Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Intergalactic Visitors

Geographically speaking, The Rock is on prime global real estate, [CLICHÉ ALERT] the crossroads between East and West. You'd think it'd be easy for those of us living here to pack a rucksack and embark on weekend trips to Rome, Berlin, Amman or Prague. Problems, however, are manifold. Outbound flights to such livelier places are either prohibitively expensive for the underemployed (i.e. me) or painstakingly long. My always willing blue station wagon stalls at the sight of that cul-de-sac known as the Mediterranean sea. The daring captain of the fluorescent yellow bicep-powered kayak—it flies the Ecuadorian flag—breaks down, dehydrated and teary-eyed, exactly one nautical mile into his virgin voyage to the Holy Land. Applications for a single-entry visa into the teleportation device keep getting rejected because of weight limitations inside the vortex.

To stave off the depression that builds up like chimney soot from too many sea-locked weekends, The Wife, Ph.D. and I often play hosts to intergalactic visitors brought to The Rock by our fancy friends. This is by far the safest and most responsible form of escapism available to islanders. Cue Random White Guy (RWG), My Life Coach's Midwestern buddy and chatterbox on a sabbatical from his job as head choreographer, special effects consultant and costume designer for the "We Are Mizzou" series of basketball videos. Friday night barbecue. Protaras, the blog's summer headquarters. We break bread and he drinks my wine. He quizzes The Wife, Ph.D., and My Zolpidem Supplier on American history and praises (because he does not know better) family life on The Rock. We drool at the thought of Bavarian girls pounding liters of beers and hiding their curves under a dirndl during Oktoberfest. Prediabetes strikes after taking a few small bites of the—what's a word for cloying to the tenth power?—store-bought cake he brought for dessert. Time comes to deal with the burning charcoal. RWG approaches the grill, notices the glowing embers and chivalrously offers to pee them out. I chuckle at the potty humor, douse the fire with what's left of an insipid Roditis Sauvignon Blanc, and think it'd be awesome to visit the faraway planet RWG calls home.

2007 Domaine Vlassides Shiraz - Nice bouquet marked by smoke, black fruit, plums, pepper and coffee. On the palate, blackberry, pepper and vanilla. Chewy tannins and very smooth. 88/100.

2011 Ktima Keo Rose (Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc) - Strawberry, pomegranate and some lingering sweetness on the nose. Flavor-wise, candied cherry, other bright red fruit and rose petals. Thirst-quenching. 84/100.

Friday, May 25, 2012

...And Back to Busboy

Help's here!
Here's a good example of how context can affect one's appreciation of wine. A week ago I boasted about my tasting prowess regarding the 2011 Tsalapatis Rigena Xynisteri only for my thinly-veiled arrogance to do a one-eighty and open its fangs on my upper hams. I ran a similar experiment with the 2011 Tsalapatis Melapsopodi Sauvignon Blanc and the tasting experience couldn't have been more different. The first bottle I sampled two months ago in a packed wine lounge where I presume the cacophony, charcuterie, cheese and conviviality threw me for a loop and had my un-Saleem-Sinai-like nose picking up green apples, melon and savoriness. The second bottle was meticulously studied within the confines of our headquarters, and hence I believe its notes are a better reflection of this particular wine's flavor profile. You probably think such inconsistency confirms my lack of talent and condemns me to a pathetic life as a busboy. Yet fear no more, dear readers. Le Nez du Vin est arrivé sur Le Roche and my nose will soon be trained to sniff out hints of quince, lychees, bilberries and saffron from nautical miles away.

Notes for March 17th, 2012 at Cava Inon Pnevmata
Muted bouquet marked by a distinct grassy component with notes of green apples, melon and guava. Some savoriness to the palate. Medium body but lacking acidity. A bit gloppy. Obviously, given the jovial setting, I enjoyed this bottle much more than the second one. 87/100.

Notes for May 17th, 2012 at Home
Bouquet is dominated by passion fruit with slight hints of fresh-cut grass and some kiwi. Gloppy body with some tropical fruit, pineapple and orange peel on the palate. Bitter finish and overall rather tame flavor profile. 84/100.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Rock @ DWWA 2012

It's that time of the year again. The Decanter World Wine Awards, version 2012.

bronzesilverAs usual, The Rock sent multiple samples and received its share of the hardware. I was hoping for a better showing by Mara Theft, Inc., but the variety failed to pack a punch internationally. In any case, Makkas Winery in Pafos emerged as the big winner with the only two silver medals awarded to Cyprus. Below is the complete list of Cypriot silver and bronze medal victors. For the commended wines, run a search here!

Silver Medals

2011 Makkas Winery Gold Red Blend (Shiraz, Grenache & Maratheftiko)
2010 Makkas Winery Gold Shiraz

Bronze Medals 

2011 Aes Ambelis Winery Rose
2009 Ezousa Shiraz
2010 Makkas Winery Maratheftiko
2010 Makkas Winery Gold Merlot
2011 Sodap Stroumpeli Rose (Maratheftiko)
2011 Tsalapatis Winery Rigena (Xynisteri)
2011 Tsangarides Winery Chardonnay
2007 Tsiakkas Winery Cabernet Sauvignon
2011 Tsiakkas Winery Xynisteri
2010 Zambartas Wineries Maratheftiko
2011 Zambartas Wineries Semillon - Sauvignon Blanc
2010 Zambartas Wineries Shiraz - Lefkada

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

From Busboy to Washer

Stumbled upon an interesting experiment while perusing my wine notes.

During the past two months, I twice tasted and rated the 2011 Tsalapatis Rigena Xynisteri, a silver medal winner at the 7th Cyprus Wine Competition. To my surprise as a nobody who's better suited to be a busboy in a Tex-Mex eatery, my descriptions and final marks weren't that off given the month separating each tasting and the different environs. You people are in deep doo-doo once I receive my Le Nez du Vin Master Kit. It's on its way to The Rock from France and I guarantee it'll promote me from busboy to spit bucket washer.

Notes for March 17th, 2012 at Cava Inon Pnevmata

Bouquet of white flowers (jasmine), peaches, citrus and white pepper. Fuller than usual for a Xynisteri with notes of pineapple, honeydew and floral components. Good length. Tasted with cheese, cold cuts and bread. 89/100. 

Notes for April 14th, 2012 during dinner on Easter Saturday

Nice bouquet of white flowers, pineapple, citrus and hints of kiwi. Touch of tropical fruits and citrus, honeycomb towards the mid-palate. Tangy finish. Tasted with avgolemono soup and a lamb's head. 87/100.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Dousing popcorn with butter or dropping a healthy nob on a stack of pancakes makes perfect sense. So does buttering up Hawaiian Tropic models before a photo shoot. Having your white wine taste purely of butter, however, borders on criminality. Whenever I uncork a Chardonnay, I tread carefully, hoping that first sip does not feel like jumping headfirst, mouth open into a ghee-cuzzi. Many consumers, particularly in the US, like their Chards full-bodied and rich, the fruit itself obscured by the wine's buttery unctuousness and notes of oak. Thanks to my father, though, I am a man who's learned to appreciate balance in life so I best enjoy Chardonnays that incorporate a range of flavor profiles from tropical fruits to nuttiness to spice to, yes, a minute hint of butter. Case in point, the magnificent 2006 Louis Latour Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru I merrily guzzled at Vinocultura.

What's wonderful about Chardonnay is its versatility. Throughout the globe, winemakers can play mad scientist with this noble variety and come up with wines that cater to all tastes and senses. According to Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson's "The Concise World Atlas of Wine,"  Chardonnay "routinely takes on whatever character the winemaker desires: vivacious and sparkling, refreshingly unoaked, rich and buttery, or even sweet." With this in mind, here are some brief notes on three acclaimed Chardonnays (Made on The Rock™) I recently sampled and enjoyed. Butter up!

2010 Sodap Stroumbeli Chardonnay - Good waxy bouquet marked by mangoes and pears and a touch of butter. Full bodied and fatty (in a good way) and with nice hints of papaya and other tropical fruits. This wine received a Silver Medal at the 2011 Chardonnay du Monde competition in France. 88/100.

2010 Kyperounda Chardonnay - Aromas of honey, white flowers, pears and bitter orange. Sleek, medium bodied with notes of white pears and red apples. Very good. 87/100.

2009 Domaine Hadjiantonas Chardonnay - Pineapple and citrus fruits on the nose. To the palate, citrus-like fruits such as grapefruit and pomelo and a touch of butter. Probably the leanest of the bunch. 87/100.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Mara Theft, Incorporated.

Like a Central American mara highjacking a military arms convoy, Maratheftiko stole the show at the 7th Cyprus Wine Competition staged in Limassol this past weekend. The Rock's most important indigenous variety ganged up on its rivals and beat them to the pulp, amassing five gold medals, three silver and multiple accolades from the international panel of jurors. Tom Cannavan, editor at wine-pages.com and a jury member, tweeted about the overall selection to acclaimed wine writer Jancis Robinson: "some lovely Syrah and Maratheftiko (really very good) and one or two Xynisteri's really singing. Cabs and Merlot so so." Such success bodes very well for Cypriot wine and I, for one, hope to see similar performances by the variety in future international wine competitions.

Besides serving as Maratheftiko's coming-out party, the event was marked by the Grand Gold Medal for the 2005 KEO St. John Commandaria and yet another gold for Agia Mavri's Mosxatos, which a Cannavan tweet referred to as "mind-blowingly good" and "some of the world's great sweet wines." Personally, I was surprised no medals were awarded to Aes Ambelis and Domaine Hadjiantonas, two excellent wineries that usually take their share of the loot. Likewise, I believe I was robbed of an opportunity to blog live about the event when I wasn't extended an invitation to the gala dinner. Yes, my writing is utterly shallow but that shouldn't detract from my self-assigned status as the Beauloais Nouveau of Cyprus wine writers. You know, fresh, festive, a tad immature and unrefined yet perfectly satisfying.

Gold medals are listed below. For the full results, click here.

Grand Gold Medal

2005 KEO St. John Commandaria

Gold Medal

Sweet Wines

2010 Agia Mavri Mosxatos

Dry Red Wines

2009 Kyperounda Cabernet Sauvignon
2005 Vassilikon "Methi" Cabernet Sauvignon
2010 Argyrides Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot
2008 Ezousa Metharmi Maratheftiko
2010 Argyrides Maratheftiko
2010 Apostaktirio Nicholas Ignatiou "Gerani" Maratheftiko
2010 Zambartas Maratheftiko
2010 Makkas Maratheftiko
2009 Kyperounda Shiraz
2009 Constantinou Shiraz
2010 Kyperounda Shiraz

Dry White Wines

2011 Kyperounda Petritis Xynisteri
2011 Constantinou Ayioklima Xynisteri
2011 Kyperounda Chardonnay