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Greek wines have had a bad reputation for years, but shun them and you’re missing out on some of the most intriguing, bracing varieties out there—especially the country’s whites. In many cases, their complexity and crispness come from the unusual environments in which they’re cultivated. Santorini’s Assyrtiko grape clusters, for example, are grown on a basket very low to the ground near the island’s volcanic soil. Kamal Kouiri, the wine director at the New York City restaurant Molyvos, home to the most extensive selection of Greek wines in the U.S., picks his three favorite whites, one for every summer occasion.
For the Beach Party
Alpha Estate Malagousia
In the early ’80s, Malagousia was thought to be extinct. It’s since been rediscovered, and is now considered a world-class grape, yielding fresh, medium-bodied dry whites that pair well with greens, feta and watermelon salad, and fresh mizithra (a sheep and cow’s milk whey cheese from Greece).
For the Barbecue
Gaia Thalassitis Assyrtiko
The bone-dry Assyrtiko grape from Santorini is a nice complement to roasted lamb, a charcoal-grilled pork chop, and an array of seafood dishes: grilled sea bass, marinated octopus, crispy Aegean-style calamari. According to Kouiri, it’s one of the finest whites in Greece.
Vidiano, from Crete, is rare (it was all but extinct 15 years ago), so it’s a treat. Unusual and complex, it offers a bouquet of honey and almonds; on the palate, you’ll get a nice balance of fresh acidity and flavors like lime, quince, peach, and tropical fruit. Try a bottle with smoked feta, grilled sardines, and stuffed calamari with a tangy tomato sauce.