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by Fred McMillin
"Boutari is the International Winery of 1999 for Greece."... Wine & Spirits Magazine.
#6, Aristoteles Square is the Boutari address in Thessaloniki. Here, in Aristotle-Alexander Macedonia, Yiannis Boutari founded his firm 122 years ago. Today, it is one of the very top producers in Greece. At last count, its eight wineries were turning out over 3 million cases annually. It produced all five of today's wines. Fifty miles west of Boutari headquarters lies the source of Macedonia's best red wines, the district of Naoussa (now-suh). The wine to try is the red Naoussa Grand Reserve, 1995. As with virtually all Greek wines, it is produced from a native grape unknown to most in the west...in this case, this reserve is 100% Xynomavro ("acid-dark"),also spelled Xinomavro. It has spent two years in oak plus two in the bottle before release. $16.
Next, it's on to another storied region, that produced...
The vine traveled from Egypt, to the island of Crete, and then about 1500 B.C. arrived in Europe at Mycenae, west of the site of Athens. The modern wine district of the area is Nemea (neh-MAY-uh), meaning "pastures." Today, those pastures are filled with the vines of another indigenous grape, the Agiorgitiko. It produces a very drinkable, medium-bodied red, nice with veal and ham. The 1998 Boutari Agiorgitiko, $24
Traveling south from Nemea toward Sparta (athletic Spartans whipped Athens while Plato was trying to get some work done), we come to the white-wine district of Mantinia. High on a Peloponnesian plateau (2,000 feet), the 25-year-old Boutari vines yield a non-Chardonnay-ish lemony, refreshing white. The grape is another household word (in Greece), Moschofilero. The 1999 Boutari Moschofilero (100%) is $14.
Now, we leave the mainland for a wine from...
A century before winemaking reached Mycenae, the city was shaken by the greatest volcanic eruption man has witnessed. The beautiful dome of the island of Thera (between Crete and Athens) was blown to bits. Ash from the explosion is known to have reached Iceland, 3,500 miles away. China reported the ash changed the climate for several years. The surviving three shreds of Thera became known as Santorini, named after St.Irene (who was born in Macedonia, some six centuries after Alexander). Many scholars believe Thera's fate inspired Plato to write of the fictional lost continent of Atlantis, which disappeared into the sea, as did Santorini.
Now, if that's not enough to spark an interest in trying a bottle of Santorini white, how about this. The vines for Boutari Santorini are some of the oldest in Greece. Their name is Assyrtiko, and their age is some 300 years. The 1999 Boutari Santorini is only $10. Stands up to char-broiled salmon or a smoked turkey on rye.
Greek vintners are warily bringing in a few French varieties to blend with their native reds. Here's one you can try for only $10. We started with the Xynomavro grape. Boutari has used it (20-year-old vines) with grapes from nine-year-old Merlot vines. The Merlot Xinomavro Boutari 1998 red is a 50-50 blend that spent a year in French oak. We'll let you know how it does in my next tasting.
From my cellar I'll lob in a 1984 Boutari oak-aged blend of Naoussa and Nemea reds. If you want to know the date of the San Francisco tasting, FAX me at (415) 567-4468. Contact—Paterno Imports, (847) 604-8900, FAX (847) 604-5849.
Research: Judith Lorentz
About the Writer
Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers. For information about the wine courses he teaches every month at either San Francisco State University or San Francisco City College (Fort Mason Division), please fax him at (415) 567-4468.
This page created April 2001