Retsina: The Quality Revolution of Greece’s Historic Wine

The Aleppo Pine

Retsina, a wine made with the infusion of resin usually from the Aleppo pine tree, is Greece’s most famous and historic wine. The retsina of old was often pungent.  As our reviews below show, today’s retsina made by some of Greece’s top winemakers is considerably more refined. In what follows, we discuss the many improvements they’ve introduced as part of the quality revolution in making retsina. Continue reading

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Ktima Voyatzi of Western Macedonia

The Voyatzi Estate is a premier boutique winery located in Western Macedonia in the picturesque town of Velvento.  It is owned and operated by winemaker Yannis Voyatzi, the renowned chief enologist of Boutari, and his brother Nikos.  The Voyatzi family has deep roots in the region, both as wine merchants and growers.  In 1991-94 they planted a 3-hectare vineyard on their land with local and international varieties, and in 1997, following Yannis’  return from oenology studies at the University of Bordeaux, they launched plans for a modern winery which was completed in 2004.  That winery already produces some of Greece’s finest wines, and it has a brilliant future. Continue reading

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South African Rosé: Selections from the 2021 Vintage

Today’s excellent South African rosé wines reflect the many improvements in rosé winemaking over the last decade or two. They’re usually direct pressed from vineyards harvested early and specifically farmed for rosé, as opposed to being the saignée byproduct of red wine making. They have bright natural acidity, fresh flavors and moderate levels of alcohol. In this article, we review some of the best from the 2021 vintage that we tasted during our Cape Town trip earlier this year.   Continue reading

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Titus Vineyards: Impressive New Releases from Napa Valley

The Titus Estate Vineyard in St. Helena

The Titus family recently celebrated their 50th anniversary growing grapes and making wine in the Napa Valley.  Lee Titus purchased what is now the 50 acre Titus Ranch Estate in the heart of the St. Helena Appellation in 1968 and later replanted it to the five classic Bordeaux varieties.  They sold the grapes until 1990 when they produced their first vintage at Chappellet Winery.  Today their specialty is Cabernet Sauvignon, but they also produce Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc.  We review their impressive current releases below. Continue reading

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Raventós i Blanc and Can Sumoi: New Releases

Raventós i Blanc  The house of Josep Raventós i Blanc was established in 1986 in Sant Sadurni d’Anoia by Josep-Maria Raventós, a breakaway member of the Codorníu family, with the objective of making Cavas of exceptional quality. Today, Josep’s grandson Pepe (shown here with his father Manuel) continues the pursuit on the estate’s 120 ha of low-yielding vines planted in sedimentary calcareous soils. The Raventós vineyards are sustainably farmed and yields are kept low by aggressive green harvests. Winemaking at Raventós is as meticulous as the viticulture. They treat their estate with the utmost authenticity and tradition, giving priority to their terroir and their indigenous varieties.  Raventós is an extraordinary Cava producer and we enjoy tasting their Cavas annually. These three new releases are top-of-the line. Importer: Skurnik Wines and Spirits Continue reading

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New Releases of BARRA and Girasole Wines from Mendocino County

The Barra family farms over 300 acres of organically cultivated wine grapes on the benchlands above the headwaters of the Russian River. Winemaker Randy Meyer follows strict guidelines in producing the winery’s certified organic wines, including low sulfite content (45-65 ppm).  The Girasole wines are also made following vegan friendly guidelines.  In this article we again review some of the current releases of the Barra family’s “healthy” wines.

The son of grape growing, Italian immigrants from the Piedmont, in 1955 Charlie Barra purchased 175 acres of vineyard land in Redwood Valley at the headwaters of the Russian River in the rolling foothills of Mendocino County.  Charlie Barra went on to become one of the leaders of the Mendocino wine industry and founded the California North Coast Grape Growers Association. The Barra family began selling wines under its own BARRA of Mendocino label in 1997, made by John Parducci.  In 2003, Barra added Girasole, a line of popularly priced, widely distributed wines.  Continue reading

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Rosés from the Peloponnese, Central Greece and its Neighbors

On our recent trip to Greece,  we tasted more high-quality rosés from Peloponnese than any other wine region.  Most of the top rosés were made from Agiorgitiko an indigenous grape grown in Nemea, and the prink-skinned  Moschofilero,  grown in the  area of Mantinia.   We also enjoyed rosés made from  the indigenous grapes of Mavrodaphne, Sideritis, and Mavrofilero.

In our tastings of the wines from Central Greece and its neighbors, we found noteworthy rosés from Evia Island and Thessalia. Continue reading

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Tongue Dancer: Exciting New Releases from Sonoma & Mendocino

James Mac Phail, one of California’s most accomplished winemakers, is with his wife and partner Kerry crafting some superb wines under his Tongue Dancer label.  The wines are reasonably priced in view of their high quality and the small volume produced. Mc Phail sources his grapes from excellent vineyards such as Pratt and Bacigalupi and follows Burgundian methods in the cellar.  His wines offer lovely texture and mouthfeel with richness in flavor. As we recognized in our report California Chardonnay: Terroir and Winemaking in Sonoma, his Chardonnay from the Pratt Vineyard in Russian River Valley is a real winner. Continue reading

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The Rosés of Crete

Mural from the Knossos Palace @dwr

The island of Crete is home to many indigenous grape varieties, some of which undoubtedly derive from those grown by the Minoans over four thousand years ago.  We recently visited Crete to meet the winemakers, tour the vineyards, and taste the wines, including fresh-tasting rosés made from the island’s indigenous grapes. We also visited the Minoan Knossos Palace where this mural was discovered.  In this article we present selected rosé wines and the winemakers who made them.  Unfortunately, many of these wines are not widely distributed in the US.  All the more reason for wine lovers to do a post-Covid trip to Crete and for US importers to seriously consider adding more of these excellent producers and wines to their portfolios.  A full IWR report on The Wines of Crete is forthcoming later this year. Continue reading

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Greek Rosés of Xinomavro

 

Often compared to Nebbiolo grown in Italy’s Piedmont, Greece’s Xinomavro is one of southern Europe’s most noble varieties.  As discussed below, it’s particularly well suited for the making of rosé, and we tasted several excellent rosés during our recent visit to Greece.  They are made by some of Greece’s best-known wineries—e.g., Alpha Estate, Boutari, Gerovassiliou, Kir-Yanni, and Voyatzi, among others.  Read our report on The Wines of Greece: Macedonia & Thrace for more reviews of Xinomavro wines. Continue reading

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