Preparing for their new restaurant Ezov in Austin, our April curator Alicia Schmidt did a deep dive into wines from the Eastern Mediterranean. Starting in the Balkans and heading east to Greece and Lebanon, these were amazing wines both from international grapes as well as the hundreds of grapes indigenous to these countries. Read about the bottles below:
- Mersel Wine, 'Lebnani Abyad' White | Qannboubine Valley, Lebanon; orange, merwah, sauvignon blanc: Eddie Chami, a Viticulture and Enology degree holder is passionate about making uncommon wines that are made from indigenous grape varieties. Lebnani Abyad is a skin-contact Lebanese white in a Litre bottle! A delicious blend of indigenous century-old merwah vines fermented on skins and blended with young and organic sauvignon blanc. Alluring tropical fruit aromas! Orange, lemon, honey, green apple, and cinnamon! Crisp and fresh with a peppery taste, medium acidity and herbaceous. This light and fruity Lebanese white is perfect with Spicy Asian cuisine. Think of Spicy Pad Thai or Thai Basil Chicken. Best served not too cold on weekdays!
- Mersel Wine 'Lebnani Ahmar' Red | Bekaa Valley, Lebanon; red, cinsaut: Organically farmed cinsault from high elevation Lebanese vineyards? Yup! And it tastes like your warm weather, chilled red wine dreams. Eddie Chami from Mersel Wine has done it again. cinsault has a long history in the Bekaa Valley and produces light bodied and juicy reds that rival the best of Beaujolais. Pop this bottle in an ice bucket or your fridge for a few minutes before opening it on a picnic blanket, park bench, or patio. Tastes like pomegranate molasses- juicy ripe fruit and tart acidity with a little burst of violet and crushed peppercorns at the end. At Ezov, we’ll be pairing this with fatty and bold cuts of lamb to contrast the richness.
- Sant'Or 'Achaia' Roditis | Patra, Greece; white, roditis: Roditis is the second most planted grape of Greece but why have you never heard of it? Mostly used for pine-flavored retsina, the grape as a solo artist isn’t as well known. Sant’Or makes a great case for giving it the spotlight with this bottle of Achaia roditis. Biodynamically farmed grapes transform into a fresh and friendly wine that needs no supporting actors. Citrus is the name of the game here: meyer lemon, tangerine, and lemon curd served over tart labne yogurt. The creaminess balances the fresh fruit for a wine as comfortable on the couch with a bowl of popcorn as it is served with a feast of hummus, tahini, roasted veggies and feta.
- Kontozisis 'Innocent Dove' Xinomavro Blend | Karditsa, Greece; red, xinomavro, merlot: Based in the foothills of Mount Agrafa, Kontozisis has been farming organic grapes since 1991, one of the first in Greece. This bottle showcases my favorite Greek red grape xinomavro with the more familiar Merlot. An all-caps LOVELY was my first tasting note. Xinomavro is sharp and angular, like Italy’s nebbiolo, so pairing it with the more outgoing and friendly merlot was a brilliant move. Xinomavro’s sun dried tomato and strawberry notes dance with merlot’s plum and mint. It’s got structure, in the form of bright acidity and firm tannins, that beg for a richer food pairing- perhaps falafel served with creamy and tangy tzatziki or a smash burger and fries?
- Zajc Cviček Full Circle | Dolenjska , Slovenia; red, blaufrankisch, gamay: Zacj's idea of making full circle wines is based on old-school winemaking traditions in the region dating back to the Middle Ages. These wines are a representation of wines from Dolenjska. A famous Slovenian wine, Cviček is made from both red and white grape varietals locally grown in the region. Light-bodied and crisp with fresh berry aromas. Best paired with spiced pork skewers, grilled steak tacos, or cheese-stuffed meaty burgers. Enjoy it slightly chilled!
- Zlatan Bilo Idro Marina White | Dalmatia, Croatia; white, bogdanuša, pošip, maraština, prč, trebbiano toscana: Zlatan Otok is situated in a fishing village called Sveta Nedjelja, on Hvar Island creating gorgeous saline whites and classic Croatian reds. You'll immediately see why this one is called "Marina White" Zlatan's Marina Cuvee is fresh and crisp with a mineral finish typical on the Dalmatia coast. Citrus, lemons, flavors of slate, vanilla, apples, and peaches. Light-bodied, perfect to pair with fresh salads, raw bars, or simply enjoying the wine with beautiful marina view.
- Bairaktaris Monolithos | Nemea, Greece; red, agiorgitiko: Bairaktaris is a family-run winery passed down from generations of grape growers to produce their own organic wines. The winery practices sustainable agriculture with no use of chemicals and their vineyards produce high-quality grapes and is home to the indigenous agiorgitiko. A beautiful Greek Nemea red with well-integrated flavors and aromas of roasted cherries, notes of slate, chocolate and tobacco. It has round tannins balanced by high acidity that best compliments tasty Peloponnesian dishes. This lovely dry red is perfect for outdoor BBQ celebrations!
- Garalis Roseus | Limnos, Greece; rosé, muscat, limnio: Manolis Garalis, owner and winemaker, started producing wines in 2007 in the island of Lemnos. A third-generation grape grower that is passionate in turning his organically cultivated and high-quality limnio and muscat of Alexandria grapes into first-class wines.Roseus is a crisp, fresh rosé with a strong tart peach flavor, well-balanced notes of raspberry, melons, nectarine, and pears. Shines when paired with goat cheese! Especially outside on a beautiful sunny day!