Close your eyes for one moment and imagine the beautiful coastlines of the Greek islands. The golden sun is shinning, the water is a sharp bright blue, and the chalk-white jagged cliffs are quite something to behold. You are sitting on the edge of this cliff with your favorite person, and in front of you is a picnic lunch of your favorite foods.
What could go better with that moment than a crisp refreshing glass of Greek sparkling wine. Yes, you read that right – Greek sparkling wine.
Last night at the top Manhattan Greek restaurant Milos, I met elegantly spoken businessman George Spiliadis, whose father owns that restaurant and its branches in Montreal, Las Vegas, and soon London. From an early age George was curious about wine, and decided to import Greek wines
We sampled five wines from the Cava Spiliadis Portfolio from the very best producers in Greece, beginning with the Amalia Brut NV sparkler from winemaker Giannis Tselpos, composed of 100% Moschofilero, an increasingly popular Greek Grape from the Peloponnese with vineyards at an altitude of 750 meters with mountainous sand clay soil. The wine was quite crisp and refreshing, with intense minerality and perfect for any occasion. That night they paired excellently with oysters.
The next wine was a wine I could not have enough of — the very fragrant 2013 Malagousia was irresistible. It is composed 100% from the Malagousia grape. Winemaker Evangelos Gerovassiliou studied agronomy in Thessaloniki and obtained his diploma in Oenology and tasting credentials from the University of Bordeaux. The wine has this incredible aroma of ripe pineapple and citrus as well as floral jasmine notes that can pair with many foods – in this moment, a tasting of Tuna and Salmon tartar.
Following this was the 2013 Ktima Biblia Chora from winemaker Vassilis Tsaktsarlis in Pangeon, composed of 40% Assyrtiko and 60% Sauvignon Blanc, an incredibly aromatic food friendly wine that went very well with Greek hors d’oeurves including fresh tomatoes from George’s special grower in Florida. Tsaktsarlis obtained his degree in chemistry from Aristotle university and also received his degree in oenology from the University of Bordeaux.
Lavraki (a white fish) baked in sea salt set the stage for the third course wine, Domaine Katsaros Chardonnay. The wine was barrel fermented and delicious, with floral and white fruit notes as well as the mellow soft flavors aging in oak gives a white wine. An excellent pairing. Winemaker Evripidis Katsaros came from a winemaking family in northern Greece and obtained his diploma of enology from Burgundy university. He spent several years working in top Burgundy estates before launching his own winery.
The Fourth course of thyme and rosemary rack of lamb was served with two red wines. The first was the 2008 Avaton from Epanomi, made by winemaker Evangelos Gerovassiliou, who studied agronomy in Thessaloniki and graduated in oenology from the university of Bordeaux. The wine was full of flavors – plum, violets, cherries with enough tannin to stand up to the wine. The second wine was the 2009 Biblinos Oenos, with exotic aromas of pomegranate and ripe raspberries, and a very elegant structure that points to its ability to age down the line, this one also comes from Vassilis Tsaksarlis.
To finish off the dinner, we enjoyed 2003 Mavrodaphne Patras, a sweet wine composed of 100% Mavrodaphne with aromas of figs, dried fruits and almonds … imagine a moscato with concentration from age. Just the right balance between fruit and acidity. This was served with an assorted platter of Greek cheese and Greek desserts.
Though the wines were extraordinary and the dinner quite delicious — and the incredible private room overlooking the packed crowd at Milos was quite fabulous – the best thing about the dinner was meeting George Spiliadis in person. Very energetic, determined, and charming, he seems a man of a strong character who knows what he wants and is quite clear about his intentions. Though we didn’t have a chance to talk about it, it seems also that he is on a mission to improve the stature of Greek wine and have its see its day in the spotlight.
What we did discuss is that New York consumers, being more open and wine savvy, are already onto Greek wine, which in this portfolio at least is produced by artisan winemakers who have studied in the best international universities and worked with top winemakers before launching off on their own and returning to Greece to excel at making Greek wine. Though I had already known of the virtues of Greek wine, the wines from this portfolio are truly fabulous.