Have you caught the Olympic fever? Are you fascinated by synchronized diving, or wonder why the Greeks are so good at it? Gothamist’s theory is that it must be the wine. Then again, that’s our theory on most things.

2004_08_food_grkwine.jpgWhile Greece is one of the first countries to dabble in viticulture, or grape growing, their wines tend to be lesser known. The 500 plus indigenous grapes of Greece may be a contributing factor. But don’t let their obscurity fool you - Greek wines are some of the best bottlings to be imported into the US today.

To try a sampling of Greek wines I visited Avra, a Greek restaurant located on 48th Street, between 3rd Ave. and Lexington. Their sommelier, or resident wine expert, Arturo Cortes, introduced me to some fabulous Greek wines and offered some valuable advice when navigating through a Greek wine list…

- Don’t discount the Greek white wines. Many people tend to lean towards the reds, however Greece is also producing top notch white wines.
Try: Mantinia Haggipavlu 2002, Moshofilero. It’s refreshing and bursting with tart berry fruit. Not too acidic but it will wake up your taste buds.

One caution, be aware of whites that say “Retzina” (resin) on the label. These wines are fermented with pine (vs. oak) and have flavors that take a while to get used to - think Gin flavored wine.

- Don’t forgo the old standby, Cabernet Sauvignon. The terroir, or unique soil, weather and overall micro-environment in which the grapes were grown, imparts a unique flavor on the wine. Compared with other Cabernets, it’s a great way to showcase the personality of Greek wines.
Try: Antonopoulous Vineyards 2001, Cabernet-Nea Dris
It has all the berry and bite of Cabernet with a little spice.

- Try a blend with the St. George grape – in Greece known as Agiorgitiko (yeah, I can’t pronounce it either). These red blends tend to be a great complement with food.
Try: Red Regional Wing of 2000, Monemuasia, Vatistas Vineyards. It has velvet texture with a little spice – add some Spanakopita, attractive Greek waiter/waitress and you’ve got yourself a good evening.

The next stop on my quest for Greek wines was the Divine Bar on 51st between 2nd and 3rd Avenue to try their Olympic Flight - which includes 2 whites, 2 reds and a dessert wine. For only $13, this flight is a great value and a fun way to sample Greek wines. I highly recommend the Palivou Vineyards Nemea, Red. It’s butterscotch on the nose and cherry cordials on the palate. I’ve converted many a white wine drinker to red on this wine. Also, if you have a sweet tooth the dessert wine will satisfy with flavors of lemon meringue pie and honey.

In the end, after trying these heroic Greek wines, Gothamist realized two things…
1) Greek restaurants do not like it when you throw their wine glasses to the floor and shout “Opa!” so fight the temptation to do so. 2) Also, when it comes to wine don’t be afraid to try new grapes from different places. Mixing things up can be an exciting and rewarding experience.
If you don’t believe me, just ask the Synchronized Divers.

Jamas (cheers)!

-- Tamara Lover