in Virginia, many wineries, such as this one are making incredible strides towards reducing their environmental footprint. Drinking local not only helps the local economy, it helps the environment!
Do you try to drink “green”?