Crab Shack in Chicago

A crab shack in Chicago might seem an unlikely place to find a happy hour special of Greek wine named Moschofilero, pronounced “mow-sko-FEEL-err-oh.”

As far as places where Greek wine would appear on the menu, Chicago though is about as good a bet in the US as one could make.  Chicago has a strong history of Greek immigration dating back to the 1840s and was the US principal destination for Greek migrants until NYC took over that crown after WWII.  Even today, Chicago ranks as one of the top Greek cities in the world – opa! 

Impressive Greek Madame

If there is one person to thank for that Greek wine appearing on the menu, however, it is Madame Stavroula Kourakou-Dragona (b. 1928).  She has dedicated her long life to the categorization, study and veneration of Greek wines, and her bio is ridiculously impressive.  PhD in Chemistry, Director of the Wine Institute at the Ministry of Agriculture in Greece, President of many multinational organizations dedicated to the expansion and improvement of vines and grapes, and architect of the Appellation of Origin system that first begin in Greece in the 1970s and now includes a structured system of PDO, PGI and IDO wine classifications.

Living a Full Life

Most impressive of all is her outlook and dedication, which I quote from an interview when she was in her late 80s: “I simply feel like a person who deserves to live, who hasn’t led a wasted life… I was fortunate and happy to see the birth in this country, from scratch, of an entire field of research, application, science, industry, commerce and international relations. If I could be born again, I would wish to live the same life all over again – even its difficult times. This full life, which was dedicated to the service of the wine sector.”

Taste

  • To quote the impressive Madame Stavroula Kourakou-Dragona, this is a wine “to break the boredom of the monotony of aromas and flavors from the immoderate prevalence of some, few globalized cultivars.” 
  • Very light color – almost translucent but then light yellow and light green come through
  • Floral and lemony with a Torrontes-like nose
  • Softer sauvignon blanc taste with more citrus taste of lemon, lime and orange with quite a long zesty finish

Detail up!

2018 Moschofilero by Skouras – made with 100% Moschofilero grapes into a 12% ABV white wine from Arcadia Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) in Peloponnese, Greece

Random Googles:

  • Opa! and its accompanying flaming sagnaki dish ubiquitous in Chicago’s Greektown restaurants was invented in Chicago in the 1960s and has expanded from there
  • Stavroula Kourakou-Dragona was the first woman in Europe to hold a oenologist degree in Europe and prefers the title “Lady of the Vines,” inspired by a poem (or collection of poems) written by fascinating Greek poet Yannis Ritsos
  • Greeks in Melbourne, Australia tell me that Melbourne has the most Greeks of any city in the world outside of Athens.  That seems almost accurate from a review of the diaspora information – perhaps after Thessaloniki too.

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Ancient
Georgia has a solid claim to be the birthplace of wine, a birthright dating back at least 8,000 years. Chkhaveri is one of those Georgian grapes that is described as ancient and indigenous, among other quite positive descriptions. It also makes wine in the white, red and rose varieties, depending on the producer and the region.

Fragile yet worth it
The grape tends to fall flat when faced with fungal diseases and phylloxera so it was quite at risk until recent decades when it now appears to be making something of a comeback even if true Georgian wine converts still have a hard time finding it regularly in the Tbilisi supermarkets.

Taste
Watercolor wine in a style resminiscent of the Monet, Cezanne era. Hard to pin down exact color (is it light red, light orange, aperol?), hard to pin down the exact taste (is that light strawberry, rose on the lips, maybe a smell of a raspberry?) but the lightness and length of the wine shimmer on for a long time and the combination is lovely for a hot afternoon heading into evening.  Ripe for sunsets in hot climes.

Detail up!
Lukasi 2017 Rose 11% wine of the versatile Chkhaveri grape from the mountainous region of Adjara in the west of Georgia
Random Googles
* Chkhaveri is the English writing of the Georgian grape – ჩხავერი – which gives a sense of how different the languages and scripts are from each other.
* Georgian script (all 3 of them to be specific) is one of the three UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritages. The other two are wine (from the clay amphora known as qvevri) and polyphonic Georgian singing. All 3 well deserved.
* Government of Georgia provides here a fascinating amount of detail on the origins of Chkhaveri, cultivation, history and future of the grape

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Buy glass here here

Personalized Olaf Glass here

Island of One
Callet, Mantonegro and Fogoneu – none of the wines seems to inspire much in the way of awe when made on their own. Words like rustic, simple, local, pale color, light-skinned/dark-skinned describe the single grape wines (hint: if people are talking about how thick/thin the skin of a GRAPE is in their description of WINE, it probably means they don’t like it or there isn’t much known about it; happens pretty often with obscure wines, often for good reason).

Beauty of Blend
But the beauty of these three wines is that their differences blend together really well. And for someone as profligate as your author, blending is beautiful. A bit of a light-skinned light wine here, add in a bit of that dark-skinned wine there, combine with something that has tannins heavy enough to sahara the windpipe, and voila — balance.

WWOD — What Would Olaf Drink?
Certainly there must be more to it than that, but the magic of dancing elixirs and spoonfuls of sugar that we people with kids watch on a daily basis has likely convinced us that all that is required for a truly beautiful blend of wine is the right melody and the right loveable dancing companion.

Taste:Fruity, slightly sweet, smooth — like a Mallorcan Merlot
T0007570_An2_600x2601
Detail Up!* AN/2 – Anima Negre 2012, 200855 (bottle number?) from Mallorca, Spain
* 65% Callet, 20% Mantonegro-Fogoneu and 15% Syrah

Random Googles:
* Mallorca — the Galapagos of Grapes — features these 3 indigenous grapes and many others
* Pliny the Elder — the original encyclopedia man whose work all subsequent encyclopedias were based — praised the wines of Mallorcan as some of the finest during the decades after Jesus was born.
* Selenho, frequent profilee in this blog, gets credit for pulling out two bottles of this AN/2 at Boqueria years ago… and on numerous subsequent occasions. Sommeliers like him are amazing. Friends like him are rarer than Fogoneu.

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Grape 86: Duras

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Rare Grape, for all the wrong reasons
Rare is the grape that this wino comes across that fails to inspire in one shape or another. Perhaps due to a Pollyannic outlook on life or a natural proclivity to new experiences, it is likely a personality fault of some sort or other. Nonetheless, today is the day when a grape failed to inspire. That grape is Duras.

Duras – too similar sounding to Duress for enjoyment
Duras is a grape from the SW part of France in Gaillac AOC where it is reportedly required to be planted to preserve the indigenous grapes from the invading internationals like Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon. And that is likely to the credit of those looking to protect their heritage and protect the wines that they (hopefully) love to quaff. For an ignorant outsider however, the wines are alcoholic juice boxes. Suitable for that special someone’s 40th birthday party with sippy straws but not to be paired with much beyond birthday cakes and pencil-esque amounts of frosting.

Legalese
Caveats abound of course – maybe this wine from 2011 was supposed to be drunk much earlier, maybe this is not repreesentative of the grape overall, maybe (definitely) this is the entry rung of this producer, maybe (probably) this wino chose the cheapest bottle of this wine with this grape because it was a new grape, maybe, maybe, maybe. And yet, the fact remains – this wine was only better once slightly oxidized and past any semblance of its prime. And with little knowledge and a minuscule geographic footprint for this grape, this grape is bearing the brunt of that sippy cup angst. Because birthday cake should be eaten on its own. Never paired with wine.

Taste
* Day of opening (curmudgeonly reviewed before flying away from home) — Juicy and harsh, lots of alcohol throughout. Those who like it will probably call it rustic.
* Several days after opening (begrudgingly reviewed again, after a flight to home) — Smoother after a few days – still juicy but less like a high-alcohol young Beaujolais and more like a young California Zin. Meaty pasta is a good pair.

Detail Up!
2011 Initiales by Domain Rotier (apparently now called Rouge as they have a White and Rose too) – made with 80% Duras grapes and 20% Braucol into a 14.5% wine from the Gaillac AOC in SW France

Random Googles:
* At first, I thought this wine had two new grapes – Duras, along with Braucol. Turns out, that grape has many names, one of which is Mansois that was reviewed previously. Kinda glad to have this blog in moments like this.
* Duras grapes are only found in the Gaillac region. Understandably.
* Duras grapes are typically blended with other grapes. A wise move.

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aphors loureiro 2011 lima vinho verde

As much as Loureiro and Vinho Verde are both worth a full description (probably way more than a blogpost in fact), I just read Harpo Speaks! And standing on one’s head is precisely the type of activity that Harpo advocated in word and in action, both for himself in Monaco casinos and for his children in his house rules. So, today there is no description of wine. Or Loureiro.

Today there is only mayhem related to topics other than wine. To families gathering and figuring out the best for ourselves as individuals and trying to find the best for ourselves as relatives together. To Fringe Wine – for writing 282 posts and bringing estoerica to the topics of the google search pages while fighting for what is far more important. To surrealists in whatever form, in whatever age. To nights on rooftops with clouds and rain. To books unread and un-reread. To nights and days and vespers best. To wandering and forests black, but most of all to sunflowers at dawn. To hostas and rose on the North Fork. To homemade chicken, rice and you. To what remains and what’s the same – an M. Wells dish and night of bliss. To family and friends remiss, to what we have at finger tips and what lies just beyond, where dreams insist.

Detail Up!
Loureiro, 2011 Aphros 12.0% abv, Vinho Verde from Lima River area in Galicia, Portugal

Taste
Acidic and crisp. Similar to Sauvignon Blanc but less of a finish. Little bit of lime but you have to look for it. Lemon is more present but still fairly subtle. Pairs really well with fish esp with lemon on top

Random Googles:
* Lima, one of my favorite words in any language, happens to be the river that flows through Galicia, the very northwestern areas of Portugal that produces Vinho Verde thanks to the many Celt ancestors that settled in this area… along with Ireland, Scotland and other crazy-beautiful parts of earth.
* Loueriro is a kissing cousin to Albarinho, the Portunhol grape that is loved and forgotten by many a good Spaniard
* Loureiro means “laurel” or “bay”, which is apparently based on the smell of the wine. I did not notice that but probably couldn’t identify either spice… unless the smell of Old Bay french fries is somehow related

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