The Greek Grape

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Wines of Chios – The Return of a Legend

Last Monday I had the honor of attending an exclusive tasting of the wines from Chios – Greece’s 5th largest island chios mapsituated 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.

oinopoieio-ariousios2Appropriately 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 Chiosariousios wines 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.)

  • The Ariousia Chora is their Assyrtiko/Athiri blend that displayed such pleasant and fresh acidity that my mouth couldn’t stop watering. Yummy aromas and flavors of green apple and lime lingered. Couldn’t stop thinking about octopus.
  • The indigenous varietals Chiotiko Krassero and Ayannitis were the backbone of the Afstirios, a red wine released after a minimum of 18 months in French oak. At times, I felt as I was enjoying a complex Agiorgitiko with some bottle age. Flavors of rich, dark fruit and spice led to a long, dry, smooth finish.
  • A semi-sweet red Glikazon was produced in a passito style with sun-dried Chiotiko Krassero grapes grown on the slopes of Amani Mountain. It had a wonderful balance of tannins, acidity and residual sugar. I am not a fan of wines on the sweeter side, but I found myself finishing my glass and wishing for more.

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!

 

 

One comment on “Wines of Chios – The Return of a Legend

  1. Anna Lagou
    April 27, 2016

    Lisa!! Thank you very much of your so warm introduction of our wines through The Greek Grape!!! We really hope that we will have the chance to welcome your exeptional wine lovers to our facilities!!!
    Your friends from Ariousios Winery – Chios – Greece

    Like

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