YOUR SOURCE FOR ALL THINGS GREEK WINE-RELATED
Last Monday I had the honor of attending an exclusive tasting of the wines from Chios – Greece’s 5th largest island situated in the Aegean Sea off the coast of Turkey. Chios is currently known for its production of mastic gum, a resin from the mastic trees located in southern Chios. Mastika (mah-stEE-ka) is also a delicious liqueur producing a refreshing but somewhat pine or cedar-like flavor. I personally love it!
The importance of wine on Chios goes back to antiquity, even more so than other wine-producing regions in Greece. Wine production was so prevalent on Chios that Dionysus gave his personal blessing to the island and its wine. The northwestern part of the island was, and still is, most suited for grape-growing and in ancient times was known as the land of Ariousios, producing the most famous wines of Greece! This fame continued for another 1,500 through the rise and fall of the Byzantine Empire. In fact, the wines of Ariousios rang the ears of wine lovers as Bordeaux has over the past 150 years
As a broader agrarian economy became more popular throughout Greece, vine cultivation diminished and populations moved from the remote vineyard lands to the City of Chios, Athens or other parts of Greece and Europe.
Appropriately named, Ariousios Winery is committed to bring back the wine producing culture that once thrived on the island. Starting in 2001, Dimitris Kefalas and his team planted three different vineyards consisting of white varietals Assyrtiko and Athiri and red varietals Chiotiko Krassero and Ayannitis which are used in the production of both dry and semi-sweet wines. All three vineyards are planted at an average of 1,200 feet elevation. Dimitris opened their new state-of-art winery and visitor center in 2009. They are still the ONLY commercial winery on the island!
Entering the tasting I honestly did not know what to expect. My reference point of Chios was only mastika! I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the wines. One white and two reds (one dry, one semi-sweet) were available to taste. (The labels were not in English and it was difficult to understand the varietals used – so some work needs to be done here.)
These wines can be found on the East Coast (check their website for your state’s distributor) and are just starting to head west. I know I will be keeping my eye out for them here in California. I also see adding another stop on the itineraries of Greek Grape Wine Tours in the future!