When, in 1959, I was a budding young archaeologist bustling around Greece for the first time, I quickly became aware of Greece’s wines and of the strange (to me at least) grapes peculiar to the country. Ever heard of, say, Xynomavro, or Assyrtiko, or Moschophilero? Neither had I, and the wines I tasted made from those and others like them were somewhere between undistinguished and unpleasant. And yet … every now and then, I stumbled across something that was not only good, but nearly sensational … say a well-aged Xynomavro from the Boutari label. It didn’t happen often, but, when it did, it suggested that the problem with Greek wines of those days didn’t lie with the grapes themselves, which were obviously capable of great things, but with the winemakers. It took about 25 or 30 more years before those winemakers either passed or retired and their places were taken by their descendants, most of whom had studied oenology, perhaps in Bordeaux or in California or any of the many others there and elsewhere that were born at that time. As a result, the potential of earlier years became fully realized – something true of southern Mediterranean wines in general – and you can now buy, at knowledgeable wine stores, some very nice stuff. So … I was at Bev Mo the other day, looking around for bargains, and my wife, who had been roaming the wine aisles on her own, came up to me brandishing a bottle of Boutari Moschophilero (the label spells it phonetically: Moschofilero), which was on clearance sale for about six bucks. Note that the word “Moschophilero” literally means “fly-loving,” and there was that time decades ago when flies were just about the only forms of life that could abide the wine. That’s no longer true, I’m delighted to report, and this “Moschofilero “ is now a lovely, well-balanced and gently fragrant white, just awaiting your summer afternoons on the patio. Give it a try and perhaps you’ll be emboldened to try many of those other grapes that are out there that you’ve never sampled or even heard of before.
Please note that the Greek grapes to which I have referred above have nothing to do with the famous/infamous Retsinas or resinated wines of Greece. Those sui generis beverages constitute another story altogether.