When people think about wine, several countries or locations immediately spring to the forefront: France, the USA (specifically Oregon and California), Spain, Australia, Argentina, Chile, and maybe Germany and Italy. Wine, though, can be made just about anywhere in the world under the right conditions. In fact, winemaking in the USA extends to not only the 48 contiguous states, but also to Alaska and Hawaii, though these two mostly stick to wines made from fruits other than grapes.
With certainty, one of my favorite things about wine learning comes from discovering new regions and obscure grapes. Of the thousand-plus (I don’t recall the exact number) winemaking grape species in the world, only a couple of dozen are widely known, grown, and distributed within the industry. As a result, many varieties inch closer to extinction every day.
I’m hoping that by not only completing, but also finding a way to continue this weekly challenge, I can shed light on some of these lesser-known varieties as others before me have done in books such as Jason Wilson’s Godforsaken Grapes. If you’re looking for an entertaining and highly engaging deep dive into the world of obscure wine, I highly recommend reading or listening to it. I’ll fully admit that it gave me a none-too-gentle shove off a cliff of casual wine interest into an abyss of crazed barbarian-rage frenzy to learn more, more, more.
As a bit of a preview for the future, there are a couple of wines in the challenge that I’m either going to purposefully skirt around and use Colorado wine instead, or include them as a side-by-side comparison to what I’m actually supposed to taste.
Why? Most simply, Colorado wine has fantastic potential with certain grapes that deserve recognition. I’ve had the opportunity to tour and taste within the Palisade region (part of the Grand Valley AVA), as well as sample offerings from the West Elks AVA. Truly, I can’t wait to share some of my favorite gems from this great state!
(Note: “AVA” means “American Viticultural Area,” or a region that has been nationally recognized in the USA as having distinct “specific geographic or climatic features that distinguish it from the surrounding regions and affect how grapes are grown,” according to the TTB. This is vastly different from what other countries call “denomination of origin,” which I’ll cover in another post.)
Buuuuuuut enough about Colorado… this week, we’re instead hopping over to Greece!
Instead of purchasing a new wine to taste, I dug into my reserves to see if there was an appropriate bottle I could open for the occasion. Apparently I had leaped ahead by several wines in selecting a Malbec for week 6, but the writers/tasters over at Wine Folly seem to be skipping around, too?
Oops, but not? Sorry not sorry! Malbec is GREAT.
No matter — most important thing is the ongoing palate training, consistent practice, and building familiarity with different styles of wine and wine making. Specifically, this time I chose the Greek white wine option, as I had a Moschofilero/Chardonnay blend that I’ve been meaning to try for a few months.
Remember how last week I mentioned how all juice from all grapes ends up clear — “white” — and that adding the skins of red grapes to their juices is what eventually tints their final color? Moschofilero is a red grape; in the wine featured this evening, it is presented as white (so no skin contact) and blended with 20% Chardonnay.
Fun wine term: using red grapes to make white wine is referred to as “blancs de noirs,” literally “white from black,” and it’s most commonly used on sparkling white wine labels that have pinot noir or the juice of other red grapes present.
I’d be curious to try a 100% red moschofilero alongside a 100% white version and compare them directly. Mental note for the future…
Week 7 Wine: Domaine Gioulis Sofos “The Wise One”
Producer: Domaine Gioulis
Region: Peloponnese Peninsula, Greece
Style: Dry white
Grapes: 80% moschofilero, 20% chardonnay
This wine is a clear, pale lemon color.
My initial thought when smelling this wine was “perfumey,” and I needed to consult a quick guide to help me parse through what I actually sensed. As accurately as possible, there’s lime/lemon zest, dried flowers, wet stones, and a nutty note (the food kind, not the crazy kind) most prevalent on the nose.
The wine has clean aromas with an overall intensity of medium minus, since I struggled to identify them. The aromatics remind me a bit of a French viognier, but they’re much less prominent; this is a simple wine.
Though slightly more interesting than the aromas, the flavors are clean and remain medium minus in intensity because I really had to search for specifics. I could detect strong citrus like lemon again, along with some salinity and lots of minerality. There were also light notes of white pepper, almond (that nuttiness I mentioned), and melon.
The Sofos is a fully dry wine that has medium body, medium alcohol levels, medium acidity and a medium finish. Amusing side note: the bottle itself boasts a “crisp long aftertaste,” but that’s really leftover acidity rather than flavor, which tapers off after a few seconds. While crisp, the finish does linger on the tongue; I wouldn’t consider it a clean one.
While the elements such as body, acidity, finish and alcohol remain in balance, the aromas and flavors took some time to discern, which makes me think that this wine may have gone past its prime. While only a 2018 vintage, I couldn’t detect any signs of oak use for preservation, and the acidity wasn’t high enough to denote suitability for long-term storage.
Length of the finish also contributed to the balance, but overall remained on the lower end of the spectrum, and the wine lacked complexity though it was enjoyable to drink.
By these powers combined, we unfortunately have not a glorious Captain Planet but in truth a merely acceptable quality wine. Now that I’ve opened, drunk and assessed it, I believe that it sat on a shelf for too long prior to consumption, and it clearly isn’t meant for ageing. After tasting, I went back and read a bit more about the moschofilero grape, which supposedly has “incredible aromatics,” further proving that the wine is too old.
Ah, well. Lesson learned.
Without having an idea of this wine’s true profile at its prime, I’m going to default to the bottle’s suggestions for food pairing this time: “salads, seafood and pasta dishes.”
Word to the wise — if you purchase this particular moschofilero blend, aim for the more recent vintages, as three years is apparently too long to wait!