Monique and I were recently invited to a wine tasting at Mavrommatis, a fine-dining restaurant that specializes in Greek cuisine in the 5th arrondissement. When we arrived, we found that eleven vineyard owners from all over Greece were presenting their wines. During the two hours that we were there, we were able to meet five of them.
Our first stop was the table manned by Petros Markantonatos of the Gentilini Estate in Kefalonia, the largest of the Ionian Islands in western Greece. I had blogged about his wine almost two years ago, when I had the opportunity to taste it at the first Mavrommatis wine tasting that I attended.
We tasted the Robola 2013 and the Gentilini Eclipse 2012. The first is a crisp white wine made from Robola grapes that grow in rocky soil on the slopes of Mount Aenos. The second is a red wine made from Mavrodaphine grapes. The wine is matured for at least 12 months in French and American oak barrels. Petros served us two versions of this red — the second one was softer due to the additional time spent in stainless steel vats, mixing of lees, and hand bottling. We preferred the first version, which was more assertive than the second.
Our next stop was at the table of Stefanos Georgas, who represents the Argyros Estate, a winery on the island of Santorini in the southern Aegean Sea.
We tasted Assyrtiki 2013, made from the variety of the same name. A dry white wine, we found flavors of mineral and iodide with notes of pepper. We also tried Estate Argyros 2010 made from 100% Mavrotragano variety. Aged in French oak barrels, it is a dry red wine with notes of cherry.
Moving to the other side of the restaurant, we stopped at the table of Vassilis and Antonia Papagiannakos, whose winery is located in the Athens region.
We tasted a Markopoulo 2013 made from Savatiano grapes, a variety that Mr Papagiannakos told us has been growing in the Athens region for over 3000 years. Markopoulo is a dry white wine that has a pear scent with a light touch of anise. We also tasted an Erythros 2011 made from 70% Agiorgitiko and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a dry red wine with a lovely cherry aroma.
Mr Papagiannakos uses the rooster as an emblem on his wine labels in honor of his father, who would rise every day and go off to the vineyard to work as soon as the roosted crowed.
Our next stop was at the table of Aïdarinis Estate, where we met Christos Aïdarinis, the owner, and Michael Michailides, the wine maker. The winery is located in the region of Goumenissa in northern Greece.
We tasted a Rosé Aïdarini, made from Xinomavro grapes. Unlike the rosés that we have tried in France, this one had a forceful attack with flavors of red fruit. Very nice. We also tasted a Goumenissa, a dry red that we enjoyed, made from 70% Xinomavro and 30% Negoska grapes.
At the next table, we met George Diamantakos of the Diamantakos Estate in the Macedonia region of northern Greece.
We tasted Preknadi 2013, made from a grape variety of the same name. Mr. Diamantakos told us that the name means “freckle face,” because the grapes have spots on them. He said that the variety was almost forgotten and that he is trying to revive it. A white wine, it is amazingly soft with a light floral aroma. Although Mr. Diamantakos said that it has a high alcohol content (13%), I didn’t perceive that.
We also tried Naoussa 2010 (Xinomavro grapes), a red wine with green tomato and spicy flavors.
We wrapped up our tasting with dessert wines. We ventured back to the Papagiannakos table and tried their Melia, a sweet white wine that we found particularly mellow, like honey. We then went back to the table for the Argyros Estate and tasted two Vinsantos — sweet wines that are aged for four years in an oak barrel barrel and then an additional year in the bottle. They had a delicious caramel flavor.
While guests at the tasting sipped wine, Dimitri, waiter at Mavrommatis, served hors d’œuvres.
We also had the opportunity to talk with Eugenia Stefanidi, sommelier at Mavrommatis. She was serving Mercouri, another of the wines that we’ve tasted at previous events. It was every bit as good as we remembered!
We left the restaurant feeling rather satisfied that we had had the opportunity not only to taste some great wine, but to meet the producers who had flown in all the way from Greece to present and pour their fine products.