(TORONTO, ON) – Boutari is a dynamic, moderate sized winery with some six locations spread throughout Greece. It is represented in both Ontario and Quebec by the Kolonaki Group. They sell the majority of their wines in Greece in the supermarket similar to many EU countries.
The Kolonaki Group recently acted as host to 14 guests in the wine trade and media, at the Hazelton Hotel located in Toronto’s trendy Yorkville. Christina Boutari, the fifth generation involved in the business and the Brand Ambassador, and chief enologist Dr Yannis Voyatzis represented Boutari at a dinner where several of their wines were paired with some great and innovative dishes.
As indicative of how serious wine exports are to Greece its consul general, Alexandros Ioannidis, was also present.
The winery was founded in 1879 in Naoussa prior to Greek independence. It is fascinating to see that in their early label both small Hebrew and Arabic font can be seen. Prior to the Second World War, the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki had a thriving Jewish population, which explains the Hebrew.
Moschofilero is an indigenous grape variety which is dry and crispy, yet has aromatics varying between Pinot Grigio, Gewürztraminer and, perhaps, a bit of Riesling. While rather unheard of here in Canada, it is Boutari’s biggest seller in Greece.
This is a tremendously versatile wine as a sipper on its own, yet a great foodie wine with both fish and fowl, provided they are simply prepared. Also, a winner with Easter baby lamb marinated with lemon, and oregano roasted with organic potatoes.
Moschofilero is the perfect spring to summer transition wine.
We start off with a $13.10, 2015 Boutari Moschofilero, which is pale gold in colour with a slight pink tinge. Moschofilero has similarities in aromatics and taste with Gewürztraminer, but is larger in size.
Wonderful aromatics of apple, pear, lemon, and peach with a tiny tad of 3 to 4 grams/litre of residual sugar. Very crisp acidity with lemon, peach, mango, and apple on the palate, yet somewhat tricked by the topicality of the peach and mango.
It has a scant 11% alcohol content which, by all typical theory, makes it a good first course wine with salad. It matched the pomegranate, avocado, raisin chutney, orange, and cilantro vinaigrette salad particularly well.
The acid in the wine matched the orange and vinegar, yet its topicality also matched the softness of the avocado and sweetness of the chutney.
This is a fresh, easy drinking wine good for an opening salad dish or heavily marinated (lemon and oregano) chicken or lamb. I’d give it an 89/100.
At $17.95, the higher altitude Oropdedio 2015 Moschofilero was slightly darker than the entry level Moschofilero described above, with a slightly more pinkish tinge yet it was rather more austere, oaked for up to two months.
I suppose you might say it was a bit less joyous than the first Moschofilero, but more restrained and elegant. Aromatics of lemon meringue pie, honey, and cumber. On the palate more perfumed, yet more secretive.
I’ll give it the same 89 as the first Moschofilero, but give it a few years in the bottle and it may well turn into seductive.
The $13.10, 2015 Agiorgitiko is a red wine that has aromatics of tar, chocolate, black cherry, and cocoa powder. On the palate, loads of black cherry and chocolate with a short finish and medium tannins.
I give this cheap and cheerfully priced wine a 90.
Boutari chief enologist Voyatzis describes this wine as an easy drinking wine, velvety with a bit of oak, and quite opposite to the more tannic Xinomavro. Voyatzis explained that the Greek Crisis compelled a claw back by consumers of quality Greek wines to cheaper bulk wines, but of late there has been a greater demand for quality wines by the glass hence a flourishing of wine bars.
The Greek consumer would rather have a couple of glasses of quality by the bottle wines than cheaper bulk wines. However, the biggest sales outlet for Boutari remains the discount Greek supermarket, much like the rest of the EU.
Not having an enormous exposure to the wines of Crete I can recall, at the International Wine Expo in New York, being exposed to the Kotsifali/Mandalaria blend at the $10 range. Cheap and cheerful. But, I am taken aback by the Boutari Skalani (Kotsifali/Syrah) 2011.
The wine has a dark plum colour with aromatics of sweet watermelon, dark chocolate, and raisins. On the palate, black cherry, licorice, and chocolate. It has been aged one year in American and French oak.
This is a delicious, hedonistic wine and I’ll give it a 92.
It must be this rating to warrant its $33 price. A great match with lamb chops, tzatziki, herb roasted potatoes, and Santotini salad with lemon garlic vinaigrette.
Also with the lamb chops we try the 1879 Boutari Legacy (2007) Single Vineyard Naoussa Legacy at 14%.
In colour, a black cherry with aromatics of black cherry, tobacco, fresh cut hay, and licorice. This is an Xinomavro which, tannic wise, is a bit more diffuse and gentle, and almost elegant.
I give this one a 90 while listening to Voyatzis explaining that Xinomavro, which in Greek means harsh, sour, bitter, and black, is a very difficult grape to manage.
Voyatzis said treating it as simple often results in a harsh green and tannic wine. A bit pricey at $49.60 and, at a 90 point rating, rather on the edge of, “Should I try or not?”
Boutari is taking a fresh view of Xinomavro, where harsh tannins are seen as faulty. Boutari is looking for finesse, elegance, balance, and harmony.
Boutari seems to be close to reaching its vision with the often austere Xionomvaro, offering an elegant 1992 from its private library.
Not available in North America, I’d be tempted to give it a 94/100. My take on Xinomavro is that it really requires some serious ageing to tame its harsh tannins. Most of the young Xinomavros I have had have really turned me off the grape.
However, as a wine drinker, we must be aware of quirks and quarks of a grape and a few bad experiences with premature Xinomavro risk its reputation.
It is really a serious decision that has to be made by Greek winemakers about Xinomavro. Release it when it’s ready or you risk tarring its reputation as a harsh and tannic oddball.
A note of caution as to any ratings here.
Tasting in a noisy restaurant with heavy food aromatics and perfume is far from a scientific and neutral tasting environment. While socially stimulating, taste bud wise, adjust ratings by a few points.