Friday, May 21, 2010

Wines of Santorini Event

Following right on the heels of the New Wines of Greece event, the Wines from Santorini strutted their stuff. Santorini is one of the most interesting wines in the world with a back story dating to 1650BC when the volcanic island exploded leaving only a knife edged caldera rim and caused the tidal wave that destroyed the Minoan civilization on Crete.  It is in fact considered the source of the myth of Atlantis sinking into the sea. You'll be able to read more about Santorini on the website we're working on (not live yet, but I'll announce when it is).

But since we couldn't take everyone to the Aegean, we brought the island to NY...representatives from many of the wineries were here including Paris Sigalas of his eponymous winery and Stela Kasiola, Marketing Manager for Santo Wines, (that's her in the picture and that's Oia above my left shoulder) the coop that works with all the wineries and is overseeing the EU-funded promotional program and a host of importers including Ted Diamandis of Diamond Importers and Sam Catechis of Stellar Imports.

Event attendees left with a fascinating gift bag including miniature replicas of the basket vines as well as the very special tomato paste and caper leaves and berries that are hallmarks of the island.  They also brought over some of the volcanic rock that makes up what's called "soil" in Santorini.  Lacking any signficant clay, Santorini is phylloxera-immune.  And because of the unique heading system used to renew the vines when the baskets get too long, many of the vines are hundreds of years old...nobody really knows how old. (Well, none can be older than 1650 BC...they might not have phylloxera, but they do have earthquakes.)

Most folks recognize Santorini, or more properly the town of Oia perched at the norther tip of the caldera for its iconic imgery of white washed buildings, blue domed churches and windmills overlooking an impossibly sapphire-blue sea.

But it's that iconic image that has made it a world famous tourist destination.  The downside is that many of the vineyards are more valuable as land for hotels than for making wine.  So a big driver of the promotional program is to raise awareness of the prescious resource that Santorini wine industry represents, and the jeopardy it's in from the relentless pressure of tourism.

So the best thing all of us can do is celebrate Santorini by buying some of their wine.  The key grape varietal is Assyrtiko and while it is sometimes planted elsewhere in Greece, it reaches its apogee in quality and expression of minerality,racy but balanced acidity and alcohol.  One of the noble grapes of the world, the natural affinity between Assyrtiko and seafood is one of those sublime things we get to enjoy so rarely in this world.

And it's not just Assyrtiko.  Did you know the name VinSanto originated from Santorini (Wine from Santorini).  It's a sticky that's spectactular with a nice balance of acid and sugar and we got to taste some old ones that blew my mind.  The rule of thumb I use is that the more it looks like used engine oil, the better I like it.  Nykteri is another specialty wine of the island, also with a unique's harvested only at night.

Santorini is born from the sea, and the wines she makes marry with seafood in an almost magical way.  OK, so maybe you can't get on a plane and fly there tomorrow, but you can go out and buy the wine and see what I'm talking about! Sphere: Related Content

It's Greek To Me

Sorry for going dark for a while, we've been incredibly busy, but I'll catch up with a few posts now.

OK, so the headline quote isn't the most original, but it was thematically correct yesterday.  New Wines of Greece and the Wines From Santorni under the guidance of George Athanas and All About Greek Wine hosted a super event at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center.  Food was supplied by Michael Psilakis of Anthos and it was better than fantastic.  I don't think I've ever had better haddock.  Great seminar hosted by Steve Olson and Doug Frost with an interesting twist on procedure...blind tasting, but with a bit of guidance.

MW Konstantinos Lazarakis who was acting as MC made some comments closing the NWOG session that were informative for all of us in the industry.  He was looking 10 years out and said:
1.  Being good will be irrelvant.  Good wine in the bottle is assumed.  To compete, brands will have to deliver something even more than high quality at a reasonable price.
2.  Being different is what will make sense.  Not just the provenance or a label...but what's in the glass.  People are expanding their horizons and looking for new experiences.
3.  Stories! Every wine has a story and you need a story to stand out.  What makes it unique, special.  In a sea of sameness a wine needs to be notable to compete.
4.  Drinking the wine is more important than tasting.  Greeks enjoy wine; it's the social lubricant that makes agoraphobia a word that simply doesn't signify in their country. 

There's a host of new wines coming from Greece.  We tasted the four varietals being focused on:  Aghoritiko, Moschofilero, Assyrtiko and Xinomavro, and what the wine makers are doing is nothing short of amazing. Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mastering the Art of the Ah So Corkscrew

One corkscrew design I've never been able to master is the Ah So.  Supposedly great for old wines with corks of questionable integrity, more often than not I end up pushing the cork down rather than pulling it out.  Greg Del Pias, Community Manager at Snooth, and host of the NY Wine Century Club gathering demonstrates a little trick using the Screwpull worm.  Check out the video here: Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Austrian Wine Rocks NY

Austrian Wine has Arrived!

That was the vibe at Tribeca Rooftop as Willi Klinger  and his team from the Austrian Wine Marketing board hosted 80 winemakers representing the largest delegation of Austrian wineries ever to hit the shores of the U.S.

Gruner Veltliner stole the show as the lead varietal from Austria, but siblings Riesling and the reds Blaufrankisch, Saint Laurent and Zweigelt also shared the stage at a trade tasting in the afternoon followed by a sold-out crowd of consumers (it was SRO outside!) Food for the evening was provided by Wallsé; Gordon Ramsay at the London; Seasonal Restaurant; Aldea; KLEE; BLT Prime; 10 Downing Food & Wine; Salumeria Rosi; Telepan; Recette; 15 East Restaurant, and Grandaisy Bakery, giving guests the opportunity to taste the wines with food designed to showcase the wines.

Tables I visited included Niche Imports' Lenz Moser, Michael Skurnik's Brundlmayer, Winemonger's incomparable Neumayer line which absolutely blew me away, Szigeti's sparklers,  (that's me tasting the sweets with Bob O'Brien of VinDivino, Erin Grace of Winebow serving the wines from Fred Loimer and Rudi Pichler and of course the wines of Vienna from the Darcy and Huber Portfolio.

As you know BAT has been helping the AWMB with online promotion for the last year or so and we were thrilled when they stepped up to the plate to become host to the European Wine Blogger's conference to be held in Vienna next October see I'll also be attending the American Wine Blogger's conference which will be held in Walla Walla, WA in June. (Our European friends tend to chuckle when we say that name...sort of like I think Kartoffelpoofer just sounds funny.) Sphere: Related Content