I am a big fan of Central Market’s annual Passport series because it brings an opportunity to experience new tastes and learn new things. I must admit that until a few days ago, I knew almost nothing about Greek wine. That is until I attended a tasting during the Passport Greece event. This time, Andy Christiansen, Wine and Beer Manager at the West Gate store, invited me to taste some of the wines and meet a winemaker. How could I pass that up? I also invited my friend Rae Wilson from Wine for the People to join us.
Turns out, it was not just any winemaker. George Skouras is a fountain of knowledge, passionate about his land, his vineyards, and his wines. He’s been making wine since he was 18 years old, spending time in France and Italy learning and fine tuning his craft. After returning to Greece he started what is now one of the country’s most respected wineries, Domain Skouras. He is a warm, kind, funny and friendly man, sharp as a tack and overflowing with enthusiasm. After showing us a map of Greece and sharing information about the terrain and grape growing conditions of the Peloponese, he smiled a big smile and said “shall we start?”
George had six of his wines to pour for us. The first two were Moschofilero, an indigenous varietal that grows in the high altitude of the mountains in the Arcadia region. The grape has a number of clones, seven according to George. The most important are Asprofilero (white skin), Xanthofilero (yellow skin), and Mavrofilero (black skin), and all are used to produce incredibly delicious whites.
The first we tried is 100% Moschofilero from the Protected Geographical Indication Peloponnese (PGI), grown in the sandy soil of the Mantinia vineyard at 2400ft altitude. This refreshing wine has a delightful floral aroma and crisp acidity with flavors of lemon and orange, a stunning value at $12.99. The next wine, Salto, is 100% Mavrofilero fermented with wild yeast in stainless steel. This wine is extraordinary, with a richer aroma than the previous but an even racier acidity and perfect mineral balance. I should have bought six.
His Almyra Chardonnay is 70% fermented and aged in stainless steel vats, 30% fermented and aged in new French barriques for 6 months, with full malolactic fermentation. The result is an incredibly balanced wine, resembling a Chablis, but selling for $14.99. Rounded, creamy mouthfeel, with a long finish and perfect acidity, it is great on its own but matches perfectly with food. The Viognier is made the same way, a 70-30 blend of stainless and oak. All his wines retain the characteristics and flavor of the grapes. He strives to make what he calls “pure and elegant wines.”
For reds we tried the Zoe, a blend of 90% Aghiorghitiko and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is perfect for the Austin summer, light bodied and dry, with fruit forward and low tannins. And at $9.99, this is a perfect everyday option for dinner. Good news is Zoe has rosé and white brothers, all delicious and affordable. The last wine we tasted was the big Megas Oenos, a blend of 80% Aghiorghitiko and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. This guy is a serious red, with ripe black fruits, black pepper, herbal notes, and developed tannins. This wine would be best served with something simple. “Complex wines don’t want complicated flavors,” said George. “A simple grilled steak would be perfect.”Aside from Domain Skouras wines I also enjoyed the Domaine Sigalas Santorini, produced by winemaker Paris Sigalas on the island of Santorini. Pale yellow in color, this dry white wine comes from 100% Assyrtiko grapes from vines more than 60 years old. It is super refreshing, perfect for sipping on a hot summer day and pairing with anything seafood. I loved the Kir-Yianni Akakies, a fabulous sparkling rosé produced from 100% Xinomavro grapes grown in vineyards inside the Agios Panteleimon zone in the Amyndeon region, the only Greek-controlled designation of origin for rosés. This was all strawberries and cream, with small bubbles and a lovely nose of roses. Xinomavro produces Grece’s most serious reds, remarkably similar to Nebbiolo, to which it may be closely related. And I bought George’s Aghiorghitiko, also known as Saint George, to try with an upcoming dinner.
Due to the popularity and amazing prices of the wine, Andy tells me they sold 40% of everything they brought in during the first four days of Passport Greece. Hurry in to see if they have any left, and buy what you can. He says they will bring back some of the most popular ones, but it may be months before they are back in stock. Do not miss out.