From the Department of Lost or Nearly-Lost Causes:
While Greek wines have become more visible in the United States (ten years ago, being in the Euro-Zone was a plus), most of the attention has been paid to whites. Assyrtiko from the island of Santorini shows up on many lists these days, and with good reason: With it's bright citrus and mineralic character, it's easy to love.
Reds are another story. For one thing, it takes most Americans a moment or two to form the names of the two principal red grapes. “Xinomavro” and “Agiorgitiko” do not flow trippingly off the American tongue. For another, the former can be hugely tannic, and the latter doesn't really have a clear identity: It can be aromatic and fresh-tasting when made for immediate consumption; spicy, smoky, and a bit tough when made for ageing.
And then there is Liatiko, a red grape that is native to the island of Crete. I'd never heard of it until I saw a wine called Dafnios on the by-the-glass list at Table in fabulous downtown Asheville a while back.
Dafnios is a wine from the Dafnés appellation in central Crete, made by Nikolas Douloufakis, whose grandfather Dimitris began cultivating grapevines and making wine in 1930. Liatiko is native to Crete (and no relation to the Italian grape Aleatico, with which it is sometimes confused). Douloufakis ages it in oak for nine months before release.
Domaine Douloufakis “Dafnios” Liatiko 2010: In the glass, it could easily pass for a red from the Jura: Pale red, with a touch of brown at the rim. The nose has floral and spicy notes, followed by flavors of red and black berries, a light, smooth texture, and relatively low acidity. If you like, think of this as a Poulsard that speaks with a Southern Italian accent. (I was chatting with Mike Tiano not long ago about it, and even he said it was hard to describe. I'm doing the best I can...)
I found it to be very food-friendly, and a pleasant change of pace from other lighter-bodied reds. It is also priced nicely; it is on the shelf at the Asheville Wine Market for $15.99.
Should you find yourself at Table anytime in the near future, I urge you to go ahead and gamble the $8 or whatever it is for a glass of this; the staff tells me I'm the only one who ever orders it, and if that remains the case, it will doubtless fall off the list, which would be a shame.