Vatistas Regional Dry Red Wine of Monemvasia 2001
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Vatistas Regional Dry Red Wine of Monemvasia 2001 Tasting Notes

You can enjoy this lovely dry red without any analysis, but it really does help to understand that in the spectrum of Greek wine, Monemvasia the place and Monemvasia the grape are two different things.

Though the white Monemvasia grape originated in Laconia on the Greek Peloponnese, it is now better associated with the wines of the Cyclades islands. Oft thought of as one and the same with the famous and world-traveled Malvasia grape (as in the Malmsey of Madeira), recent studies have unearthed no genetic relation.

The wine I enjoyed was a red Monemvasia TO (Τοπικός Οίνος or regional wine), produced in Laconia, using the allowed grape varieties Agiorgitiko (40%), Mavroudi (30%), and Thrapsa (30%). I don't quite understand the meaning of Mavroudi; some sources indicate it is simply a synonym for Agiorgitiko, others that it is a catch-all descriptor for a number of indigenous grapes. Since winemaker Yiannis Vatistas is said to produce both Agiorgitiko and Mavroudi (in addition to a range of grapes ranging from the Greek Moschofilero and Roditis to international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay) I assume he knows the difference.

Analysis pales in the face of a good honest wine, however, and Vatistas has given us one. In the glass, I found the $16 wine to be a clear, medium intense scarlet. I had to nudge the nose a bit, but patience rewarded me with black cherry, fig, tobacco, and fragrant spices like cardamom and clove.

The wine is indeed dry as its label indicates, medium plus in acidity, medium minus in tannin, soft and friendly in the mouth, with black cherry, red cherry, plum, fig, red licorice and tobacco on the palate. In place of the spice felt on the nose, the palate reveals more of a mountain herbal note, a Greek version of the French garrigue. The medium length finish is tasty with dried fruit and nutty kernel notes. In feel, and in some measure in taste, the wine has the touch of a good Pinot Noir (say a Mercurey). Though the Greek TO designation is often considered the equivalent of the French vin de pays, this Monemvasia reflects quite a specific, and unique, sense of place.

Verdict: Clarity
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The English word “laconic,” derived from the Greek region of Laconia, connotes brevity, and is associated with the Spartans of long ago. Perhaps Laconia's excellent regional wines, rather than the inhabitants, do the talking.

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award


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