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Boutari Naoussa 2016

Macedonia, Greece, $23

Greece is one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world, with an impressive lineup of more than 300 native grapes. The Boutari Company, known for exporting the first bottled red wine from Greece, has been synonymous with the ancient xinomavro grape since the company’s founding in 1879. Boutari championed this nearly abandoned native red grape variety, crafting wines of such quality and complexity as to bring international recognition to the Naoussa appellation in Macedonia. Xinomavro is now regarded as the country’s finest red wine grape.

Boutari Naoussa, crafted from 100 percent xinomavro, appears garnet red in the glass, fading to warm orange highlights on the meniscus. The nose presents the unmistakable aroma of sun-dried tomatoes, with background notes of olive brine and just a touch of toast from oak aging. The first sip unleashes an invigorating mouth-puckering acidity. Intense red fruits like cherries and raspberries reveal themselves on the palate, accompanied by nuanced notes of vanilla. Firm tannins, present throughout, carry through to a long and chewy finish. Structured and complex yet easy drinking, this wine is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Naoussa craves culinary companionship. Enjoy alongside classic moussaka, chicken gyros with tzatziki sauce, and slow-cooked leg of lamb.

For $23, you can experience the entire Mediterranean diet in one wine glass.

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Recanati Wild Carignan Reserve 2014

Judean Hills, Israel, $53

Gone are the days of being limited to cloyingly sweet kosher wine for the seder. With approximately 300 wineries in its magnificent Mediterranean climate, Israel is producing a variety of wines poised for competing on the global market, from sweet to delightfully dry, for drinking any day of the year. Great strides continue to be made in Israel with Bordeaux grape varieties, and now certain areas are turning their attention to Mediterranean varieties, as well. Established just 20 years ago, Recanati Winery produces local wines reflective of their terroir. Their Mediterranean Series focuses on matching grape varieties from the South of France to the similar Israeli climate. 

A testament to its terroir, Recanati Wild Carignan Reserve is produced from the southern French native grape carignan, dry-farmed on the slopes of the Judean Hills. The wine’s dark sumac hue hints at the depth of its richness. A profusion of aromas erupts from the glass, including wild black raspberries, pink peppercorns, and distinct herbaceous notes reminiscent of za’atar, the Middle Eastern spice blend with thyme and marjoram. The wine is big and rich on the palate, with bright acid and tooth-coating tannins. The mid-palate showcases a medley of flavors, including mocha, stewed plums, black raspberries, and fennel, while the finish of this lightly filtered wine is earthy and meaty. Pair with chargrilled beef, meatballs with sweet potatoes, and minced lamb croquettes.

At $53 a bottle, enjoy this wine throughout the sabbath, and beyond.

Cusumano Sàgana 2012

Sicily, Italy, $49

With its hot temperatures and abundance of sunshine, the island of Sicily historically has produced one of the largest volumes of wine of any region in Italy. A more recent shift in focus away from quantity by many winegrowers has resulted in an increased production of excellent wines which, with the 2012 harvest, have officially gained recognition for their quality. For many years, the Cusumano family concentrated on growing large volumes of wine grapes for sale. After taking over management from their father in 2001, brothers Diego and Alberto transitioned the company to winemaking and now produce modern and engaging estate-grown wines.

A former blending grape, nero d’avola is now being used to produce some of Sicily’s most notable single-varietal wines. Cusumano Sàgana is crafted from 100 percent of this dark-skinned native grape. An eight-year stretch in the bottle has gracefully aged this 2012 vintage to mellow cherry red. The bouquet is an inviting assemblage of berries, herbs and earth, redolent of a forest floor after a rain. The wine coats the mouth in a blanket of velvety tannins while treating the palate to concentrated flavors of black cherry and fig jam, lifted by a crisp acidity. Well-integrated wood is present throughout, a perfect backdrop to the eye-opening finish that is all espresso. This refined expression of nero d’avola deserves to be slowly sipped with a plate of pasta alla Norma or homemade pizza con fichi e prosciutto.

For $49, you can make your Mediterranean meal a truly memorable one.

Renée B. Allen, CSW, FWS, CSS, is a wine and spirits expert and the director of the award-winning Wine Institute of New England, which offers wine and spirits education and events. Allen is a professor at the University of New Haven, a wine competition director and judge, and can be seen on WFSB’s Better Connecticut.

This article appeared in the May 2020 issue of Connecticut Magazine. You can subscribe here, or find the current issue on sale hereSign up for our newsletter to get the latest and greatest content from Connecticut Magazine delivered right to your inbox. Got a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com. And follow us on Facebook and Instagram@connecticutmagazine and Twitter @connecticutmag.