Tuesday, May 25, 2010

All hail Assyrtiko!

Forget about our Gavi craze from last year, Tastey Boy and I have been hooked to the divine Assyrtiko grape since our trip to Greece in April.

Assyrtiko is a white grape native to the volcanic island of Santorini and is considered by many to be the greatest white varietal of the Aegean region. It has a character similar to a light Sauvignon Blanc, and gets its trademark mineral complexity from the arid volcanic soil it grows in. It also has a unique resistance to phylloxera and some of the older vines on the island are more than 150 years old. There are two distinct styles of the bottled grape—an extremely robust, dry version with strong citrus and mineral notes, and a sweet version where the grape in sun dried before fermentation resulting in an earthy Vin Santo.

We favoured the dry kind, and had samplings from quite a few of the vineyards. But our hands-down favourite is the gorgeous 2009 Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko VQPRD from the Sigalas vineyard in the village of Oia. The customs charges to carry a case from Santorini were too high, so I tracked down the U.S. importer (Frederick Wildman) and ordered a case locally. Sherry Lehmann sells it in their store and website, and Park Avenue Liquor can special order it for a 6 bottle minimum.

I’m determined to introduce my friends and dinner guests to its wonderful versatility so this Assyrtiko will feature prominently in my spring and summer entertaining this year.

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