[caption id="attachment_12212" align="aligncenter" width="309"] The Bee's Knees[/caption] Dear Friends of Flatiron, Moving here has made me realize there are a few things I need to “relearn”. For one, walking home from work at the end of the day - harder than walking to work. Another is what to “seasonally drink”. I’ve taken for granted the thirsts for Barolos like Oddero the typical seasonal change of the Northeast and Midwest inspires in me. So this weekend I plan to explore my re-worked seasonally appropriate wines for this very Californian autumn I’ve been enjoying. Given that I’m less inclined to breaking out the ugly hanukkah sweater and making spiced wine than I am to making some carnitas and relishing that there’s still Rubentis Rosé from Ameztoi still in my fridge, we’re going to start there. Carnitas and Txakoli. Carnitas, I won’t even try to espouse any deep knowledge on. All I can tell you is the recipe I’m sharing with you is making my house smell legit. The rosé, however, I will profess to have some meaningful experience with outside of drinking vast quantities of it. The Basque grape Hondarribi Beltza is amazingly diverse and is a forbearer of Cab Franc. I’ve visited the stunning vineyards of prephylloxera plantings growing on the steep seaside hills in Northeastern Spain. It, along with its light-skinned companion Hondarribi Zuri, are made in to a light pink quartz-hued wine. If you haven’t had it before it’s like salty watermelon juice; refreshing and tangy with some fizz to cleanse the palate. There couldn’t be a better grown-up soda for your taco. My taste in cocktails is similarly being seasonally effected. I’d be well into my Manhattan and variation-there-of lifestyle by now (of course I wouldn’t turn one down at the moment if one were to be offered to me either) but without that nip in the air it just doesn’t seem as true to my state of mind. Instead I’ve been drinking “sunnier” things, one of my favorites being a Bee’s Knees. Saveur recommends Beefeater in theirs but I really like Jensen Bermondsey London Dry (or another artisan example with similar intrigue). I’m lucky enough to have a lemon tree in my backyard and huge jar of honey from Colorado we picked up on our drive west. Gin, honey and lemons. It really couldn’t be simpler or more delicious. After walking up my own personal Everest to get home everyday I know I’ll be crushing one or two of those. But with red wines, it’s less straightforward. I typically like Beaujolais in the fall. Same is true out here in San Francisco. From what I gather from most of the customers I’ve met so far, we’re all in the same boat. But with all the amazing Latin American food and culture about, I’ve been finding myself exploring a different grape: País. País, also known as Mission or Listán Prieto, was brought here by the missionaries from Spain during their invasion of Mesoamerica to Chile. Once planted the vines persisted and continue to this day. Vines older than 600 YEARS!!!! What’s even crazier is that delicious examples of wine made from these ancient vines can be had for under $30! With a little more spice than Gamay and less greenery that Cab Franc, a lightly chilled bottle of País is the way to go for some garlicky rotisserie chicken. Now I’ve got to get back to finishing off my carnitas and prepping some Pico. Have a fantastic weekend!
We are very pleased to have Yohan Lardy in the shop this Tuesday, 10/30, pouring some of his excellent Cru Beaujolais and chatting about his work in the vines, making some of the best Gamay out there. Yohan is obsessive about terroir, and each of his cuvées demonstrate a unique aspect of Beaujolais' various villages. His are wines of vibrancy; bright, cheery red fruit meets finesse and minerality for some truly knockout bottles. Whether planted on granite, quartz or manganese, Lardy's wines are irresistible. He is the 5th generation of his family to make wine in Beaujolais, but only started his own label for the 2012 vintage. He uses no pesticides or herbicides, instead allowing plants to thrive in the space between vines. All harvest is manual, and his work in the cellar is impeccable, allowing him to use only the tiniest amounts of SO2. With vines dating back to the early 1900s, his wines give you an idea of just how long great wine has been made in Burgundy's neighbor to the south. These are powerful, elegant expressions of a region and a style we love. Please join us this Tuesday, October 30th, from 6pm to 8pm, to taste tradition and terroir, in a glass.
Flatiron Wines & Spirits is thrilled to announce the launch of our much anticipated series of wine and spirits classes. This project marks an exciting new chapter in the shop’s evolution and we want you to be a part of it. Classes are approximately 90 minutes long, and are held at the beautiful office of a+i architecture, just around the corner from the shop. We will cover a range of topics, from Wine 101 basics to extremely specific and geeky topics. Our first class, a spotlight on Nebbiolo, sold out almost immediately. This class will be followed by a seminar on Bordeaux, led by our Bordeaux guru JR, on October 13th. JR is a passionate wine professional who has spent a great deal of time tasting with Bordeaux winemakers, both in France and as part of his long career in the NYC wine scene. You will taste a wide range of examples of Bordeaux, both the classic and the cutting edge. On October 20th, we're very excited to be hosting a session on winemaking led by the winemaker at the Slovenian winery, Kabaj. Kabaj has a foot in both the modern wine world and the ancient wine world, and they employ modern techniques like stainless steel as well as timeworn traditions like quevri, the clay vessels used to age wine, famously used in Eastern Europe to produce wines of great character and structure. Email our education coordinator Sydney at firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up for our education updates and stay tuned for announcements regarding our long-term schedule of classes to be taught by a range of experts across the NYC wine community and beyond. Seating for these classes is limited. Enroll today! We promise you've never had this much fun at school.
At the shop, we get asked every day, “What’s new?,” “What’s cool,?” or, “What’s tickling your palate right now?” What they all mean is, “What’s the next big thing?” If you ask me, the answer is Greece. If you care about wines of character and history, of authenticity, Greece is where you should be looking. What you need to know about Greek wine For starters, Greece is small. Smaller than Nepal (really!). Yet, within its narrow borders, it hosts a teeming collection of grapes and terroirs. Add to that a recent revolution in quality winemaking and you have a perfect storm for exciting wine. Each of these factors is important. So, let’s go through them one at a time. Roughly the size of Louisiana, Greece boasts 300 or more indigenous grapes that have never traveled abroad, each with a unique voice. Chardonnay and Cabernet are planted everywhere in the world, but to hear what Debina, Liatiko, and Limniona have to say, you have to go to the source. The most common grapes you’ll encounter are Assyrtiko, Malagousia, and Moschofilero for whites and Xinomavro and Agiorgitiko for reds. Yes, Xinomavro is what passes for common in Greece. Then there are many grapes that are so rare that only a producer or two grow them. The opportunities for exploration are many. I also think Greece will explode in the wine-world’s consciousness because of its incredibly diverse climate, soil, and topography. Greece is at the very end of the Alps and almost the entire country is mountainous—so rugged that vines and sheep or goats are the only things that farmers can reasonably raise in much of the country. The soil is generally thin and poor: terrible for most farming, but optimal for great wine, as vines that struggle give the best fruit. Don’t forget the weather: sunny and dry. Greece enjoys an incredibly high annual number of sun hours, a feature that not only attracts German tourists but also makes it possible for grapes to ripen even at the high altitudes necessary for good acid/fruit balance in the grapes. This is also a very dry and windy country, which means much less disease pressure than in, say, Bordeaux, and so a relatively easy path to organic farming. Lastly, there’s been a sea change in what wines producers are choosing to make. For a long time, all we saw imported from Greece were generic, internationally-styled wines—either from international grapes like Syrah, Merlot, and Chardonnay—or from native grapes like Agiorgitiko or Robola but so weighed down with wine make-up like new barriques and laboratory yeast strains as to be indistinguishable from more global wines. But that is all changing right now, and fast. To be fair, a handful of producers started down this path of authentic Greek Wine in the ‘70s and ‘80s, but their revolution didn’t mature and take hold until this century. Now it’s spreading at quite a clip, and just when Americans are falling in love with these kinds of authentic wines like never before. Who knows what delicious things will develop here in the next decade or two? Greek Wine 101: A beginner's guide What follows is a brief and far from complete overview of Greece’s vinous landscape today. A sort of Greek Wine 101. But know that I’ve ignored whole regions, grapes, and styles. And even the categories I address are vastly simplified. To encourage broad exploration, throughout the month of July we’re offering 10% off any purchase of 3 or more Greek wines, and 15% off mixed cases. Click here to view our full Greek inventory in New York City or in San Francisco or keep reading below for more regional information. PELOPONNESE This is the southern half of mainland Greece and is what I think most Americans picture when they think of Greece: it’s mountainous, dry, scrubby, generally sort of tan in color most of the year. The main grapes are Agiorgitiko, Moschofilero, Monemvasia, Muscat, Mavrodaphne, and Roditis. This is probably the region farthest behind in the quality revolution, as there is still an inexplicable obsession with new and small oak (is Nemea the last hidey hole for the marauding barrique?). I happen to believe that Agiorgitiko is a grape with enormous potential, but I have seen little of that potential manifested, so we mostly focus on whites and rosés from the Peloponnese at Flatiron. Producers to look for: Parparoussis, Troupis, Barafakas, Papaioannou, Tselepos. MAKEDONIA Without wading into the fray over the name, we’ll just say that this is Macedonia, the region in Greece, not the country (Greeks refer to the latter simply as Skopje, the capital of FYROM, or Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia). Situated in the far northeast of mainland Greece, this is where Philip II and his son, Alexander the Great, burst forth to rule the known world; the Macedonian Plain (one of only three flat places of any real size in Greece) is where Alexander assembled his army to march east. The main grape here is Xinomavro, presented on its own in most of the subregions (most notably Naoussa and Amynteo) but blended with Negoska in the subregion of Goumenissa. Xinomavro often gets compared to Nebbiolo, and there’s something to the similar balance of tannin to fruit to acid, as well as the light color and long aging potential. The vineyards of Macedonia are generally at slightly lower altitudes than much of the rest of Greece, more rolling hills than straight-up mountains. Soils vary enormously here, including clay, sand, loam, schist, and even marble. In Domaine Nerantzi’s vineyards, 3500-year-old potsherds even contribute to the mix. Producers to look for: Tatsis, Dalamara, Kokkinos, Nerantzi, Karanika, Chatzivariti, Kamara, Argatia. EPIRUS Also in the north, but on the western side of the country, Epirus is extremely mountainous and green, full of rushing mountain streams, strikingly tall old forests, and elaborately-clapboarded, slate-roofed architecture that would make you believe you were in Switzerland or Austria or Bavaria rather than Greece. The vineyards are inland and at high elevation, and the soils are mostly clay and limestone. Grapes here are Debina for white, and Vlahiko & Bekari for red. Producers to look for: Glinavos, Katogi Averoff THESSALY Here we’re just going to focus on one producer. Most of Thessaly is flat and hot, and you’d think the wines wouldn’t be very interesting. For the most part, you’d be right, and much of the output here is sold in bulk. But there is one producer who is changing that storyline: Christos Zafeirakis. Based in the town of Tyrnavos in northeast Thessaly, near the foot of Mt. Olympos, Zafeirakis works with some international varieties, but mostly focuses on native Malagousia and Limniona. The latter hadn’t been planted by anyone for a very long time, until Zafeirakis took an interest and started putting out his game-changing red wine. Now that he’s proven its potential, a bunch of other folks have gone and planted it, too—a success story for grape diversity! While I haven’t found much else of interest in Thessaly so far, Zafeirakis’ wines came out of nowhere (though the family have been grape growers for a long time, the winery was only founded in 2005), so I’m actually pretty excited about what else might crop up here going forward. Producers to look for: Domaine Zafeirakis ISLANDS: IONIA Situated off the western coast of Greece and facing Italy across the Ionian Sea, the islands of Corfu, Zakynthos, Lefkada, and Kefalonia are yet another completely different side of Greece (there are a few more islands in the chain, but these are the major ones for wine). On average, these islands are larger and more mountainous than those in the Aegean. The Ionian islands were a Venetian possession for several centuries, and that colonial influence is readily apparent in the architecture and cuisine. This is the homeland Odysseus spent ten years struggling to reach after the Trojan War. Chief among the islands for wine is Kefalonia (Cephalonia), featuring the towering Mt. Ainos, a 1600+-meter hunk of limestone rising from the sea. It is cold at the top even in summer, and you will see bands of heavily shaggy mountain goats picking their way through the chilly fog in July. So, the climate here is relatively cool, even on the scrabbly lower slopes where the vineyards are located. Alberello (bush) training is common and many vines are ungrafted. Native grapes include Robola, Tsaousi, Vostilidi, and Mavrodaphne. Producers to look for: Sclavos (Sclavus and Sklavos also appear on the label) ISLANDS: CYCLADES This is the other place that I think Americans envision when thinking of Greece, as the Cyclades are the land of white-washed buildings with stone terraces overlooking the blue, blue waters of the Aegean. They’re called the Cyclades because some folks think the islands are laid out in a circle shape (I don’t see it, but whatever). While some of the islands have been almost completely overrun with tourism (Santorini, Mykonos), there is a lot of cool wine happening here, even amidst the madding crowds. The Cyclades extend southeast from Athens into the Aegean (they are really the final and lowest mountains in the chain that runs down the entire mainland) and are generally hilly rather than mountainous. Summers are very hot and dry, limiting the potential areas for quality vineyards to the highest reaches (e.g., the granite slopes of the Kalathas valley on Tinos) or places with uniquely water-retentive soil (e.g., the volcanic ash on Santorini, which sucks up the morning mist and feeds it back to the vine roots during the day). There are some genuinely cool, genuinely weird and unique vine-training systems here as well—the most famous being the koloura baskets of Santorini, but don’t forget the supine ksaplota of Tinos either (and see the Flatiron Wines instagram account for a rare video of plowing with this training system) [we should include the image here]. On Santorini, phylloxera doesn’t stand a chance, and vines are ungrafted, with some root systems many centuries old—a truly unique situation in the world of wine. Grapes include Assyrtiko, Athiri, Aidani, Mavrotragano, Mandilaria, Aspro Potamisi, Mavropotamisi, Koumariano, Rozaki, Monemvasia. Producers to look for: Hatzidakis, Koutsoyannopoulos, Karamolegos, Roussos, Sigalas (Santorini); Domaine de Kalathas (Tinos). ISLANDS: CRETE Crete is Greece’s largest island, and perhaps its most beautiful. Wine is grown in every district in Crete, though it must be said that most of the island is carpeted with olive trees. It’s an open secret that much of what is labeled and sold as Italian olive oil actually comes from Crete. This is perhaps the most different part of Greece, and Greeks agree, viewing it in much the same way that Italians view Sicily; I’ve even heard comparisons to Texas. It’s pretty dry all over here, but especially in the eastern region of Sitia, where the remote and rocky Ziros plateau rises 650 meters above the Mediterranean. The island’s (and perhaps the country’s) most interesting wines come from this region, from the hand of Yiannis Economou. Soils range from sandy red clay to blue marl to wildly mixed conglomerate river rock. Everywhere you look are low rounded humps of wild herb plants drying in the sun all day and lending their Cretan garrigue to the grapes. Grapes include Liatiko, Mandilaria, Voudomato, Kotsifali (red), and Assyrtiko, Vilana, Thrapsathiri (white). Producers to look for: Economou (Oikonomoy is how it appears on labels), Stilianou Thanks for reading, now go explore! -Susannah Want to get more offers like these straight to your inbox? Sign-up for our newsletter already! 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