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Chopsticks and a Glass of Wine

05/05/2015 - by George Kassianos
Years ago when I familiarized myself with Asian cuisine in London’s China Town, and learning about wine, I could hardly recall any producers with enough courage to pair their wine with Chinese food.  The Italian wineries understandably preferred the Italian food fare to show off their wines, while French producers understandably too, opted for French or perhaps, other refined styles of western cuisine. The odd even Australian and New Zealand producers rarely paired their wines with Chinese food. How things have changed.

Matching Chinese food with wine is a potential minefield.  I believe this is why we had this cautious approach by the producers.  It is incredibly varied, match depends on which province or style of food derives from.  In many countries the origins and the chef’s school along with which diverse culinary traditions they follow have influence on the type of food.  And what we taste as Chinese food on the island generically grouped as "Chinese" is basically adopted to the European palate.

Other than the diversity in this type of cuisine what intimidates many when it comes to pairing Chinese food with wine, is the order in which it comes to, actually, in which the food is enjoyed.

I was told years ago from a Chinese food writer, who lives in London that Chinese food in an informal environment, is served at once, fresh from the wok, steamer or fryer, with the steam still rising off the dishes.  So picture this, and, try to understand the logic, if any.  No heed of order, the aim is to eat the recently plated food as soon as it arrives on the tale, hot and fresh.  The order is dictated by the chef, can you imagine many chefs thinking like wine connoisseurs from light to rich dishes.

There is no heed of order or logic here; the focus is on eating the recently plated food as soon as it arrives on the table, piping hot and fresh. It turns up in an order dictated by the chef, who has no thought of going from light to richer dishes.  Sommeliers are scratching their heads by now in bewilderment.

Try a classic Chinese banquet with eight courses.  Even in this formal dining environment, the classic order from light- bodied wines to fuller bodied ones does not work.  He explained to me that it is all down to the rhythm.  In the case of the Chinese table, the rhythm is not linear, but rather cyclical, and a lot depends on a strong opening.  For instance crisp suckling pig or honey-glazed barbecued meats, usually are served at the beginning of the meal.  The argument is that we do not have large portions of these dishes but the flavors are bold.   If I use this example and medium bodied Xynisteri or a gentle Chenin Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc wine to start the meal would be completely overwhelmed by these strong meat-dominant dishes.  Peking duck is also normally served towards the beginning of the meal, not the end.

These thoughts happened at Chloe’s Chinese Restaurant last week in Pafos.  Eythyvoulos, the owner has visited China many times and he also agreed with me over the difficulty in matching Chinese food and wine.  The rhythm of a Chinese meal does not fit with what we are accustom to in the Western world, the way we present a range of wine.  Hence why producers find it difficult to show their wines with Chinese.  But they are comfortable at a classical European wine dinner, starting out with light-bodied white wines, then slowly progressing to bolder or more mature, complex flavours.  This is a linear presentation where the main course is the finale, paired with the best wine of the meal.

However, what do you do with the cyclical format? Here a different progression must be followed.  I would normally advise beginning a Chinese banquet with a bold pinot noir. Whether it is from Burgundy, New Zealand or Oregon, the wine needs to have crisp acidity, bold, ripe flavours and firm tannins.  After this firm, brash opening, there is usually a retreat, with a more gentle seafood dish that can be paired with white wine. Many candidates in this category.  Somewhere among the first four dishes, the highlight dish makes its entrance.  You will know as it usually consists of an expensive ingredient that can include the best steamed grouper, at Oriental in Bangkok I was served shark’s fin.

The obvious question is why, what is the reason for serving the most expensive ingredients in the first half of the meal?  The answer is that our stomachs are not very full. In this case we can appreciate the flavours and textures more fully.  One should consider then that it is logical that the very best wines should be served early too, alongside the most prized, special dishes.

In London I learned that in a top Chinese restaurant and top restaurant I classify any restaurant where the food is considered as important as the wine, respect must be considered for the order that the chef has planned so that diners enjoy the special dishes in a well-thought out succession. Simply, here, the wines must adapt to the meal.  Understandably, when the producer has a specific agenda to highlight his/her wines in a specific order from lesser to higher quality, then the order of the food can be adapted to the wine’s presentation.

As a producer or a connoisseur you genuinely want to pair any wine with great Chinese dishes.  You must not neglect the rhythm and the chef’s sense of balance and order.  Do not let the food to adopt to wine so you do not leave the authenticity of the meal is lost. You must decide in other words, whether to show the wines or genuinely respect the chef and food, and thus choose the best wines to pair with courses. This can mean that the best wines are tasted at the beginning and the lightest wines enjoyed at the end.

These days, pairing wine with Chinese meals is becoming more common. We are fortunate to have many wine professionals and restaurateurs such as Euthyvoulos, spreading their love for both Chinese food and wine.  After all we are living in an exciting era of adventure and experimentation especially when it comes to Chinese food and wine matching. The elusive "perfect pairing" may not be as often as we would like, but we certainly will have a lot of fun pursuing it.

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Wine to taste the Mistis line of wines from Oinou Logos Winery, Amargeti Village Pafos

2013 Mistis Chardonnay, Pafos, Abv 13%, €13.40
What attracts in this wine is the label – you may wander what is this funny shaped h but it is an ideogram from Linear B which means wine.  Clear and bright with a medium to pale yellow colour, almost verging on straw.  There's a nice sparkle deep in the centre of the wine, promising a refreshing drink.  The aroma of Mistis Chardonnay is clean and slightly fruity, reminiscent of apples and perhaps peaches.  Dry with marked acidity, this Chardonnay is characterized by sharp fruit flavours including citrus, tropical fruit, and even pear. All of the fruit flavour is up front, though, and it ends on a more buttery note.  It is only fair when combined with sharp cheddar, but like many Chardonnays it shines when paired with aged Gouda, best with raw and lightly cooked shellfish like crab and prawns, steamed or grilled fish, fish pâtés, fish, chicken or vegetable terrines and pasta or risotto with spring vegetables. They also go well with creamy vegetable soups.

2013 Mistis Syrah rosé, Pafos, Abv 14%, €12.65
The Mistis rosé is very rosy, deep coloured almost light red. It's fairly clear and high in its depth. I might say that the hue is closer to cherry or pomegranate.  There are nice, positive aromas coming from this mostly red fruits and berries, pomegranate, ripe strawberries and spice.  Strawberry is the most identifiable scent, though it's not the only one.  As with the aromas, there are nice fruity and berry flavours here. The Mistis rosé is soft, a little crisp at the end and dry, and overall very easy on the palate.  Loved it with mild yellowcheese or goat cheese, antipasto and meze, meze, meze.

2012 Mistis Maratheftiko, Pafos, Abv 14%, €15.50
A very dark and intensely hued ruby wine with extraordinarily long lasting legs captured my attention.  This Maratheftiko has a terrific presence featuring deep, initial scents of blackberry, bright flavours of plum, cherry, blueberry and cassis shaded with an intriguing hint of roasted coffee, allspice, bay leaf and graphite.  Its rich layers and velvety texture satiate the palate with complex flavours of spicy ripe red and black fruits and dusty earth, wrapped around gentle tannins.  Is this the first try?  Enjoy with tenderloin medallions drizzled with a wild huckleberry glaze, roast chicken, or a tomato-based red sauce with Italian sausage and fennel over your favorite pasta.
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  • 28/01/2015 - by George Kassianos

    I read of many wine bars and shops opening and gladly realise that wine (bars) is now an antidote to crisis poisonous negative thinking.  The same is happening almost in every town.

    By accident then, thanks to Social Media, I got in touch with Maria Teresa Murgia an ex-lawyer from Bologna who married Nikos Charalambous a vet by profession.  After many years in Bologna they moved to Cyprus a few years ago. Nikos has his own veterinary practice in Athienou and Maria Teresa decided that it is about time to show to the connoisseurs of wine in Cyprus her taste of Italian wine.  It was a happy and a pleasure, but now it becomes something more with the Enoteca, an adventure and a challenge.   

    It is not a statement, but true that some of the best wines I have ever drunk were Italian.  Unfortunately, this is also a statement, so were some of the worst.  Because of this, trying to get to grips with Italian wines can leave one frustrated.  A sip of silky-smooth Vino Nobile di Montepulciano can be heaven; raw, acidic Pinot Grigio can be hell.  Italy is confusing, too, with more than 300 different grape varieties.  Even well-known wines such as Montepulciano d' Abruzzo and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano can be baffling: the one named after Montepulciano the grape, the other after Montepulciano the town.   Why take the risk with an unfamiliar Agricola Punica Samas, say, when you can play safe with a more recognisable Australian Chardonnay? 

    “But that, in a way, is the joy of Italy” Maria Teresa said.   With so many different grape types grown in such wildly diverse regions, from the mountains of the Alto Adige in the north to sun-baked Sicily in the south, there's a wine for everyone.  And so there is food and cheese and salami... No other country can boast such variety – in everything. 

    Yes, Cabernet Sauvignon has reared its head - spectacularly so in Tuscany - but the real fun is in discovering a wine that is unique to a given part of Italy and speaks of the land it is from.  Just like the Cannonau from Sardinia a week ago.    

    Recently as reported in the Telegraph by Jonathan Ray Gambero Rosso, publisher of the definitive annual Italian wine guide recently held its inaugural Top Italian Wines Road show in London and featured more than 200 wines from a diverse group of some 50 producers. 

    The aim was to show how far Italian wines have come over the past decade and how exciting they now are. 

    And it worked. If you take the trouble to look and are prepared for the odd disappointment, this beguiling country still merits the name Enotria Tellus - "Land of Wine".  And this is the exact message that Maria and Nikos like to pass to their guests and partners.  

    Maria will always welcome you with a glass of Limoncello di Sardine Rau.  Wine and drinks are the identity of a population.  Splendid sun shines in Sardinia, just like Cyprus, for a large proportion of the year.  A syrupy slug of Limoncello is a fine, fine way to welcome a thirst quenching guests.  The fragrant, just-acidic-enough lemon peel is the secret to Limoncello, the sunny liqueur that arrives in frosty glasses.  The aroma smells very fresh, like when you first cut into the lemon peel and the oils are released into the air. It has a dense yellow colour as well, so much that it’s essentially opaque. The flavour delivers on the promise of the aroma, fresh lemon abounds.  This is a well-constructed and well-balanced Limoncello. It’s sweet and smooth, making it a good choice for crowd pleasing as it will fit many palates. The mouth feel is on the heavy side, which I like.

    After a tour and a look at the picture gallery on the mezzanine floor a glass of.  A Castelveder Franciacorta Brut, Abv 13% €25.  This is the only Italian sparkling wine appellation that must be made by “méthode champenoise”.  Franciacorta also happens to be the only compact wine area producing world class sparkling wine in Italy.  Pale brassy yellow with fine perlage; the bouquet is fairly rich, with bright slightly vegetal acidity that has some minerality and bitterness with savory overtones.  On the palate it's full, and dry, with considerable granitic minerality supported by deft mineral acidity and some peppery notes that flow into a clean spicy mineral finish. Pleasing in a distinctly mineral key, and will be nice either as an aperitif or with foods. It grew on me.  

    This was followed by one of the best Vermentino based grapes I have ever tasted.  2013 Santadi, Villa Solais, Vermentino di Sardinia D.O.C.  Abv 13%, €7.15 Some wineries make world-class elixirs and this is one of them.  So good with the salami and Pecorino cheese that Nikos was cutting on the table. With a percentage of Nuragus grapes, another of Sardinia’s famous white wine varieties has a pale, straw yellow color with delicate and subtle but persistent aromas of citrus and white fruit. Fine-spun pear, green apple and lemon-infused flavors glissade across the tongue backed up by Vermentino’s signature acidity. There are no rough edges here, just ripe fruit and juicy acidity. The finish is long and clean with a pleasantly bitter note. Thus is a delightful wine for summer sipping or for any time of year for that matter.

    And now we try some reds starting with 2012 Agricola Punica Montesu Isola dei Nuraghi I.G.T. Sardinia, Abv 14%, €16.80 A blend of about 60% Carignan the rest Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. is full-bodied, remarkably rich and complex. The aromas are a little hesitant but a gentle swishing of the wine in a glass releases intense aromas and mouth-coating black fruit flavors that have touches of cedar and kitchen spices. It is a delicious wine at a very agreeable price.

    2011 Agricola Pala di Mario Pala, Cannonau di Sardegna, D.O.C. Riseva, Abv 14%, €15.15 was next.  This is 100% varietal specific from 25-year-old vines.  It has a ruby red appearance and floral aromas mingled with minerality. In the mouth lush, red berries cover the palate with wild herbs, a hint of spice, and a hint of salinity (or is it mental?).  A very good value wine. 

    And finally 2007 Trabucchi d’ Illasi, Valpolicella Superiore, Terra del Cereolo, Abv 13.5%, €30  This is still surprisingly fresh considering the age of this wine.  It is made primarily with Corvina and other interesting varietals that include Rondinella, reminiscent of cherries, and Croatina that bestows a floral and fruity bouquet.  It’s simple and enjoyable, with purple highlights, mouthwatering cherry flavors layered with mint and white pepper accent.  The scent recalls dried rose petals, followed by hints of plums, wild cherries and candied fruit.

    With over 800 wine grape varieties, 20 uniquely designated winegrowing regions, and hundreds of years of winemaking history on the books, Italy's wine scene is a glorious adventure from grape to glass guaranteeing that there are more exciting things to come in Enoteca Italiana.  

    Address: 63 Agios Pavlos Street (opposite of MAS Supermarket)
    Telephone: 357 97713394
    Website: www.enotecaitalianacy.com
    Email: enotecaitaliana.cy@gmail.com
    Facebook: www.facebook.com/enotecaitalianaincyprus

    It Was By Accident That I Discovered Enoteca Italiana!

  • 07/12/2014 - by George Kassianos

    It was sponsored by Photos Photiades Distributors and Barton & Guestier (B&G), the theme revolving purely on France wine history and geography, viniculture and viticulture.  The contesters had to have knowledge on cognac and French spirits, liqueurs and beers whilst they had to do their homework on anything that involves B&G.  This was a mini competition that aims to prepare young Sommeliers for the National competition in a year’s time.

    The judging committee involved the oenologists Marcos Zambartas of Zambartas Winery and Sophocles Vlassides of Vlassides winery.  Also known members of the Sommeliers association and past Champions like George Zacharoglou (ex champion - Le Meridien), Alissa Gortsinskaja current National Champion, Andreas Kyprianou (Vinocultura), Costas Pishias (President of the Cyprus Bartenders Association), Argyris Kontos (Alexander the Great), Nikos Charalambous (Colosseum Restaurant Pafos), Iraklis Christophorou (Ex – President of the Association) were the judges for the practical session – Spyros Stivaros (professor), Dr. Andreas Emmanouel (President of Cyprus Friends of Wine Association) and Yiannoula Vassiliadou (secretary) completed the team of judges at the Administration.  The Chairman of the Technical Committee was Mr. Vasos Manoli (ex-champion and Head Sommelier of Risto La Piazza, Pafos)     

    The first trial and probably the hardest involved a written examination – 35 questions on France and 15 on B&G.  These was followed by blind tasting of one B&G white and one red wine as well as identification of five spirits all from France – an whisky, a rum, vodka, cognac and Pear Williams Eau-de-Vie.  Then, the live stage is followed in front of live audiences each candidate was tested on decanting a red wine and serving sparkling wine. 

    To be the best sommelier you must be able to do several things, and to do them swiftly and perfectly.  You must not only be able to blindly identify thousands of different kinds of wine, you must comprehensively describe their flavour profiles, pinpoint where and when the grapes were grown, and state the most appropriate foods with which to pair them. You must do all this in two or five minutes, and in a language other than your native tongue.  Your knowledge of every other kind of spirit, from absinthe to vodka, and even non-alcoholic beverages like tea and mineral water, will be similarly tested.  In a simulation of fine-dining service—timed, like everything—you must demonstrate you can efficiently and smoothly pour a bottle of wine to one, two, possibly six guests.  A single spilled drop, or the incorrect fold of a napkin, may cost you points. And as mentioned above you must do it all with an audience watching. In the end, the eight sommeliers with all the judges stood on the platform. The audience gave a round of applause to all of them.  

    The winner was Elena Gheorghinete from Annabelle Hotel in Pafos.  Along with the trophy confirming the winner, Elena will join a group of Photos Photiades Distributors for a five day trip to Bordeaux at the Head Quarters of B&G the famous Château Magnol.  Second winner was George Loukakis of Columbia Steak House and in third place Marios Constantinou of Four Seasons.

    Vasos Manoli said “For the first time the Association along with Photos Photiades organized a smaller version of the National Competition.  These smaller competitions will enable the younger candidates to be better prepared.  We had some excellent papers; much higher standard than before and especially at the blind tasting paper results, as well as the practical testes impressed the judges.    We have set out to educate our members and the results from this competition are encouraging.   This makes our task harder for the next year in preparing sommeliers for the Best Young Sommelier and the biggest prize the 7th National competition for the Best Sommelier in Cyprus.”

    Elena Gheorghinete, the winner said, “This is only the first step in a long journey. I also aim at a top winning the Best Young Sommelier and the National.

    As well, I am dreaming of representing Cyprus at the European Contest in Vienna 2017. I am aware of the fact that is going to be a continuous uphill, but this will enable me to learn more in order to pass the written tests and to perform service just like a true champion.”

    Miss Gheorghinete who comes from Romania and worked for the last four years in Cyprus also said, “When I first got involved in the Sommeliers Association, I wasn’t thinking about competitions. By watching the other winners videos performing on the stage, previous years, planted in my soul courage and ambition. Still being a man’s world - only a few female sommeliers out there – motivated me even more.

    I wanted to do something different, as I am not an ordinary person. nice I decided I want to go for it, I knew it is a laborious project, so I sat and broke down on paper every wine map France has : appellations, soil, climate, rivers, grapes, regional dishes as I personally like to discover a wine through food and vice versa.”

    And Ms Elena Diana Gheorghinete did it  

    The B&G Wines of the competition 

    B&G Sparkling Chardonnay Brut, Loire €11.00

    The second fermentation takes place in vats. Then three months of ageing in vats on the lees to get more volume and enhance a good aromatic complexity.  There is straw yellow colour with golden highlights with fine and regular bubbles.  It is intense and perfumed, dominated by fruity aromas (peach, apricot). Flattering citrus notes appear when agitated but fine and elegant on the palate.  Upheld by a good acidity, this flavourful well balanced wine has a long and refreshing finish dominated by white fruits. An enjoyable wine!

    B&G Sparkling Rosé, Southern France €10.50

    It has an enticing bright salmon-pink colour with a fine, delicate mousse. This sparkler is a blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah grapes.  On the nose it shows fresh red fruit predominantly strawberry, raspberry and gentle spice aromas. Rich, fresh cherry aromas, good fruit lead to a mouthful of freshly picked forest fruits along with refreshing acidity a truly compelling sparkling wine – excellent aperitif or with fresh red fruit.

    2013 B&G Chablis, Chablis AOC €17.00

    This crispy and refreshing wine has a golden straw yellow colour with a rich nose mixing flattering aromas of pineapple, tropical fruits, white flowers and mineral notes when agitated. The attack is fresh, the evolution round and supple and the finish is crisp. This is a great vintage with lots of fruity and floral aromas.  It pairs well with fish and seafood, white meat.

    2011 B&G Margaux, Margeaux AOC €21.00

    Garnet red with deep purple highlights – this is a bland of Cabenret Sauvignon and Merlot. Beautiful dried cherry and blackberry aromas on the first nose. When agitated, vanilla and spices appear. It is harmonious, showing a great balance with velvety tannins. Flattering and elegant fruity and spicy flavours follow through on the palate. This wine combines all the elegance of outstanding vineyards. The Margaux appellation produces wine with great finesse and delicate flavours. Complex, developing round tannins and perfectly integrated oak flavour; it can age for many years in a good cellar.  This claret pairs well with grill meats and strong cheese.

    2011 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC €22.00

    Very dark in colour, not surprisingly, the 2010 Châteauneuf du Pape possesses more power, concentration and substance. Dense black raspberry, a tremendous core of lush plum, linzer torte, blackberry comfiture and garrigue, licorice and floral notes are found in this pure, impressively full-bodied 2010 along with lots of fat, glycerin, flesh and succulence.  Beef or lamb stew is excellent pair, roast turkey, sausages or Gouda cheese 



    The B&G Sommelier Competition

  • 03/11/2014 - by Spectus Wines

    Every year, SPECTUS holds a wonderful event – an oeno-gastronomic event that is something no wine lover should miss.

    The Gala Dinner is a very special evening – relaxed, joyful and aimed at your absolute enjoyment and entertainment. Creativity, enthusiasm and passion are the main ingredients of the special 5 course menu that has been specially prepared by Executive Chef, Panicos Hadjittofis, and his exceptional team of chefs.

    The specially created menu will be accompanied by a range of the most famous wines from central Italy that will be presented by a special guest of SPECTUS.  Through these unique wines you will discover and savour the Italian temperament and enthusiasm for life!

    Talented musicians will entertain you during the dinner while the festive evening continues with dancing until the early hours.

    Venue: The Four Seasons Hotel, Limassol
    Date: Saturday, November 22, 2014
    Time: 8:30pm
    Participation Price €125.00 per person
    Dress Code: Formal

    Reservations: Please contact Ms. Marina Knowles at the Four Seasons hotel on 25858000

    For more information: SPECTUS 25370027

    Below, you can see some photographs from previous SPECTUS Gala Dinners:

















    SPECTUS 17th Anniversary Oeno-Gastronomic “Gala” Dinner

  • 10/09/2014 - by George Kassianos

    From Othon Ghalanos collection     

    2013 Torres Viña Esmeralda, D.O. Catalunya, Spain Abv 11%, €10.23

    I always find the blend of Moscatel de Alejandria 85% and Gewürtzraminer 15% as unusual, delicious though.  And the Gewürztraminer seems to dominate with its fragrance and spice.  Brilliant yellow green with delicate honey and fresh grapefruit characters with additional aromas of honeysuckle, ripe pear intermingle with vanilla spice.  The palate has similar flavours with a little spice and zip.  It is fresh and lively with an abundance of aromatic richness that finishes with nuances of cinnamon and cloves.  I always loved this wine with an aperitif or paté, sublime also with fish and seafood.   Typically innovative and different, this is an intriguing blend from fourth-generation grower Miguel Torres. Founded in 1870, Torres has a rich history of innovation

    2010 Torres Gran Sangre de Toro, Reserva, D.O. Catalunya, Spain €12.79

    A blend of Garnacha (Grenache), Cariñena (Carignan) and Syrah, ruby red,  on the nose depth and quality with exuberant aromas of  mint, herbs, tree bark and plum, sweet strawberry, dates almost dry fruit; aromas that settle fairly well and a sensual background of fine spices in a good balance with perfumed notes reminiscent of blackberries, chocolates and sweet cherry.  Medium bodied, the mouthfeel is solid and full, firm tannins are setting the stage for dark berry, vanilla, cocoa and root flavours. Transitions to mocha and coffee on the long finish with lingering spiciness.  Loved it with beef Teriyaki,

    2013 Tsantali KANENAS, Maronia Vineyards, Ismaros P.G.I.  Greece, Abv 13%, €13.09

    This dry white is a formidable blend of Moschato Alexandrias and Chardonnay grapes grown in Maronia vineyards.  The Tsantali label is of Homeric proportions, pale yellow colour with greyish hues, fresh, fruity, herbs,  typical and with medium intensity, with notes of ripe yellow fruit, fresh citrus and subtly spicy. It is soft and creamy in the mouth with crispy acidity, good structure of medium thickness.   This white has a charming character and the aromatic aftertaste of white rose.  It combines well with shellfish, seafood, grilled fish, fragrant dishes, white meats and soft cheeses, fried zucchini, tomato balls, cheese pies, meatballs and Tzatziki.

    2010 Tsantali KANENAS, Maronia Vineyards, Ismaros P.G.I.  Greece, Abv 13.5%, €16.42

    Deeply coloured, a blend of Mavroudi – Syrah; this richly perfumed and complex wine is full of wild berries, ripe dark cherries that are supported by spicy notes. Upon tasting it delivers the same intensity and complexity on the nose. Chewy and textured tannins hold it well for maturation. This wine will mature well over the coming years.  With its intense tannins it is a delightful companion to red meats with rich and spicy sauces. It tastes delicious with poached rack of lamb with fennel and meatballs in tomato sauce.

    2013 Tselepos Classic Mantinia, P.D.I Mantinia, Greece, Abv 13%, €12.25    

    The master of Moschofilero grape produced yet another good vintage, a wine which is complex for a white, exceptionally fresh with lively acidity.  It has intense aromas of tropical fruits, honey, figs, lemon flowers and citrus. There is a dry, floral minerality that frames this complex nose. Lots of citrus fruit on the mid-palate leading to a clean, crisp, minerally finish.  I loved it with zucchini balls with cheese, stuffed grape leaves with minced beef and rice topped with an intense lemon sauce and mint, as well as a roasted eggplant roll with Graviera sheep's milk cheese. You can serve this with all kinds of seafood dishes, green salads, goat and sheep's milk cheeses or on its own as a refreshing aperitif.

    2012 Domaine Lyrarakis Dafni P.G.I. Crete, Abv 12% €12.43

    A very interesting grape from the Alagni estate of Lyrarakis in Crete.  Domaine Lyrarakis’ Dafni showcases one of the region’s most ancient, indigenous varieties. “With this wine you will enter a world of hand-crafted, artisan wines of the very highest level. The Dafni grape variety is actually one of Crete’s best kept secrets. It is still very rare, and obscure, and it was first brought back from extinction in the 1980s thanks to the efforts of the aforementioned Domaine” as per Eva Polaki a Greek wine specialist.

    Straw yellow colour the wine has an expressive now comprising layers of complex botanical flavours (juniper to eucalyptus, spearmint), ripe melons and orchard fruit underlined by refreshing, cleansing acidity. The 2012 vintage possesses remarkable intensity and richness as well as wonderful freshness.  The aromatics will intensify with age. On the palate it is ripe and round, with a bit of texture giving it lovely mouthfeel, and quite fat lemony and bright apple fruit to the fore. Acidity is good, and this has concentration and a bit of spicy substance Pair the wine with dishes with robust herbal qualities like rosemary, thyme, sage. Well worth exploring.
     
    2008 Mandilari Oak Aged Plakouta Vineyard, Cretan Regional Wine Abv 13%, €18.68

    The Mandilari indigenous grape variety is sourced from the rare low-yield Plakouta vineyard, a premier cru slope at 500m. Lyrarakis believes on the potential of this grape variety.  Red ruby colour fairly mature plummy nose, blackberry jam, earthy and cedary notes and some old oak. Polished, slightly muted preserved fruit on the palate, dried dark berries and preserved plums, fairly persistent, tart and bitter herbaceous notes, fairly prominent astringent tannins, slightly rustic style, delicately juicy with a moderate acid bite, astringent on a good finish.  Enjoy with lamb con vine twigs, hen and zigouri pilaf, and Cretan Graviera cheese

    2011 Concha Y Toro, Marques de Concha Carménère, D.O. Peumo, Chile Abv 14%, €18.20

    Such concentration…the fruit sourced from the superb Peumo vineyard in Rapel valley aged for 18 months in French oak.  Exeptional deep, dark red wine showcasing intense aromas of ripe black fruit coupled with spicy black pepper,  more exotic spices and dried herbs, floral notes, plum and blackberry. On the palate, full bodied, rich, plush and structured, the wine is voluptuous with flavors of black berry, dark chocolate and hints of vanilla from the oak.  The wine conceals enough fine-grained tannin to evolve for 3-4 years. Marques de Casa Concha Carménère marries well with roasted meats, aged cheeses, and robust pastas.

    Welcome autumn….

    September Tastings

  • 07/09/2014 - by George Kassianos

    George Hadjistylianou - manager and chief sommelier - wine list exudes exactly the kind of passion that he shares for wine.   He chooses wines that have depth to them.  Perhaps there is an amazing winemaker story, an amazing tradition or historical grape at their core.  He believes in the originality of the place and the grape…o terroir and adores acidity and minerality in wine where they match perfectly with his food.

    Santorini an island set the cobalt Aegean Sea has a story.  Winemaking goes back 5000 years but it is the giant volcanic eruption in about 1600 B.C. that left its mark on the island.  As a result of this catastrophic event we have now the main island of Thera and its half dozen smaller sisters which are the tips of a giant caldera.

    This story interests wine lovers because the island's soil is now made up predominantly of volcanic debris from the giant explosion, and it is this soil that gives the island's famous white wine its distinct mineral quality.  And what about Assyrtiko the native grape, it is also unusual in that, unlike other white varietals, it is capable of retaining a high level of acidity despite the bright Mediterranean sun. When you combine this acidity with the gravelly minerality from the volcanic soil, the wine can achieve a remarkable degree of charm and elegance.  And then there is Aidani, indigenous along with Athiri and the red Mandilaria and Mavrotragano… wine stories that just begun.

    Fittingly Estate Argyros choose Fat Fish Restaurant to present their wines to a group of sommeliers.  Andreas Kyprianou of Vinocultura (a wine and tapas bar in Nicosia) that imports the Estate’s wines was the organizer and under the azure sky of Limassol the qualities of Santorini and Estate Argyros were unveiled. 

    The story of Estate Argyros dates back a 100 years plus when Argyros Estate, founded in 1903 by George Argyros.   But it was Yiannis Argyros the grandson that transformed the Estate into one of the largest on Santorini, with vineyards totalling 30 hectares today. Now his son Mathew, the 4th generation of Argyros, has taken over management of the winery since his father death in December 2011.  
    Wines tested

    2013 Argyros Atlantis P.G.I. Cyclades, Abv 13%, €11

    Dominated by Assyrtiko at 88%, Athiri7% and 5% Aidani, light yellow colour, deliciously fragrant and full of exotic and citrus fruits and fresh floral with little minerals on the end.  Fruit forward and fresh, medium body with a good balance in the mouth, crisp with Assyrtiko providing the necessary freshness and with pleasant aftertaste.  Great with Greek Salad and lots of feta simple fish recipes like grilled squid with saffron and lemon mayo.

    2013 Argyros Aidani, P.G.I. Cyclades, Abv 12.5%, €18      

    Aidani a white grape variety that yields wines with moderate alcohol content and acidity, but, the grape offers rich floral aromas hence why it is an ideal blending partner of high alcohol/acidity grape such as Assyrtiko.   Light yellow with elegant lime notes, pink grapefruit, lively citrus, lemons and hints of mineral, scented herbs and flowers.  The palate is dry, of medium body and acidity, with flavours of lime, ripe apricot, white flowers and fresh grass.  Also it is very good with salads, fava, dolmades and grilled fish.  

    2013 Estate Argyros Assyrtiko, PDO Santorini, Abv 13%, €15.50

    Clear, pale yellow colour, the heritage grape has a district citrus nose, lemongrass and with a blend of white pepper, minerals and crisp acidity.  It is vibrant palate with penetrating acidity, dry medium body, some lemon curd softening the texture, structure and substance, yet again with an undertone of minerality.  Concentrated finish, long and refreshing excellent with grilled sea bass and lemon butter sauce.

    2013 Estate Argyros P.D.O. Santorini, Abv 13%, €18   

    This wine it partly ages in French oak, about 20%, for six months, clear, pale yellow colour with hints of green.  Full bodied wine with crisp acidity, great structure, intensity and complex aromas of mandarin, lemon blossom and citrus fruits with a touch of spice and a long mineral finish.  Served with a variety of seafood and char grilled fish, lamb with lemons sauce and salad with capers and tomato fritters.     

    2012 Argyros Oak fermented, P.D.O. Santorini, Abv 13%, €20.50
       

    The fruit is sourced from 150 year old vineyard, the oldest in the family.  Wood essence flavours, vanilla and touch of caramel, smoke, slightly buttery, full bodied, bone dry, white.  Green golden colour with aromas of dried nuts, honey and butter, lemon peel, iodine, wet rocks and some yellow fruit; the aftertaste is simply quince.  Salty feel on the palate, rocks en masse, lemon fruit and dried herbs.  The argument here is, does Assyrtiko needs oak to display its depth and complexity? See the notes on vintage 2011. Give it some cellar time and to allow the oak to fully integrate – pair with roast lamb, smoke cheese, baked fish and poultry in creamy and herb sauce.          

    2013 Argyros Atlantis Rosé P.G.I. Cyclades, Abv 12.5%, €11

    A blend of 80% Assyrtiko and 20% Mandilaria – freshness equals Assyrtiko, its acidity gives the rosé its sparkle and drive, the red Mandilaria all the blush fruit, strawberry and raspberry with herbals note complementing the saline minerality .  Elegant and refreshing medium body and crisp this cherry pink colour wine is ideal for grilled shrimps or just any summer barbecue.  

    2010 Argyros Mavrotragano, P.D.O. Santorini, Abv 13%, €35

    A re-born grape, I could confuse this with the great Nebbiolo grape of Barolo and Barbaresco.  A deeply-coloured wine, earthy, meaty, black peppery and Syrah-like with ripe blue and red fruit like Zinfandel, but the concentration and power of Amarone.  With power and finesse there is a slight dry herb and chocolate mocha like character.  The tannins are high, acid levels medium with a dense chocolate note – accompany with game or red meat with spice on the sauce.

    2007 Argyros Vinsanto 4 Years Barrel Age, P.D.O. Santorini Abv 13.5%, €35.70

    This is a blend of 80% Assyrtiko, 10% Aidani and 10% Athiri.  Honey colour, tastes like dry fruit, figs and apricot, orange zest, herbs.  You can even say it smells like the beach at night, a dark, cool wine redolent of sand, salt and pine trees.  It has a balanced acidity that keeps it leaning to the savoury side.  For the foie gras or the cheese course, a crème brûlée or cheese cake won’t harm it either.   

    1999 Argyros Vinsanto 12 Years Barrel Age, P.D.O. Santorini Abv 13.5%, €54.74

    Drink this and you know why Argyros is the king of Vinsanto.  Blend as above of sundried Assyrtiko, Athiri and Aidani aged 12 years in a barrel.  Still remarkably fresh, the zingy acidity brings juiciness to the wine.  Date, ripe figs, apricots, cocoa, fresh cut herbs, and once on the palate it has a  satin feeling .  Sensations and flavours last and last each moment bringing a new aspect on the wine.  Strictly only for delicate cheese.  

    1990 Argyros Vinsanto 20 Years Barrel Age, P.D.O. Santorini Abv 13.5%, €88.06

    Deep amber colour, a real treat with aromas and flavours of butterscotch, roasted coffee beans , cherry preserve, raisins and cocoa, vanilla, caramel, toffee, sweet spice and dry fruit, hazelnuts and walnuts, citrus peel, lavender and thyme…and you can imagine anything exotic.  Probably the best sweet wine in Greece, it has a lusciously sweet palate, vibrant with amazing complexity.  After three hours driving to Pafos the taste was still evident in my mouth…never ending.  Pair with chocolate, Stilton or Roquefort cheese but personally I will enjoy on its own.  You can age it up to 100 years.        

    From Private Collection of Vinocultura – not available for sale

    2012 Argyros Aidani, P.G.I. Cyclades, Abv 12.5%

    It has a pale straw, still fresh and lively on the nose citrus, lemons, green plum, herbs and minerals.  Lemons and minerals on the palate, along with lemon zest, green apple and grapefruit skin mixed with honeycomb.  Lovely acidity, mouth watering minerals edging on the lingering finish.

    2012 Argyros Estate P.D.O. Santorini, Abv 13%,

    More barrel notes evident, smoky chalky flavour with acidity rocking the ripeness translates to power.   Lean and salty with hart and crunchy fruit, quince and lime lasting with nutty flavours.     

    2011 Argyros Oak fermented, P.D.O. Santorini, Abv 12%,   

    Serious, more integrated oak, a great adventure for Argyros who was persuaded by Stefanos Georgas  - who is the export manager and was conducting the tasting – to change its philosophy of oak treatment on Assyrtiko.  Despite the fact that the wine spends the same period in oak they change the style using only second and third hand 500lt barrels with light toasting.  Also a small proportion of the wine rests in larger Austrian vats in order to become more complex because of the different kinds of oak.  Therefore now we have a complex austere wine, vibrant and mineral broader on the palate.  The concentrated fruit is now in great balance with oak flavours that don’t overwhelm the wine.

    After a good wine is a balanced wine

    Vinocultura – Tel: 22676707 or E-mail:info@vinovultura.net
        

    Sun Soaked Wines and a Fat Fish

 

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