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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.”


  • 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.


Warning on Retsina
The waitress warned against this wine, saying that the wine, “Retsina,” was unlike any other wine. Most people send it back so she’d learned to caution those who ordered it from repeat rejections.

Vodka in the Dasani
Retsina really was unlike any other wine, just by smelling you knew something was different. Pinesol. Straight up Pinesol. No other wine smells (and tastes!) like Pinesol and unless you know what to expect, it’s like gulping vodka when you grab the water bottle after exercising only to discover that your roomate put the Absolut in the Dasani bottle. True story.

Love in the Time of Socrates
Retsina dates back to the time of Socrates, Solon and Pericles. In fact, it shows up in Plato’s Symposium, a fact noted in more than one academic publication. When Plato was sitting at Socrates’s knee, writing down the words of wisdom, Socrates was throwing back Retsina wine and burping up pine and eternal questions.

Different How?
Retsina wine predates barrels, so the Greeks made due with pine resin to preserve their grape juice and ferment it into wine. Already in the first century, the Romans were griping about the taste of Retsina and decrying the use of premium grapes in Retsina wines. Anecdotal history even says that when the Romans invaded, the Greeks intentionally put pine resin in their wines to avoid the Romans from stealing their wine.

Pinesol, straight up Pinesol with a hint of mint on the burp. Few outside Greece enjoy it but I’m a sadist who smells like a pinecone.

Detail Up!
Retsina – Ritintis Nobilis by Gaia Estate at their Nemea Estate in Peloponnese, Greece (h/t for the image to these guys)

Random Googles
* Lots of grapes can be made into Retsina. Roditis, Savatiano and Assyrtiko are the most famous.
* Roditis is a late-harvester but still retains high acidity levels, which is why the Greeks in the Peloppenesian islands, especially the northern islands, adore it.
* Every part of Greece is a productive winemaking region. Economists disagree.

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