Bon Vivant: (n) a person having cultivated, refined, and sociable tastes especially with respect to food and drink.


Then and Now: Greek Wine

Posted in: Bon Vivant, Wine Recommendations, Wine Reviews, Wineries and Vineyards

Politics and Wine: Greece’s legacy to the world and me

It was 10 years ago this summer that I first visited Crete. It’s a place with incredible history, culture and soul- a place that imprints a part of itself onto you.

I was there for an intensive study on political philosophy and conflict resolution, but it was a summer I’ll never forget for other reasons. Crete was the place I first learned that a drink in a beautiful location can bring the most divergent people together with a sense of camaraderie that simply can’t be forged around conference tables in air conditioned rooms.

greek wine leaves

It was late night conversations under trellised grape vines on cobblestone streets, at beach bars, and on breakfast terraces that I learned the most that summer. When these political friends ask about my career transition to wine I explain that I now practice diplomacy through wine; they all nod knowingly.

Vessels used to hold wine at the Minoan Ruin, Knossos

Vessels used to hold wine at the Minoan Ruin, Knossos.

The wines of Crete are in some ways products of political conflict and resolution themselves.  As an island along key trading routes, it has been under Minoan, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, Venetian and Greek rule. Home to the earliest recorded civilization in Europe, it is no surprise that the Minoan diet on Crete included wine.

Throughout its long and storied history, Crete has maintained its own distinct identity- absorbing bits from each conquerer affecting the island’s culture, religion, politics, and even wine making.

Today, as they have for centuries, Crete produces outstanding wines that reflect the island’s diverse topography and terroir. Wines of Crete guest speaker, Joe Roberts, of, reintroduced us to the oft-overlooked wines from this storied island and its unique native varietals.

I enjoyed two stand out wines during the guided tasting, and was pleased to learn they were made from 2 of Crete’s 11 indigenous varietals.

The iron gate

Alexakis Vidiano was outstanding. It boasted a beautiful bouquet of white peach, stone fruit and jasmine, but I was pleasantly surprised by a creamy mouth feel balanced by refreshing acidity on the palette. This wine would be outstanding with a meaty white fish like Swordfish (I’ll take mine with tzatziki, if you please!) or Grouper.

Boutari Skalani was a full bodied blend of Syrah and the indigenous Kostifali grape- described as the workhorse of red Cretan wine varieties.  Incredibly well balanced the red cherry fruit was tempered by just the right amount of earth and a kick of spice from the Syrah.  I could imagine it pairing beautifully with roasted lamb or Barbeque.

Enjoying the Boutari Skalini

Enjoying the Boutari Skalini

After the formal tasting released, we retreated outside to enjoy lunch, more tasting, and conversation under trellised grapevines at The Iron Gate– just like I did a decade ago in Chania, Crete.

Tasting wine with Joe after the seminar

Tasting wine with Joe after the seminar

I enjoyed an easy drinking rosé from Ano- aromatic with strawberry on the nose and a bone dry finish with my plate of Greek tapa during the expanded tasting. It was perfect for the warm summer afternoon and alfresco dining.

grape vine canopy

As wine seminars goes, this one got one thing right that others often miss- that wine is at least as much about culture and camaraderie as what’s in your glass.

Yamas! (Greek for Cheers!)

Have you tried Greek wine?


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