Category: Wine Tasting Notes

Robola: the Voice of Cephalonia’s Limestone

Melissani Cave, Kefalonia, Greece.
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 in the Zagori, nestled on a hillside. Image courtesy www.geozagori.gr
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.
Natural pools near Papingo, Vikos–Aoös Natural Park.

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

How to Drive Your Cabernet Franc Crazy at the Dinner Table

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Homemade côte de boeuf and sauce Choron.

Given this blog’s obvious indebtedness to François Rabelais, it’s long overdue that I sing praises of Loire Cabernet Franc — particularly Chinon.

Last Thursday, thanks in large part to Thierry Germain, I discovered the most perfect food pairing in the universe for Loire Cabernet Franc.

With a friend, we threw together an impromptu dinner contrasting two Loire Cabernet Francs from the same vintage: a 2002 Domaine des Roches Neuves Saumur-Champigny “La Marginale”, and a 2002 Olga Raffault Chinon “Les Picasses”.

These are two benchmark Cab Francs from an excellent, sun-drenched, warm vintage. Thierry Germain’s Domaine des Roches Neuves “La Marginale” is his tête de cuvée wine, only made in the best vintages. A portion of the vines for La Marginale reside in the fabled lieu-dit “Poyeux” (of Clos Rougeard fame) in Varrains, and the other comes from other vines around Chacé; Olga Raffault’s Picasses is sourced from its own revered vineyard in the northwest of Chinon. Here are maps of Saumur and Chinon.

Saumur
Saumur and Saumur-Champigny. 
Chinon and Bourgueil.
Chinon and Bourgueil.

Thierry Germain is clearly a bon vivant, and meticulous in all he does; he is one of the only winemakers whose technical sheets offer not one, but twelve different food pairings.

Côte de boeuf sauce Choron was Thierry Germain’s pairing suggestion for La Marginale that stole our hearts. We’d already decided steak was in order, so all that was left was figuring out what the hell a sauce Choron is. (Click to Read more)