Rebels like to do things differently, so it was appropriate that the “Rebels of Wine” tasting hosted by Brasserie Purveyors moved, for the first time, from the usual confines of the Brasserie’s indoor chef’s garden to the spacious green by the Wicket Bar for the monthly SWIRL event on Jan. 28.
The wines were deemed “rebels” because, as the Brasserie Purveyors put it, they were made by “the bad boys and girls of the wine world.”
However, they could also be considered rebels because they came from places outside of the mainstream wine-producing world, namely Greece and Sicily.
Brasserie manager Corey Blohm said that the total production of each of the four wineries sampled at the tasting was only about 500 to 1,000 cases each, meaning that the wines would be generally hard to find, especially outside of the region where they are made.
“These are not big producers of wine,” said Blohm, who presided over the tasting. “These are small producers who really put everything into producing these wines.”
The tasting started and finished with wines from Sicily, the large Italian island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. The first wine came from the Vino Lauria winery located in Alcamo in northwest Sicily. The white wine was named “Grillo” after the grape that is used to produce it.
“It was one of the main grapes used in making Marsala at one time,” said Blohm, referring to the famous fortified wine. “Now it’s used more as a drinking wine rather than a blending wine.”
Using certified organically grown grapes from the Giardinello di Rapitalà, Grillo is a very dry and crisp wine that has a citrusy taste and aromas of tropical fruits. It’s refreshing acidity and relatively low alcohol content – 12.5 percent – make it an ideal lunchtime wine in Cayman, especially paired with the kinds of seafood prevalent here.
The red wine from Sicily was made entirely from the most well-known indigenous grape from the island, Nero d’Avola. Called “Lamuri” – which means love in the Sicilian dialect – it is produced by Tasca d’Almerita winery from grapes grown at altitudes higher than 2,000 feet on the Regaleali estate in northern Sicily and then aged in French oak barrels for 12 months. This is a more elegant and less ripe expression of Nero d’Avola than those produced in the warmer growing regions in southern Sicily and would pair well with red meats and tomato-based sauces.
“It’s similar to a New World Shiraz,” said Blohm. “It’s a full-bodied wine, but dry, with sweet tannins.”
Even though Greece is one of the world’s oldest wine-producing countries and its wine-making history dates back more than 6,500 years, Greek wine is not highly exported, meaning that many consumers – especially in this part of the world – know little about it.
The SWIRL event featured two Greek wines, the first a white wine called “Thalassitis” made by the producer Gaia on the Cyclades island Santorini in the Aegean Sea. Made from the island’s indigenous grape Assyrtiko, this is a bone-dry, full-bodied wine with a lot of character.
Blohm said that because Assyrtiko is resistent to the phylloxera pestilence, the grapes in Thalassitis have been grown on 80-year-old, non-grafted vines, giving the wine very concentrated flavors and minerality, to go with its citrus-like acidity. This wine would pair well with oily fish like mackerel, tuna, salmon and sardines, as well as pasta dishes with cream sauces.
The other Greek wine sampled was made from a grape called Xinomavro, grown in the Naousa region of Macedonia. Called “Young Vines” because the vines are all 10 years old or less, this dark, non-oaked, biodynamic wine boasts firm tannins with flavors of spice and black fruits. It’s a wine for beef, lamb and rich dishes, or aged cheese.
The SWIRL tastings have been taking place monthly since the beginning of 2015.
Blohm said he tries to choose themes for the tastings that allow guests to try different wines with which they might not be familiar, which is one of the focuses of the Brasserie Purveyors portfolio.
All the wines are available for purchase at the tastings, and at other times. Brasserie Purveyors will even deliver the wines for free.
The next SWIRL tasting takes place on Feb. 25 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and will feature four wines from Israel, including a rosé, a Chardonnay, a red blend and a late-harvest Gewürztraminer.
Like the Rebels of Wine tasting, the Israeli wine tasting will be held on the green next to the Wicket Bar, weather permitting.