When I first started this blog, I thought that Greece would be one of my all-star countries. Greece is home to quite a few grapes that are grown only there and nowhere else. It has proved difficult, however, not only to find Greek wines, but to find good examples of Greek wines. Slowly but surely, though, I've been accumulating wines made from these interesting Greek varietals, one of which is Roditis (also spelled Rhoditis by some producers).
Roditis (pronounced row-DEE-tis, apparently) is a pink-skinned grape whose name comes from the Greek word "rodon" which means rose. It is usually blended with Savatiano in the production of that Greek curiosity Retsina. Its home is in the northern part of the Peloponnese region of Greece, particularly around the port town of Patras. Patras, the capital of Western Greece, is the third largest metropolitan area in the country and is thought to have been settled sometime in the third millennium BC. There is a legend that Julius Caesar wooed Cleopatra with wines from Patras.
The highest quality Roditis is grown on the north-facing slopes located above the city at altitudes between 200 and 450 meters where the vines are somewhat protected from the hot Mediterranean climate of the region. Greece has a two-tiered appellation system similar to France's (on some of the bottles, including the one listed below, the French language is used for the appellation terminology). The two levels are: "Controlled Appellation of Origin," which is used almost exclusively for sweet wines, and "Appellation of Superior Quality" which is roughly equivalent to the AOC of France. The hillside vineyards above the city of Patras are entitled to use the "Appellation of Superior Quality" designation, though as of 1990, there were only about 1,350 acres that qualified.
There was a time when Roditis was widely grown all over Greece, but, as happened frequently, Phylloxera took care of all that. Roditis is extraordinarily susceptible to oidium, or powdery mildew, so when their vineyards were decimated by the phylloxera louse, many growers opted to replant with hardier, more disease resistant vines. For all of its devastation, phylloxera offered many wine growers a chance to start over completely and many growers took advantage of the bad situation to fill their vineyards with varieties that would require less maintenance and produce more fruit. Luckily, there were many growers who did not want to see their native and traditional varieties lost forever.
The bottle I picked up was the Kouros bottling from the Kourtakis winery (who uses the Rhoditis spelling) for about $7. The vintage on the bottle was 2007, which, from what I can tell, is a bit too old to get a full sense of what Roditis tastes like. It's the only bottle I've been able to find, though, so for now, it's all I've got to go on. I will certainly provide an updated tasting note if I'm ever able to find a bottle with a more recent vintage. In the glass, the wine was a pale, silvery straw color, which was a good sign that the wine hadn't aged to the point that it was going to be undrinkable. There was a kind of cheesy, leesy aroma on the nose along with red apple, ripe pear, green herbs, and a touch of vanilla. This wine is fermented in 100% stainless steel tanks, but even so the aroma reminded me of a lightly oaked Chardonnay. On the palate, the wine was medium bodied with high acidity and creamy pear, lemony citrus and grapefruit peel. There was a slightly nutty, roasted hazelnut kind of flavor as well, though it was wasn't very pronounced. The acidity really kept this wine alive despite its relatively advanced age. For the money, it's a nice white wine that would be good with light chicken dishes or grilled fish or anything you might pair an unoaked or lightly oaked Chardonnay with.