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Making the Most of Greek White: Rosé

 

By Jim Clarke
July 2007

It should come as no surprise that Greek winemakers have a knack for rosé. The same hot climate that lends itself to ripening red grapes also creates a thirst for something chilled and refreshing. Most rosés are made by crushing red grapes and allowing the juice to soak together with the skins for a short time. Sometimes the juice is allowed to ferment immediately, but the winemaker often takes the extra step of chilling the must in order for the juice to absorb the flavors and color of the grapes. The juice is then bled off to prepare the must for fermentation. Regardless of the process, the goal is to extract just the right amount of redness from the grapes to produce the deep pink color characteristic of rosé wine.

Suprisingly, some of the best Greek rosés don’t come from red grapes at all. Moschofilero, one of the peninsula’s many native grapes, has a dark, pinkish hue reminiscent of Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer. The grapes are generally used to make light, gentle white wines, but some producers now aim for a more intense Moschofilero experience, coaxing deeper flavor from the grapes through extended skin contact before or during fermentation. Moschofilero white wines are bold in flavor with an earthy richness that brings depth and complexity to the citrus, vanilla, and floral aromas. But getting them just right can be a tricky balancing act. Much like new oak on a Chardonnay, the whites can be a bit overwhelming at times, verging on “dirt” aromas instead of “earth.” However, this technique shines in the rosé form of Moschofilero; the earthy note of the grape comes through, but so do the floral and berry aromas and a pale rosé color.

The Moschofilero whites vary a great deal — they can be citrusy, light, and refreshing but if done wrong the flavors are far too heavy and cloying. There are some good examples out there but I’m hoping Moschofilero rosés continue their trends toward healthier sales in the marketplace, so more Greek winemakers will let this grape keep its blushing tone. Many traditional rosés strike me as something held back from the potential of the grape; these Moschofileros take full advantage of the grape's flavor. Most show abundant floral aromas — particularly roses — with a mix of red berry and stone fruit elements. Strawberry and peach are common tasting notes, while lychee and tangerine sometimes appear as well. Whether white or pink, Moschofilero has enough distinct qualities to give it a definite identity with wine drinkers who can look forward to Moschofileros picking up a bit of color in the coming summers.

Some recommended wines:

Domain Spiropoulos ‘Meliasto’ 2006
The only rosé moschofilero with extensive distribution in the U.S.
Antonopoulos Mantinia 2006
Mantinia is the appellation; 100% Moschofilero Boutari Moschofilero 2006 — a big producer, and therefore easier to find, but still reliable
Orenos Helios White 2006
Moschofilero blended with another indigenous grape, Rhoditis, which emphasizes the floral and grassy elements
Skouras Cuvée Prestige White 2006
Another Moschofilero–Rhoditis blend, but a bit richer


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