There are a couple of Old World countries out there across the ocean whose wines keep coming and going in and then out of our wine marketplace. For a while you hear a lot about them, and then they seem to disappear, only to reappear a few years later.


Portugal and Greece don’t have much in common with each other, except ancient civilizations and natural beauty that will make you cry. As is typical of these old lands, agriculture was key to their former empires, and humans, a lot like you and me, lived lives of note. Practically our entire civilization, our laws and our traditions, came from places like these.


It’s interesting to reflect on the crops that have been a part of these stories for more than 5,000 years, as well as the harvests from the surrounding seas and the beverages from the grapes in the fields. Keep in mind that despite what we have seen in movies or what was related in our classroom history books, the reality of life has been glossed over. Rivers and streams in these countries, among others, were polluted. Water was not something our ancestors were able to enjoy as we do.


The runoff from animal waste and other naturally polluting sources made clean, cool, refreshing water an unattainable pursuit. Wine and beer were the beverages of choice among adults, and milk was a child’s liquid to slake thirst and provide nutrients. Those were just about all the beverage choices, except for the muddy product of the occasional community well.


Even the next great civilization in that part of the world, Rome, did not resolve the challenges of easy access to potable water. What is somewhat perplexing is why the grapes from these two great centers, Greece and Portugal, have fallen into relative obscurity in a new world awash with wine.


A Few of the More Common White Wine Grapes from Greece

Assyrtiko – This is the centerpiece of Greece’s white wines. Originally from the island of Santorini, where, in a sweeter iteration, the wines were known as vinsanto, the wine of Santorini, not to be confused with Vin Santo, “holy wine”, from Tuscany. But in their usual state, these Greek white wines are bone-dry with a strong mineral component, due to the volcanic soil of the island.


Athiri – A low-acid yielding wine, used primarily in blends with Assyrtiko and Aidani. Adds good fruit structure in wines also known as Thira, which is the classical name for Santorini.


Moschofillero – Now grown primarily in the Peloponnese, this aromatic, gray-colored grape is used in blanc de gris wines possessing significant acid structure and floral characters on both the palate and the nose.


Red Grapes from Greece

Agiorghitiko – (pronounced ah-yor-yee-tee-ko) St. George’s is a mainstay of the Greek red wine harvest in the Peloponnese. Achieves excellent ripeness, wonderful aromatics and balanced acidity. Good for blending as well as single-varietal wines.


Xinomavro – Predominant variety in Macedonia. The name literally means “acid black,” and that is an apt descriptor. Wines have long aging potential and bold tannins.


Wine Grapes from Portugal

The challenging thing about knowing the wine grapes of Portugal is that they all go by several names, depending on the region of origin, or in some cases the country. Grapes from Spain have different names when they are grown in Portugal, and oftentimes even when they are grown in different parts of the same country. The grapes are usually indigenous and many Portuguese winemakers do not blend international varietals with their local grapes. Some do.



Roupeiro – also known as Malvasia Grosso.

Arinto – also known as Assario Branco and Pedernã.

Antão Vaz – grown primarily in the Alentejo, central part of the country both north and south, and this grape has been compared to Chardonnay. 



Aragonês – also known as Tempranillo and Tinta Roriz in certain areas of Portugal and Spain.

Trincadeira – also known as Tinta Amarela, and used in both still wines and Ports.

Touriga Nacional – a mainstay of the Portuguese wine industry. Used in Port wines extensively.

Touriga Franca – also called Touriga Francesa, related to but not the same as Touriga Nacional.


(Want to read more about wine grapes you've never heard of? Check out part one of this series.)


Keeping It Easy in the Big Easy on Labor Day

Just in time for Labor Day, Chilled Magazine has released a number of seasonally-satisfying cocktail recipes, almost as a public service, which we are all about here at The Happy Hour Institute of Sybaritic Living.


Have a great day away from labor, which is a bit on the ironic side, but that’s not ever an issue in New Orleans.


Sand Star
(Cocktails do not come any easier to make.)

1 1/2 ounces Belvedere Citrus Vodka

3 ounces San Pellegrino Aranciata


Build over cubed ice into a highball glass. Garnish with an orange and lemon slice.


Endless Summer
(It just seems that way by the time September rolls around.)

1 1/2 parts Skinnygirl Island Coconut Vodka

3 parts pineapple juice

4 parts sparkling water

1 cup sliced mango, frozen

Mango wedge for garnish


Pour over fruit and ice. Garnish with a mango and enjoy!


Belvedere Fall Harvest
(Fall is not an officially recognized season in our town, but oysters can’t be too far away. Now that’s a season. And this drink should work well with cold oysters, spiced only with a squeeze of lemon.)

1 1/2 ounces Belvedere Vodka

1 1/2 ounces Pressed Apple Juice

1 1/2 ounces Pomegranate Juice


Build over cubed ice in a highball glass and garnish with a slice of apple or lemon.


Kilbeggan Waterwheel
(Recipe by Darren McGettigan, resident mixologist at Bar Beoga of the Menlo Park Hotel.)

1 1/4 Parts Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey

2 1/2 Parts Pressed Apple Juice

1 1/4 Parts Pressed Pineapple Juice

6 Fresh Blueberries

1 Dash of Cherry Bitters

1 Bar Spoon of White Sugar


In a shaker, muddle the blueberries and sugar. Add the remaining ingredients and fill with ice. Shake well and double-strain into a tall glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with blueberries on a cocktail pick.


Thank you, Chilled Magazine. And Happy Labor Day to you all!


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