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Get a handle on well-priced Greek wines

IS it really "all Greek to you?" Here's a thought.

IS it really "all Greek to you?"

Here's a thought. If we can learn to say "Gewurztraminer," "Cabernet Sauvignon," "Gruner Veltiner" and even get "Riesling" right (as in "reesling"), then it shouldn't take much to wrap our tongues around "Kretikos," "Nemea" or the only slightly more challenging "Moschofilero" - pronounced like the Russian capital.

The answer? It's really only a matter of practice. And our hunch is that with bargains to spare and ever improving quality, there's untapped interest in Greek wines. But if you're thinking Retsina, don't even go there!

Today's Greek wines are a far cry from the "acquired taste" of those long ago, pineresin fueled nights at Orestes, when it was the hottest ticket in town.

When Christina Boutari (whose forebears founded the Boutari Winery in Naoussa in 1879) whipped through Vancouver last week, we caught up with her at waterside Nu Aegean for a brief but rewarding tasting that served as a worthy reminder in these walletweary times.

But there's more to it than that. While these wines are unique, they're far from esoteric. There's also a romantic, historic connection, in that they come from the very cradle of winemaking, from where vines made their way around the world.

Dig around the eastern Mediterranean section of B.C. Liquor Stores (somewhere, somewhat ignominiously between Italy and Bulgaria) and you might find at least a couple of these value drops.

- 2009 Boutari Kretikos sports floral and stonefruit aromas with a crisp but surprisingly generous palate with vibrant acidity, clove and citrus notes. The name refers to Crete - it comes from there (although it can also mean a table wine) - and it's made with indigenous grapes that you don't need to know how to pronounce. A great food wine. Think oysters, calamari or grilled chicken; $12.99.

- 2009 Boutari Moschofilero: wine of origin. You'll have to look hard to find a more interesting wine for this price. Slightly aromatic and floral, look for stonefruit, crisp acidity and citrus notes with gentle spice and earthy undertones before a lengthy close. Appealingly low alcohol - and highly awarded. Try it with Dungeness crab and lemon butter; BCLS $15.95.

- 2008 Boutari Naoussa. From the original winery. Like many other "value"priced wines, stick it in a big glass (Pinot Noir would be good) and you'll be surprised. It might even have you thinking about Gamay or Tempranillo. Cherry and floral on top, medium-bodied, cherry and chocolate notes with easy tannins, good structure and spicy, earthy tones that could match barbecued chicken or, ideally, grilled lamb chops; $15.99.

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Here's a newcomer (though by no means a newbie) to watch for: Langetwins is a Lodi, Calif. winery and substantial, sustainable vineyard operation owned by twins Randall and Brad Lange. They're fifth-generation farmers with connections to the Mondavis and, hence, no shortage of know-how. They're driven by the notion of sustainability, and practice what they preach. What to look for:

- Langetwins Zinfandel 2009. Made from primarily 99-year old Lodi vines, this medium-bodied red is fresh and clean, not extracted, with ripe red berries on the nose followed by a cherryraspberry-toned palate with juicy acidity, easy tannins and a long, gently spicy close; BCLS Specialty $23.99.

- Langetwins Moscato 2010. Estate-grown, Clarksburg. Everyone's crowing about the boom in U.S. Moscato sales, which is surprising, considering that much of it tastes like sugared water. But this one doesn't. Lovely honey and orange notes on top, with off-dry, peachy-clean palate and a touch of effervescence. A good deal at around $20 for 750 ml. PWS. Think fruit cups.

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