A Wine Lover's Weekly Guide To $10 Wines - A Greek Dessert Wine

Samos Vin Doux 2007This review marks a double first. It's our first sweet wine, and our first Greek wine. Given the wine's sweetness a full serving is quite small. Don't, we repeat, don't ever drink full servings of a wine like this. You will definitely regret getting sick and drunk on dessert wines. When you think of Greece you may be thinking of Retsina wines, wines tasting of resin that still represent a major section of the Greek wine market. You won't find any such wine reviewed here, and not because of the price.

Samos is a small, mountainous island in the Aegean Sea off the coast of Turkey. Its inhabitants have been making wine for well over three thousand years. The Muscat grape is a relative newcomer, probably introduced in the Sixteenth Century. These grapes were grown on the slopes of Mount Ampelos at a height of up to half a mile (less than a kilometer) by a local cooperative founded in the 1930s. The wine reviewed below is their base product; their top of the line is the Samos Anthemis. Usually my quotes are limited to the marketing materials but exceptionally I'll quote one of my favorite wine reviewers, Tom Stevenson, "One of the great sweet wines of the world...are all superb, perfectly-balanced, rich, and mellifluous wines..." If you agree with Tom, you are in for one real bargain.

OUR WINE REVIEW POLICY All wines that we taste and review are purchased at the full retail price.

Wine Reviewed Samos Vin Doux 2007 15% alcohol about $9 (per half bottle)

Let's start with the marketing materials. Tasting Note: 100% Muscat, this fortified wine is grown in
semi-mountainous conditions on the island of Samos. The nose shows lovely aromas of honey, Earl Grey tea and oranges. Medium sweet but balanced by a good seam of acidity, the wine is soft-textured with lovely honey, peach, pear, marzipan, straw, almond and floral notes. Lively and clean with excellent length, it would make a lovely after-dinner treat. (VINTAGES panel, July 2008) And now for my review.

I started by sipping this wine on its own. It was liquid honey and pleasantly acidic. So far, so good. As a dessert wine I rarely paired it with meals. The tastings were all done on separate occasions. First I tried almond meringue cookies. The wine had a tea taste and was somewhat medicinal. On the positive side I was tired and this wine provided a fine pick me up. I tasted citronella but the wine didn't furnish any of the almond taste.

I tried this wine with a high-quality vanilla ice cream bar covered with dark chocolate. The tea taste was predominant; I 'm not even a fan of tea in my cup, much less in my wine glass. With fresh honeydew the Samos was syrupy and a bit medicinal.

My supermarket often sells a French-style very lemony pie with a buttery crust which is best eaten from the freezer. And what taste did this pie extract from the wine, honeysuckle.

Ben and Jerry's came out with a new flavor, at least in our neighborhood. If I Had A 1,000,000 Flavors that was mostly Chocolate and Vanilla and frankly was disappointing. But I'm not reviewing ice cream; I'm reviewing dessert wine. I got some honey and some tea but the combination was far from being a success.

Then I tried little pastries called rogelach that contained dried fruit and coconut. The new flavor was citrus and was pleasing, the old flavors were tea and medicinal and were not.

For a change I tried this dessert wine with a poppy seed bagel covered in soft, creamy 5% cheese and Atlantic smoked salmon. The wine tasted mostly of honey. I believe that the bagel was dipped in water containing some sugar; I know the salmon was cured in brown sugar. In contrast to many cream cheeses, this creamy cheese didn't taste the least bit sweet. Anyway, whatever the influences the wine tasted of honey and later the tea taste came back.

The final meal was a grilled chicken breast that had been marinated in a slightly spicy Thai barbecue sauce and then lightly covered in more of the sauce. I was hoping that the sweetness of the sauce would complement the sweetness of the wine. It didn't. The wine actually presented itself better with green beans in a crushed tomato sauce that also had notes of sweetness.

I tried the Samos with fresh strawberries. It was long, and had a good balance of acidity and sweetness. But after the strawberries were gone, the tea taste came back. I closed the pairings with a single cheese, Emmenthaler (Swiss). The combination was fairly interesting; the wine was sweet with fine acidity and some fruit.

Final verdict. My apologies to Tom Stevenson. I would not buy this wine again. Believe it or not I about a quarter of a bottle left and don't know what I'll do with the rest of it. Innovative cooks might use it to create interesting sauces but I don't think that I'll take the chance. I will
say one thing though; it's an awful lot better than the last Retsina wine I tasted. I'll be coming back for more Greek wines, and for more dessert wines.

Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten computer and Internet books, but frankly prefers drinking fine German or other wine, accompanied by the right foods and the right people. He teaches computer classes at an Ontario French-language community college. Check out his wine website http://www.theworldwidewine.com with a weekly column reviewing $10 wines and new sections writing about (theory) and tasting (practice) organic and kosher wines.