“Michael Jackson” Wine Feature: Black or White: Wines From Greece and Australia
by John Dunham
“They print my message in the Saturday Sun, I had to tell them I ain’t second to none. And I told about equality, and it’s true. Either you’re wrong or you’re right. But if you’re thinkin’ about my baby, it don’t matter if you’re black or white. “
So go the lyrics to the 1991 song, “Black or White,” written by Michael Jackson and Bill Bottrell and featured on Jackson’s album Dangerous. While there are rumor a-plenty about the King of Pop’s association with the fruit of the vine, who knows what he really drank? In this feature however, we’re focusing just one wine, and as with many things, wine regions also can be pigeon-holed, as well –simply as red or white. This is true of two wine producing countries, Greece and Australia, both of which were featured in recent walk-around tastings in New York.
Wine from Greece: I tasted some excellent Greek wines at New York’s City Winery . Generally, when one thinks of wine from Greece, they think of Retsina, the famous resin white wine that is a favorite of tourists visiting the islands. I actually happen to be quite partial to the unique taste or Retsina, which is generally produced from Savatiano, Assyrtiko and Rhoditis grapes. But while white Retsina is famous worldwide, one of the great varietals coming out of Greece and readily available on many good wine lists and in most well-stocked stores, is produced with the red varietal Xinomavro, which is predominant in the Macedonian region of Greece. The wines made from Xinomavro are high in acidity with a lot of tannin giving the varietal a structure similar to the Nebbiolo grapes used in Barolo and Barbaresco. These are great food wines, with lots of red fruit notes, and earthy finishes. They pair well with Mediterranian dishes, from lasagna to lamp shank, and can serve as a good alternative to both heavy Italian wines as well as Cabernets.
Alpha Estate Hedgehog Xinomavro (2011: $23) is a single vineyard wine. Bright purple-red in color the nose features red fruits, pepper and a hint of clove. The wine has softer tannins than might be expected, with a palate that features deep red fruits and forest tastes. There is a hint of herbiness on the long finish. This is a perfect wine to match with Mediterranian foods as well as stronger dishes like barbecue and stew. The other wine we tried was Thymiopoulos Vineyards ‘Uranos’ Xinomavro (2012: $28). The wine is purple red in color, with the typical nose featuring cherry, blackberry, plum, vanilla. The wine as round balanced tannins, balanced acidity and a long aftertaste.
While we only had a short time at this tasting, these varietals are among our favorites and should be considered as an alternative to other stronger red wines/
Wine from Australia: When we think of Australian wines, we often think of their very popular red varietal Shiraz (what the Australians call the Syrah grape).At another recent walk-around tasting, sampled at the Savor Australia Event in New York, sponsored by Wine Australia , we focused on a white wine that is also very popular in Australia, and that is Chardonnay. This varietal is the most widely planted white wine grape in Australia. Chardonnay takes on the character of the terroir where it is planted probably more so than any other varietal, so the wines differ greatly across the continental-sized country. We focused on Chardonnay from Western Austrialia which produces a Chardonnay that is dry with good minerality and a lot of marine notes.
Starting with the Chardonnay wines, we tasted two vines from Vasse Felix, Filius Chardonnay (2014: $26.99) from the Margaret River region of Western Australia. This wine was straw yellow in color with a hint of lemon-yellow. The nose was citrusy with some spicy and vanilla notes. On the palate, the wine was featured bright citrus notes and good acidity. It ran a bit more yeasty than I would have expected but overall the wine was clean and dry. This is a good food wine which drinks very well now, but could hold in a cellar for 3 to 5 years.
Another wine from Vasse Feliz, the 2013 Margaret River Chardonnay ($42.99) was similar in structure to the Filius, but had more floral notes on the nose. The wine was bright and minerally with a bit more oak than its brother. There were also some tropical fruits, pineapple in particular on the palate and a citrus finish. This wine drinks very well now, and will pair well with summer dishes like salads, salmon or charcuterie.
We also tried two wines from Leeuwin Estate which is also in the Margaret River region. the Prelude Vineyards Chardonnay (2014; $36) is a wine with a clear straw yellow color, and a citrusy but buttery nose. The palate featured the citrus notes that one expects from this region, but the wine was too oaked for our taste, more of a California style than one would expect from Western Australia. That said, the Leeuvin Estate Art Series Chardonnay (2012: $89.00) was an amazingly complex wine. Clear straw yellow in color, the nose was ripe with florals and some banana. On the palate, the with still featured oak, but with more balance. There were excellent citrus overtones, as well as some distinctive forest notes. This is a great pairing wine both with light summer foods, but also with poultry, turkey, and pork.
The third pair of Margaret River Chardonnay varietals we tasted came from Plan B! wines. Starting with the A-list Chardonnay (2015: $16) we found an approachable wine with a straw yellow color, a floral nose and a very fruit forward palate with white peach overlaying the citrus.
The winery’s King Chardonnay (2014: $25) was straw yellow in color with an extremely floral nose redolent with white flowers. The wine was very dry with a lot of minerality and ocean notes. This was salty to the A-list sweet.