Wild for Assyrtiko

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about one of my favourite summertime wines – rosé.  But there are other delicious wines out there to quench your thirst on a hot summer afternoon.  

I like to experiment by tasting wines from far and wide.  I particularly like wines with hard to pronounce names!  One of my more recent discoveries is a grape from Greece called Assyrtiko (A-SEER-TEE-KO). You may be wondering what I’m talking about, but believe me, this little-heard of variety is all set to assert itself on the world stage!

Greek drinking cup - Dionysus, drunk, among branches of grapes           circa 5th century BCE

Greek drinking cup - Dionysus, drunk, among branches of grapes           circa 5th century BCE

For much of the 20th C, Greece was most famous for a wine called Retsina – a wine that tasted of pine resin and was not to many people’s taste; However, during the last decade or so we’ve witnessed a real (and welcome) renaissance in the Greek wine scene – this is the country that introduced the grape to the Romans after all, so there’s some pretty significant history here. As consumers, we’re slowly having the opportunity to taste some of the 300+ indigenous varieties the country has to offer.    

Assyrtiko is one of the most exciting!

Generally speaking, as sugars in the grape increase with ripeness, acidity drops (think of biting into an unripe plum versus a ripe plum).  One of the unusual characteristics of Assyrtiko is that the grape does not lose its acidity, even when fully ripe.  This means that in the hot climate of Greece, Assyrtiko produces a wonderfully vibrant and refreshing. It also has a rich texture and a round mouth-feel due to the higher levels of alcohol.   

Santorini

Santorini

Santorini, synonymous with cute whitewashed houses that seemingly cascade into the sea, is where the most exciting wines are crafted. The island’s volcanic soils play an important role in imparting an almost smoky minerality to the wine. This is one of my most beloved characteristics of this fascinating grape.

Acidity, texture, minerality – I'm in white wine heaven!

Stefani vines on Santorini

Stefani vines on Santorini

 

Another peculiarity is the vines themselves, that are shaped into birds-nests which appear to sprout from the earth. The Stefani, as it is officially known, is one of most unusual forms of vine training; it exists to protect the grapes from the harsh winds and the relentless summer sun.

 

 

Fried Calamari  

Fried Calamari

 

As you can imagine, a glass of Assyrtiko is the perfect match for freshly caught seafood or fish grilled on the BBQ. But it might surprise you to know that this wine also pairs well with meat.  Next time you cook al fresco, give Assyrtiko a try with BBQ lamb, Greek-style, marinated with 

Assyrtiko: Remember the name, and that you heard about it here first!

Yamas, Michelle

 
 

 

[Image credits:  Mariusz luzniak, Rafael del Pino]