General List Gem - Acid Trip
Santo Assyrtiko 2016
I know, it’s been a while since I visited the General List at the LCBO. It’s not that I’m a snob or that I’m trying to get you to spend more money than you’d like. It’s just that I’ve got so much wine taking up space in my basement and my imagination, that I’ve been trying to drink my way through that. Add in the occasional Vintages surprises, trips to wine country, and farmer’s market finds, and my liver can only take so much.
But I’ve wanted to try this Greek number for a couple of years – it’s been a regular character at the LCBO for at least that long – and I saw it near the checkout counter when I was picking up some Frappato, so I thought, okay! Perfect opportunity. End of summer trip to Greece through a bottle.
And, friends, it’s great! You may not know how to pronounce the grape, you may have never even heard of it before, but once you get a taste of Assyrtiko you’ll be transported to the perfect Greek island paradise. All you need is a glass and a plate of grilled fish or, in my case, a bowl of lemony zucchini pasta.
But before I get carried away, let me drop a little knowledge. Because the most fun thing about Assyrtiko is how weird it is. It’s a rare grape, grown primarily in Santorini – a place of volcanic soils, high winds, hot sun, and salty salty seas. And you can taste it all in the glass.
And that landscapes means the winemakers have to get a little crafty in the vineyards. Because of those high winds, Santorini is one of the few places in the world that basket trains its vines. And yes, that’s exactly what it sounds like: instead of allowing the grape vines to stretch out on trellises (think every vineyard in Niagara) or to reach towards the sun (as in the gobelet (goblet) method common with Grenache and Gamay in Beaujolais), Santorini winemakers dig holes for their vines, weave the branches together, and allow the grapes to grow inside these magic baskets.
It’s protective, both from the winds and the hot sun, and looks pretty damn cool on the sides of those ancient mountains. And because of this, the wines become super mineraly, high acid, and complex. The vines have to dig deep for their moisture (there’s no irrigation), and stressed vines and careful handling lead to better wines. It’s just a fact.
Anywhere else in the world, for that kind of hands on winemaking (picking must be done manually, for instance) you’d be paying through the nose. But because the modern Greek wine industry is relatively young (I mean, not counting all those millennia and bacchanals), you can still find steals like this bottle right here.
And it is a steal: it’s flavourful, complex, and oh so refreshing. And seriously, it tastes like a vacation. It tastes like it should cost way more than 15 bucks.
So go out and pick some up. Chill it down real good, and enjoy. There are over 6,000 bottles in the LCBO as of this writing, so you’re virtually guaranteed to find some. Now get to it! The hot days of summer are dwindling (gone), so a bright white is perfect right now. And bonus: this one will take you through the fall and into winter no problem.
Nose: Salty lemons, orange blossom, and honey suckle. It’s just really fresh and smells like being by the sea.
Palate: Super high acid. There’s a lot of minerality just swirling around with a salty structure that gives the wine some body and weight (it’s refreshing though, don’t worry!). It’s really lemony and fresh, with a tiny herbal note on the finish. There’s a tiny lactic note – like one of those lemon yogurts in the glass jars if you’d thrown a bunch of Maldon sea salt on top and there was zero sugar added. There’s maybe even the sense of a pear in there. It’s a really good food wine and would make a fantastic aperitif with some green olives and anchovies. Yes please!