The NY Wine Expo, held this weekend at the Javits Center, was crowded with people getting a little messy, but it was also a really good chance to taste affordable wines from around the world. (The only big flop of our night was the Iron Chef wine collection, which was just as bad as you might imagine.)
It was most fun to try wines made from little-known indigenous grapes–in other words, grapes other than Cabernet, Chardonnay, Merlot, etc, grapes that have been used for centuries in their homelands, but haven’t been exported very much.
From Portugal, we liked Quinta da Romeira’s Arinto, a white Portuguese grape. It’s light and citrusy, and sells for under $10.
From the Greek Island of Santorini, we really liked Hellas Import Ltd’s Assyrtico. It’s smooth and lush, with peachy, tropical fruit aromas–similar to a really well-balanced Chardonnay. It retails for $20, higher priced, but delicious, and an unusual grape.
Best of all were the wines from Cyprus. The island’s indigenous grape varietals are ancient, and hardly ever seen in the US. Plus, they taste really good and are very affordable. We loved wines made from the red grape called Maratheftiko— full of berry flavor balanced with acidity, rich and velvety. It tastes like it should cost $40, but is much, much cheaper than that. The most common Cypriot white grape, Xynisteri, makes wines that are very light, low alcohol, straw-colored and refreshing. Most of the Cypriot wines retail for under $10.
All of these wines are available in New York. Your best bet is Astor Wines. If they don’t have it, they’ll probably order it for you.