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Five wines that surprised me, from Greece’s Assyrtiko to a Southern France rosé

Argyros Estate Assyrtiko
Argyros Estate Assyrtiko

I love wine. I love its amazing array of flavors, aromas and weight. I love its affinity for food. And I especially love the fact that no matter how much I taste and learn there are always new discoveries.

This column is dedicated to some of my most recent wine finds.

First, the Greek island of Santorini. The average wine drinker may not realize it, but Greek wines are white hot, especially among the country’s top sommeliers.

Santorini has a long and proud history of wine production, something in the nature of 3,700 years! Its terroir, volcanic soils with little water available for the wines, a lack of clay, and a high concentration of minerals, leads to extremely low yields and wines with a distinct minerality. In other words, wines that are right up my alley.

One such wine is the Argyros Estate Assyrtiko. Assyrtiko accounts for three-quarters of the grapes on Santorini in 2016. It’s prized for its thick skins, high acidity, and ability to thrive in the island’s harsh volcanic soils.

Argyros’ Assyrtiko is a terrific example of the heights this grape can achieve. With just a hint of oak and the grape’s natural acidity, the earthy flavors of the Assyrtiko shine through. This is my first experience with Assyrtiko, but it will not be my last!

Having traveled to Italy more than a dozen times, and possessing a cellar stocked with Italian wines, I consider myself fairly knowledgeable when it comes to all things vinous in Italy. Then I stumbled upon a new grape from a familiar region — Grechetto from Umbria.

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Grechetto

Grechetto is a white grape from a region famous for its monstrous red wines, Sagrantino di Montefalco. I tried the Arnaldo Caprai Grecante Grechetto and found it to be absolutely delightful. Medium-bodied and blessed with good palate-cleansing acidity, Arnado Caprai’s Grechetto is loaded with tropical fruit and peach flavors and aromas. A natural food wine, I’d suggest this Grechetto with grilled pork chops with a sweet barbecue glaze.

Next, I head to Southern France and the sunny and beautiful region of Roussillon. I’ve had wines from Roussillon before, but never have they impressed me so much as my recent sampling.

Because of the size and the varied topography and micro-climates, the Roussillon offers a wide range of wine offerings and styles. I tried two whites, a rosé, and a red wine before penning this piece, and I can honestly say I really enjoyed all four.

But the wine that impressed me the most was the rosé, a Domaine Lafage, AOP Côtes du Roussillon, Miraflors 2017. With a color somewhere in between the Rhone and Provencal rosé expressions, and brimming with delicate light red flavors and aromas, the Miraflors was a delicious wine and the perfect way to get your summertime gathering started.

For my last two wine discoveries, let’s hop over to Spain for some wines from Navarra. Dominated by the town of Pamplona and its famous “Running of the Bulls,” Navarra is also both a historic and significant wine producing region. All of the wines I tried were from family-owned wineries in Navarra and featured both indigenous and international grapes.

From Bodegas Ochoa, I especially enjoyed the Tempranillo Crianza, which to my palate had more character and depth than most Crianzas from Rioja. I’d match this beauty with some grilled pork chops.

Lastly from Bodega Inurrieta, there is the Inurrieta Laderas. At $40, this was by far the most expensive of the Navarra wines I sampled and also the most complex, layered and age-worthy.

The Bodegas’ website describes the Laderas as “restless and innovative,” and while I’m not sure what either of those descriptors relate to how the wine tastes and smells, this is clearly a well-made red wine with layers of flavors and aromas, a judicious amount of oak, and years of life ahead of it.

Wow, that’s a lot of new wine discoveries for me. I’m positive there will be more! Cheers!

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Argyros Estate Assyrtiko

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