The Grape Glossary: A guide to hip varietals
It would be tempting to call moschofilero the best Greek grape you've never heard of. But if you're like most non-Greeks, you would struggle to identify any variety from the country that taught ancient Rome, and by extension you and me, how to drink. Let's call moschofilero No. 4 – after Greece's Big Three, xinomavro and assyrtiko and agiorgitiko.
Like fourth-place finishers at the Olympics, moschofilero has received nowhere near the attention it deserved, at least not until recently. Generally crisp and light, the centuries-old white whispers with an enticing floral quality and a suggestion of fresh white table grape, often with nuances of gingery spice and bitter citrus rind. Think of it as uber-trendy moscato after a sugar-free yoga cleanse. In spring or summer, it's a perfectly refreshing, dry, subtly aromatic sip, but it would be a smart choice also for simple seafood dishes or, in an East-meets-Greece vein, light curries.
Likely native to the beautiful Peloponnese, the peninsula that juts out into the Mediterranean like a warty witch's hand, it was long held back from the limelight by its lack of singular focus. The vine, mainly producing grey-skinned berries, has a tendency toward genetic promiscuity, with various clones delivering a wide variety of characters. Lately, producers have been isolating plants with finer characters and focusing on higher ground to capture the fresher aromatics that cooler nights can bring.
Those producers include the large and respectable Boutari as well as Skouras, Spiropoulos, Troupis and Tselepos. The fact that you've (probably) never heard of moschofilero, which is occasionally spelled without the "h," should only add to its appeal for one important reason: It's unlikely ever to be as overpriced as so many boring but populist chardonnays and pinot grigios. Excellent examples can be snapped up for $15. Even the best rarely exceed $20. Which might make moschofilero one of the best white grapes you've never been ripped off by.
The Flavour Principle by Lucy Waverman and Beppi Crosariol (HarperCollins) won top prize for best general English cookbook at the 2014 Taste Canada Food Writing Awards.