Wine Culture Magazine

Reviewing reds from Greece and the Canary Islands

The Listán Negro grows on lava fields on the Canary Island of Lanzarote. The Lava Vineyard photo

Today we’re travelling to Greece and to one of the Canary Islands reviewing two delicious reds that have recently arrived on our shores. As the weather gets cooler and stormier, red wines are more appealing. And they go so well with roasts, homemade soups and stews that are so comforting.

Despite the fact that the Greeks have been producing wine for thousands of years, many consumers have the image of Greek wine as being rather pedestrian. And the prime example is Retsina, the white wine that smells like Pine Sol because it has the smell and taste of the commercial cleaner. The wine was originally shipped in pine containers and developed unique pine characteristics.

Kir-Yianni Xinomavro from mountainous Greece and Bermejos Listán Negro from the volcanic Canary Islands. Eric Hanson photo

The Kir-Yianni Kali Riza 2017 Xinomavro ($33.99; 92 points) SKU 456412 is a remarkable new listing in government stores, which will impress and elevate one’s impression of Greek wine.

Kir Yianni, which is Greek for Mr. John, is the winemaker who sold his share in Boutari, the oldest and most established wine name in Greece. Instead, he acquired his own prime vineyards and in 1994 he released his first wines. He has championed Xinomavro, a red grape grown in Nanoussa, the alpine region of Macedonia.

The Xinomavro is produced from 60-year-old vines in the mountainous area of Amyndeon, the coldest region of Greece, which has been making wine since the 3rd Century BC. It reveals a dark ruby colour with a thin edge of terra cotta on the rim.

The aroma exudes a variety of scents: violets, black cherries and blackberries, raspberries, juicy tomatoes and olives, as well as herbs and black pepper. On the palate, there’s refreshing acidity for a red, thanks to its cool region. Expect grippy tannins in this medium-bodied red, which ends on a lengthy savoury finish.

The Xinomavro is delicious with a medium-rare rib-eye steak. Eric Hanson photo

The Xinomavro is meant to be enjoyed with food. It was delicious with a grilled Tomahawk steak, and would pair well with lamb gyros and a tomato, onion, cucumber and olive salad with yoghurt. When I served it with cheese, the tannins melted away and the fruity flavour became sweeter. Be sure to decant for at least one hour before enjoying.

From the mountains of northern Greece we journey to the volcanic islands off the coast of Africa, which is getting a lot of press. There’s lots of bad news about the lava flows on the Canary Island of La Palma. But for wine lovers, there is lots of good news from the nearby island of Lanzarote.

Lanzarote is known for making delicious wines on its volcanic soil. A volcanic explosion from the 18th century covered the entire island in lava and ash 3-5 metres deep, making grape cultivation challenging. Each vine must be planted in a hole or hoyo that breaks through that infertile volcanic crust of petrified lava to the organic matter that can nourish it. And to complicate things, the wind is so ferocious that rock walls for protection surround each hoyo.

The Bermejos 2018 Listán Negro ($35.99; 91 points SPEC) has a dark red colour. It needs about a day to breathe in a decanter to release the aroma genie from its three years in the bottle. The wait is well worth it as the aroma is complex.

Expect black and red fruits with hints of tar and earthiness. In its medium body there’s blackberries boysenberries, and cherries along with molasses, licorice, spice, and volcanic minerals. The Listán Negro has smooth viscous mouth feel with mild tannins and long red fruit finish. Enjoy with Osso Buco, Oxtail soup, or tapas of chorizo and Manchego cheese. Available as a SPEC product at the BCLS Alberni and Bute location. It can be also be ordered by the case (6 bottles) at any government liquor store.

—by Eric Hanson, Richmond News

Follow us on Instagram