Sunday, June 12, 2016

Tasting of selected Greek wines: The reds

My most recent post described a tasting that I hosted in Orlando for area Sommeliers, wine retailers, and collectors and, specifically, focused on the sparkling and white wines included therein. Based on the feedback of a subset of the attendees, the Karanika Brut Cuvees, the Domaine Zafeirakis Malagousia 2015, and the Domaine Costa Lazaridis Semillon 2014 were the most well-regarded of the wines tasted up to that point. This post will cover the red wines tasted on that day: the 2006 and 1999 Domaine Economou Sitia and several vintages of Domaine Porto Carras' Chateau Porto Carras,

As was the case for the previous posts, I have solicited feedback from selected participants and use their voices to report on the tasting. The panelists utilized thusly are:
  • John Siudut, Proprietor, Vintage Vino
  • Andres Montoya, Proprietor, The Wine Barn
  • Jill Kathyrn Davis, Former Head Sommelier Capa Grill at the Four Seasons and Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse
  • Ron Siegel, Collector
  • Juan Valencia, Assistant General Manager and Sommelier Norman's at the Ritz Grande Lakes.
Domaine Economou Flight
I encountered this wine for the first time when I was in Athens for the 4th Anniversary Winelovers reunion. The 2006 was served as a part of a dinner we were having at Vintage Wine Bar and Bistro but the owner, Panos Kyriazis, mentioned to me that the recently released 1999 was even better. That sounded like a dare so I bit and purchased a bottle. It was good. So good that I went back the following evening in order to taste this wine again. Once I got back to the US, I sought out the wine and stocked both the 2006 and the 1999 in my cellar.

The figure below provides some background on the estate and its operating environment.

The panelists shared my view that this producer is doing an excellent job and that the 1999 vintage was the better of the two.

John thought that the Domaine Economou Flight was surprising considering the release dates of the wines. He really enjoyed the brooding power of the 2006 and the distinct power and structure of the 1999 which matured in the glass and was the better wine. These wines reminded Jill of Valpolicella in that they had a raisinated note with high acid.

Juan found the 2006 to be slightly oxidative and raisinated up front. Sweet and sour cherries appeared on the palate shortly thereafter. Supple tannins. Andres saw this wine as having "warm scents of garrigue, smoke, tar, and rose petal," the latter of which could be associated with Nebbiolo from warmer sites. "In the mouth it shows lead pencil, smoked plum, anise and currants, which make it seem closer to Cabernet on the finish."

The Economou 1999, according to Andres, had a beautiful nose of violets, grilled herbs, and red plum (it reminded him of Nerello Mascalese), shows high acidity, and finishes with intensity. This vintage is showing very well. Juan: "Wow. Muscular for its age. Very well structured in terms of acid, and tannin. Fruit was dried and fresh simultaneously."

Chateau Porto Carras Flights
I have described the Domaine Porto Carras environment in a prior post.

The Porto Carras was tasted in three flights: Flight 1 -- 2006, 1990, 1993, and 1989; flight 2 -- 1995, 2001, 1994, 1985; flight 3 -- 1981.

Ron said the dog ate his homework so he made an overall assessment. "As noted at the tasting I thought the 1993 and 2001 of your vertical stood out for me. Both were very Bordeaux-like and displayed beautiful red berry fruits with floral notes and baking spices. Elegant and balanced on the finish with good structure."

John thought that Domaine Porto Carras flights were the obvious highlight with "an amazing mix of vintages and flavors."  His favorites included the 1993 with its bold fruit and incredible length.  "The 2001 was nearly as good but the showstopper was the 1994, awash in mint and black fruit flavors ..." He would love a chance to taste this paired with an entree dish.  "And one cannot forget the 2006 magnum which I thought was the best right out of the gate but as the other wines settled in the glass it got slightly outpaced."

Juan's assessment of the flights were as follows:
Flight 1:
2006 - Young and fresh. Explosion of red fruit flavor with a slight barnyard funk. Taut and destined for greatness.
1990 - Muted and starting to fade. Might be past the zenith of opportunity in its lifespan.
1993 - Tar, canned vegetables, smoke, compost, all with a dash of brett. A hermit of a wine with stories to tell.
1989- Muted on the nose, wet earth and moss on the palate. Very little character.

Flight 2:
1995 - Delicious. So alive in every way; fruit, acid, tannin, everything. All the greatness of Bordeaux with a very original personality. My winner of the flight.
2001 - Wow. A little wilder than the other vintages we had so far. More of a farmhouse character of dried hay, brett, and basket of dried red fruit. Vibrant acidity lifting all the dimensions of flavor. Second favorite of the flight.
1994 - Comments all around were comparing to Grange. I am not as versed, but I got a very savory character out of this vintage. Like salted and cured meat, spice, herb. Umami.
1985 - First one was corked. Second one was much better, but still slightly flawed in my opinion. A meditative wine. The most thought provoking of the night.

Flight 3:
1981- Showing very well. Still fresh for its age. Elegant and wrinkled. I tried to listen to its story but I’m still learning the language of old wine.  

Andres' assessment of the flights:
Flight 1:
2006 - Petrol, smoke, cherry. Nice finish, reminds me of a Sangiovese-based Tuscan blend. 
1990 - Mint, eucalyptus, little fruit left on the nose or in mouth. Over the hill.
1993 - My #1 Wine of the tasting. Glorious nose of black currant, baking spice, black tea, anise, and peanut oil. Excellent mouthfeel, high acid. Very left bank Bordeaux-like! Reminded me of a Pichon-Lalande on the nose and the finish.
1989 - Faint smell of black tea and leather. Short finish. Over the hill.

Flight 2:
1995 - Green bean, eucalyptus, and "stemmy" aromatics. Smells underripe. Short finish.
2001 - My #2 (tie) pick - Excellent nose, black plum, licorice, grilled herbs, and smoke. Showing very fresh and still youthful, good acid, long finish.
1994 - My #2 (tie) pick - Excellent. Baking spice, tar, menthol, black currants and tanned leather. Reminds me of a Penfolds Grange from the early 90's. Seamless finish. Very complete. 
1985 - First bottle corked. Second bottle showed dried herbs, black tea and dusty tannins. Showing its age. 

1981 - Not showing any signs of life. 

The wines which garnered the most acclaim were the 1993, 1994, 2001, and 2006. And this mirrors what I had found with two of these wines that I had tasted while at the estate. At the time I had stated: "it was the Bordeaux blends that blew me away with spice, tobacco, cedar, dark chocolate, and vanilla notes accompanying a red-fruit character, velvety feel, and lengthy finish. The 1993 was just an evolved version of the 2006."

It is not clear to me what causes the variation in the vintages given the relatively even climatic conditions but methinks that the estate may have some storage issues because of the varying conditions of the bottles delivered to me. At its best this is a Bordeaux blend which is world class. When the purchase price is factored in, it becomes even more attractive.


The group had not had extensive experience with Greek wines prior to this tasting and it was heartening to see the generally positive manner in which they reacted to the wines presented. An example of this sentiment was John's comments: "Thank you again for a great afternoon!  I enjoyed the tasting immensely and was very happy to attend along with a wonderful assemblage of wine people.  I haven't had Greek wine since my visit to the islands back in 2006, so I was surprised to taste so many interesting wines with complex structures. Again it was an honor to be invited and I look forward to the next lunch tasting."  Jill: "Overall, it was evident that Greek wine deserves our attention. All of the wines Keith selected were quality wines at ridiculously low prices considering. I am sure we will see much more from Greece in the future."

I look forward to sharing different Greek wines with this group in the not-too-distant future.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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