January is the month of resolutions and suggestions on how to be more happy, less stressed, more productive, and how to lose holiday weight. So, when I stumbled upon the NYT article "Your 2014 resolution: Drinking Adventurously" I simply loved its title and resolution. To be more exact, I got the mouth watering sensation of a sip of red dry wine in my mouth.
For those of you who know me, you know my love for wine. A glass per day along with my main meal is part of my daily diet. It may be white or red, depending on the food, although I go more for crispy cold whites in the summertime and dry reds in the winter. I rarely go for rosé, but if I do, it's only when a dry sparkly Akakies is available.
The love for a glass of wine per day runs in the family. And I have documents to prove it! Not a coincidence given that my family is from Naoussa, one of the two regions in Greece that produce the fine red Xinomavro wine, meaning "sour black" and read "ksinomavro".
My grandfather used to say that "wine makes the old man feel young again" and he had a glass per day, living a healthy happy life up to the age of 92. Actually, the importance of wine in our family goes back to my great-grand father. In a 1944 transfer of land document, between my grandfather and his siblings, their father's well being was linked to the provision of wine. In dividing the land, while some brothers were given vineyards, my grandfather's land had apple trees. So, if their aged father decided to spend the rest of his life with my grandfather, his brothers were obliged to provide two barrels of wine per year for their father. Funny condition for a contract, no?
Last year, during a road trip in the Napa Valley wineries in California, I was astonished by the amazing comments of wine connoisseurs on the Xinomavro grapes. They knew all about the history of excellence of this wine, as in the 19th century the wines of Naoussa were considered to be the finest red wines of the Ottoman Empire. As the empire had incorporated the entire north of Greece by that time, Naoussa wines were served from the palaces of Istanbul to Vienna, Russia, and Egypt. Until recently, the promotional activities for Xinomavro had been rather limited, especially in the USA. However, xinomavro is quietly taking over the hearts of California's wine connoisseurs.
After a long period of relative inertia, these prestigious vineyards are back in the spotlight due to a new generation of open minded young winemakers. Only a month ago, a three day event was organised in Naoussa called "Naoussa, the Wine City". The event was a joint effort by local vineyards to promote the Xinomavro wine, with the collaboration of locals restaurants and bars. Among these extrovert young vintners is my uncle, owner of the Karyda Estate, one of the most well known vineyards in Naoussa. An excellent Xinomavro wine, which I happily found in the prestigious wine list of the twice Michelin star awarded Dio Deka restaurant in San Francisco.
Hey, I had to brag about the other side of the family too!
You may find Greek wines in stores that import and sell a variety of wines from all over the world, as well as in specific restaurants. They're easier to find if you are located in Europe or in some places in the States, than other places. But trust me. They're worth a try!
My top ten Greek wines, red and white, in random order:
- Assyrtiko by Domaine Sigalas, Santorini, Aegean Islands [white]
- Assyrtiko by Argyros Estate, Santorini, Aegean Islands [white]
- Magic Mountain Red by Nico Lazaridi, Drama, Northern Greece [red]
- Ovilos White Biblia Chora by Domaine Biblia Chora, Kavala, Northern Greece [white]
- Uranos by Thymiopoulos Vineyards, Naoussa, Northern Greece [red]
- Prekniariko by Chrysochoou, Chrysochoou Estate, Naoussa, Northern Greece [white]
- Alpha Estate Red by Alpha Estate, Florina, NW Greece [red]
- Paliokalias by Dalamaras Estate, Naoussa, Northern Greece [red]
- White Domaine Karydas, Naoussa [white]
- Gerovassiliou White by Domaine Gerovassiliou, Thessaloniki, Northern Greece [white]