Friday, June 27, 2008

Friday Night Bubbles

NV Domaine Spiropoulos Ode Panos, $15, Athenee Importers of New York.

I don't drink a lot of Greek wine. I saw this bottle while browsing a favorite store and knowing nothing whatsoever about it, the following clues convinced me that it might indeed be a good wine: It's made from organically grown grapes. I have no idea what they do to those grapes in the wine making process. For all I know they could treat their organically grown grapes with all sorts of enzymes and loads of chemicals. But organically grown is a good start. It's
11.5% alcohol, a nice low level, but doesn't necessarily indicate a sweet wine. Also, there is a striking dearth of lizards, ladybugs, kangaroos, or any kind of marsupial on the label.

If you visit the Ode Panos page on the Domaine Spiropoulos website, these are the first sentences you are likely to read:

It is well known that Moschofilero is the best variety to use, in order to produce sparkling wines. ODE PANOS did not refute this believe.

I had much the same experience contemplating those words as I did drinking this sparkling wine - a giggle followed by a bit of confusion.

Located on the Island of Peloponnese, Domaine Spiropoulos has vines in Mantinia and Nemea, the two appellations on the island, totalling 50 hectares. That's a big holding of land. They grow indigenous grapes such as Moschofilero and Agiorgitiko, and also grow Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, and other varieties - how they can do that successfully without an incredible diversity of soil and many micro-climates is beyond me. Which is why I have suspicions about the actual wine making and doubt that it lives up to the organic standards of the grape cultivation. But that is pure supposition. In fact, let's get back into the positive spirit of things with the following quote, also taken from the website:

We are the first to prove than Organic Cultivation methods, careful vinification and provision of high quality products is a way of living.

So there.

At first I was stunned by the amazing nose of salt water and flowers. So fresh. And there was something else that I've never smelled in wine, something that I cannot name, but something very appealing. Something woody, like Balsa wood maybe? Light bodied and crisp, with a briny citrus palate, and a finish of that same balsa wood (?) sensation. I was thinking it would be beautiful with grilled whole sardines with olive oil and sea salt. Fresh feta cheese and olives. Or grilled calamari. Or any of the local delicacies we sampled years ago in Crete. This is a new set of aromas and flavors in sparkling wine for me, and I wonder if it is unique to the Moschofilero grape.

But things quickly went downhill. I'm sorry to say that after no more than 45 minutes open, this wine fell off the deep end and was dominated by that confusing balsa wood aroma and flavor. I persevered, but BrooklynLady pronounced it undrinkable, and she's probably right. I wish that someone who is better at identifying aroma in wine had been there to taste with us, because Balsa seems too benign. But that's as close as I can get. We agreed that it wasn't corked or cooked or anything like that. Just so unusual, and not all that pleasant. The beginning was so good that I may have to try another bottle, just to see if this one was wrong. If anyone has experience with this wine or this grape, please step in and educate us because I'm lost on the Island of Peloponnese.


Anonymous said...

Aged in balsa wood barrels?

Joe Manekin said...

It's cool you're trying the Greek wines - definitely a minefield in terms of finding something both well-made and most importantly tasty and interesting.

Moschofilero is a relative of muscat. It sometimes has a strong tarragon or fennel type of aroma going on. I'm no expert on the grape or the Mantinia appellation, but by far the best wines I've had from here come from Domaine Tselepos, who also happens to be imported by another Greek importer (Sotiris Bafitis) whose wines are arguably the best greek wines in the country (disclaimer: I worked for Sotiris a while back).

Brooklynguy said...

i dunno steve, could be, but i bet it's some other smell that comes from the grape, a smell that i simply cannot name correctly.

thanks for the info old skool. it was not an herbal smell. in fact, i'm not certain that it was something organic at all.