We are a wine shop that explores the best of both worlds with retail shopping and a walk-in tasting room open Tuesday through Sunday. Our tasting room selections change monthly and always focus on a different "Old World" and "New World" region. The ever-changing menu allows our guests to constantly explore and discover something new. This month we are exploring Greece and South Africa. Order a flight of all four wines or simply stop by, shop, and enjoy a glass. It's up to you!
Is there an older “Old World” region? Well yes, there is, but Greek vine cultivation is evident as early as 2000 BC. Ancient Greeks considered wine a gift from the god, Dionysus. Considered an intellectual drink and a luxury, wine was deeply ingrained in life. Ancient authors such as Homer and Aristotle often wrote about the subject. Yet considering such a lengthy wine history, it seems a bit ironic that the modern wine consumer is often confused when purchasing Greek wine.
The problem possibly stems from more recent history as the Greek wine industry was dramatically disrupted by the rule of the Ottomon Empire from 1453 until the early 1800’s. The Muslim religion of the Ottomons did not allow alcohol consumption and wine production ground to a halt for the most part. Following the Greek war for independence, production started to recover, but the infamous phylloxera louse that destroyed much of Europe’s vineyards then hit Greece in the late 1800’s. After a couple of world wars, the wine industry was crippled and mostly known for producing cheap bulk wines. Greece eventually joined the EU in the 1980’s and a collective shift from cheap table wine to fine wine production began.
From rugged mountains to lush valleys and cool coastal areas, the Greek landscape is varied, and thus so are the wines. Made up of thousands of islands as well as a significant mainland portion, much of the climate in Greece is considered Maritime due to the cooling effects of surrounding large bodies of water. Further north on the mainland, climate becomes cooler and more continental.
Greece has over 200 indigenous grape varietals that can also be a bit intimidating to many modern wine consumers. French grapes such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot are household names in the United States, while grapes like the indigenous Xinomavro do not dominate our retail shelves. However, as general quality has improved over the last few decades, the international press and wine communities have started to spread the word. There is a collective curiosity and thirst (pun intended) to explore this region, and the wines are sure to dazzle you.
If you are exploring, look for the crisp, and often complex white grape Assyrtiko from Santorini. Moschofilero is a pink skinned grape, that produces highly aromatic wines that are exotic and citrus driven on the palate. Malagousia is yet another aromatic white grape that produces elegant full-bodied wines. On the red side, Agiorgitiko is also called St. George and produces wines with bright red fruits and spicy tones. Xinomavro is considered one of Greece’s greatest red varietals and is often compared to Italy’s Nebbiolo. The wines are not dark, yet powerful, structured, and rich on the palate. With over 200 indigenous varietals, we are just scratching the surface, but we hope you will find time to join us with your curious palate this month!
Geographically, South Africa may seem like it should be too hot to produce grapes for quality winemaking, but the cooling oceanic currents that roll up from the Antarctic along with the Cape winds that push cool air further inland help to temper the climate. Furthermore, dramatic mountainous peaks and valleys create a variety of microclimates ideal for producing a wide range of wines.
It’s a tiny region considering the overall size of the continent, yet South Africa produces Africa’s finest wines and is widely recognized as a top region in the Southern Hemisphere. The Western Cape on the very Southwestern tip of the continent is known as the best spot and has been a serious global player now since the end of the apartheid rule in the early 1990’s. As one might expect, the history of this region is extremely complicated with colonization, race, apartheid and economics all playing influential roles that bring us to today.
European grapes were first cultivated by Dutch colonists in the 1600’s, but even up until the 1990’s overproduction was a common thread throughout history as most grapes were grown to produce distillate for the brandy industry. High quality wines were around, but generally the exception. That has since changed as now upwards of 80% of grapes cultivated go to producing fine wines and the region has seen continued financial investment as well as an influx of talent and expertise on the wine making side. The quality coming out of the region is only continuing to grow, and the wines continue to excite the world.
As previously mentioned, most grape varieties grown for fine wine are the common French grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Syrah on the red side. However, a unique grape called Pinotage makes its home here as well. It is a cross between Cinsault and Pinot Noir developed in South Africa and is perhaps one of the more polarizing varietals out there. People love it or hate it, but some say it may be making a comeback. On the white grape side, Chenin Blanc (also called “Steen”) has always been a major player along with Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Muscat of Alexandria.
We start this month’s flight with an everyday Chenin that punches far above its weight class from A.A. Badenhorst. The De Wetshoff Limestone Hill Chardonnay is unoaked, fresh and lively with an old world feel. Yes, we brought in the polarizing Pinotage, but we think we found a big-time winner with a great example from Beeslaar out of the Stellenbosch district. And finally, we finish with a classic Bordeaux style blend from the concentrated, powerful 2018 vintage!
South Africa Flight
Looking to Customize?
We now host curated tastings for groups of two to ten people. Our tastings are a great way to explore wines that are new to you or indulge in some of your favorite regions. Whether you are looking to learn or to simply relax, our team has you covered.