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2002 Samos Grand Cru Vin Doux (Muscat), Samos, Greece

island.samos.jpg It's not everyone that can claim they've been making quality wine pretty much continuously since at least the twelfth century B.C. Most people also can't say with authority that their wines were the favorites of people like Hippocrates. You know, that greek guy who invented, um, well. At least I know they named the Hippocratic Oath after him. In any case, very few places in the world have a winemaking pedigree like the people of the island of Samos.

A thumbnail sized, green mountainous island that pokes up out of the eastern Agean sea, the name Samos comes from Sami (based on the Phoenician "sama," or "high place") and is the legendary homeland of King Angeus, about whom I could not find any information, even on Google, but who presumably was an important Greek. However, in Ionian times (before the height of Greek civilization) Samos was a seat of power in the Mediterranean and the home to king Polycrates. Much later, Samos is known for having produced the bane of every 9th grade Geometry student: a man named Pythagoras.

samos.bottle.final.jpg Samos has been making wine from a variety of grapes since time immemorial (wine vessels dating to 2800 BCE have been found on the island). However, in the 16th century, a variety of Muscat (blanc a petit grains) was brought to the island and quickly became the wine grape of choice and has henceforth been known as Muscat of Samos. Grown on the slopes of Mount Ampelos which rises to 1144 meters above sea-level, these small berried grapes are grown as high as 900 meters in elevation, and ripen to incredible sweetness in the Mediterranean sun during the day, and are cooled by ocean breezes at night.

Samos is arguably Greece's most famous wine appellation.

Modern wine production in Samos might be marked by the formation of the Union of Wine Making Cooperatives of Samos, which was founded in 1934 and united several small producers together on the island. Today wines from Samos are released under the label of Samos, controlled by this union. Comprised of 25 different cooperatives, with about 4000 members and winegrowers, the cooperative produces about 9000 tons of grapes per year for wine.

These grapes are used to make several wines, ranging from dry to sweet to the (thankfully) less popular retsina flavored wines.

This wine is comprised of grapes harvested at various times, from ripe to what we might consider late harvest, selected from choice vineyard plots. After crushing the grapes are barrel fermented in oak, of what variety and for how long I do not know. This wine is supposed to be able to age for decades if not centuries. Vintages from the early 20th century are supposed to be drinking especially well now.

Tasting Notes:
This wine is a light gold color in the glass with hints of brown and has a honeyed nose of candied lychee fruit, a scent which becomes the dominant flavor of the wine. Silky smooth in the mouth with high glycerin content, the wine is like liquid lychee gold tinged with honey. I'm not big on dessert wines in general, but this stuff was great.

Food Pairing:
This is a great dessert and or cheese wine. I think it would particularly complement nutty flavors like those of these pine nut cookies.

Overall Score: 9.5/10

How Much?: $14

This wine is available for purchase online.

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The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise adventures on the wine route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud