My colleague James Molesworth ambushed me the other night at one of his favorite Manhattan eateries, Nice Matin. We were dining there with the talented French winemaker consultant Philippe Cambie and the gracious Costières de Nîmes vigneron Michel Gassier. James ordered a bottle of white, and it was poured blind to the table. I forget what Philippe and Michel guessed, but I proferred a Ribolla Gialla from Slovenia.
I was fooled; instead we tasted a delicious white from the island of Santorini, made from the Assyrtiko grape by one of the region’s top producers, Domaine Sigalas. I was a bit flustered because this is one of my favorite whites from Greece. But it got me thirsty for a Ribolla. This Italian grape is grown mostly in the Collio district of Northern Italy, as well as neighboring Slovenia. But my first introduction had been from Greece, from the island of Cephalonia (where it is known as Robola), located off the west coast in the Ionian Sea. Like the Santorini white, the better versions are rich and viscous yet fresh and fruity.
I chose one from my local wine shop, the Fiegl Collio Ribolla Gialla 2006. It was aromatic, with a deep amber hue and filled with plenty of mineral, lanolin and dried mango flavors. Notes of honey and butter filled the finish. A little-known transnational grape that offers plenty of flavor—at just $17 a bottle. I scored it 88 points, non-blind, and it would be great with grilled fish—giving the whites of Santorini a run for their money.