Category: Wine Geology

Robola: the Voice of Cephalonia’s Limestone

Melissani Cave, Kefalonia, Greece.

Robola is often touted as Greece’s second noblest white grape1, forever trailing on the coattails of Assyrtiko. If Assyrtiko has a greater footprint in consumers’ minds, it’s in part due to the crushing influx of tourists to Santorini and the enduring affective link they build while traveling in Greece.

But Robola remains a total mystery to the rest of the world: no one seems to have heard of it outside of Greek industry tastings.  And unsurprisingly, no one has heard of its home: the stunning Ionian island of Cephalonia itself.

Only Italian and English tourists seem to have discovered the Cephalonian secret. Historically, they’ve an unfair advantage, as the Venetians and later the English ‘protected’ the island after the Turks lost control in 1460.

Poor Robola. No one speaks of this silver medalist, this silent prince, who lives in the shadow of its Santorinian counterpart.

Or — more precisely — who lives in the shadow of Mount Ainos.

  • Mount Ainos, the darkest peak, with typical clouds nearby.

The Robola grape grows on the slopes of this highest peak of Cephalonia (also spelled Kefalonia). A fair share (10-30%) of these are ungrafted vines, over 100 years old, planted at up to 2600 ft (800 m).

Which is to say: this is the real deal. Here is a unique wine expressing Cephalonia’s limestone terroir in the most raw, direct form possible.

GETTING DEEP INSIDE LIMESTONE

Cephalonia is a shimmering, turquoise-watered island paradise; yet another otherworldly, karstic limestone world in Greece, whose crown jewel is the Melissani cave.

The Melissani cave’s roof fell in thousands of years ago, and left a 50 x 40 m gateway to a cavernous lake world.  The cave beneath had been hollowed out (Click to Read more)

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  1. Malagouzia has also risen in fashion, and has more recently acquired this moniker. []

A Thrilling, Endangered Grape from the Stunning Mountains of Northern Greece

Vertical village (lower left) in the Zagori, nestled on a hillside. Image courtesy www.geozagori.gr

THE ZAGORI region of Greece has only very recently become a hot “alternative” tourist destination — in part since it became a UNESCO protected geopark in 2010.

The Zagori highlands, located within the Pindus mountain range in the larger Greek region of Epirus, are for the most part abandoned, shockingly steep, infertile lands.  As is the case with most of Greece, the Zagori’s beauty stems from its karst landscape; that is to say, a limestone landscape which has been eroded by groundwater.

Natural pools near Papingo, Vikos–Aoös Natural Park.

These karstic landscapes sculpt some of the most beautiful places on earth. (Click to Read more)

Wine Geology 101: A Book That Needs to Be Written

Piles of blue slate in the Graacher Himmelreich vineyard. Mosel Valley, Germany.

You’ve probably heard of vineyards covered in slate or schist. But did you know that slate can turn into schist? Or that shale can transform into slate, then schist, and later into gneiss?

I didn’t. And I wish I’d known this years ago.

Wine lovers like myself are in DIRE need of a bare bones guide to geology for wine. Someone needs to do for geology and terroir what Karen MacNeil did for wine with her Wine Bible — make it user-friendly by extricating needless jargon. And that’s a tall order, because unfortunately, geology starts off intuitive, then grows hopelessly complicated with an unending barrage of esoteric terms.

I’ve alerted Kevin Pogue, a wine geology expert specialized in Washington terroir. Unfortunately, he has a book on the Columbia Basin to write first, and admits that the project would prove daunting.

Meanwhile, I’ve found an excellent resource: an online geology course crammed with explanations and visuals at GeologyCafe.com. Creator Phil Stoffer is an ex-librarian and geology professor in MiraCosta College in California, and is committed to open-source science education … what a beautiful humanist.

I’ve culled the essentials from his site that seem useful to wine lovers.

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Image courtesy Geologycafe.com

So, yes: shale, when under pressure (via both heat and friction), will transform into slate, and with greater pressure, into (Click to Read more)