Keo St. John de Commandaria, Mavro

This week I'm reviewing a dessert wine. This is no ordinary dessert wine. I typically don't like dessert wines or ports, I find them to be too syrupy and overly sweet. This past October though, a local wine bar that I really like, Bar Brunello, hosted a tasting class on dessert wines. I went in hopes of finding some variety of dessert wine that I did like, and was very successful on that front. I generally don't like to write-off an entire group of wine, if I don't think that I like a broad type of wine, I'll do my best to find some version or variety that works for me. No two wines are exactly the same, so I think that it's always possible to find some version that you like. That's why I was determined to find at least one dessert wine that I liked. I actually ended up like most of the wines we tried as part of the class, but the Keo St. John de Commandaria really stood out to be, and I bought a bottle to take home and share with my fiance, since he wasn't able to attend the class.

St. John Commandaria is a wine from Cyprus, and it's made with the Mavro grape, which is an ancient grape varietal. This wine has been enjoyed for hundreds, if not thousands, of years and has won dozens of awards. The wine is considered to have no vintage, because it's made using a solera-style aging and blending system. The solera process is a technique where barrels of the wine are stacked, and each new year goes on top of the stack. The bottom barrel is tapped to bottle the wines, but is not depleted of the wine inside, the wine from the second-most bottom barrel is used to refill the bottom barrel, blending the wines from those two barrels. The second from the bottom barrel is then refilled using the third from the bottom barrel, blending the wine from those two barrels, and the process continues up the stack of barrels. The result of this process, is that, theoretically, every bottle of the wine ever produced and sold, contains a little bit of wine from every previous year that the wine has been made, since the winery started making the wine. This means, that the bottle of St. John Commandaria that I bought a few months ago, contained at least trace amount of wine from hundreds of years ago. I think that is incredible.

Now to the good part, what the wine actually smells and tastes like. When I took a big whiff of this wine, I first noticed the scent of over-ripe raspberries, then I got notes of dried fig and black licorice, and finally a bit of a cherry cough syrup smell. I know I said that I don't like syrupy dessert wines very much, but I like this one because the syrupyness isn't overwhelming. It's a much subtler note, and the wine is so complex, that the syrup blends in well with the other flavors and scents that are present. When I started tasting the wine, I tasted all the scents that I had previously smelled, with over-ripe raspberries and dried fig being at the fore-front. I also got notes of dried dates, blackberries, walnuts, dried dark cherries, and oak. While this wine is pretty fruit-forward, the fruit notes are primarily dried fruits, which leads to a very interesting and unique flavor. The dried-fruit emphasis comes through so much because the Mavro grapes are left on the vine until they become semi-dried, and then they are harvested. This wine also had a unique color. It doesn't look like a typical red wine or port, it has a much more amber color. This is likely another result of the grapes being left on the vine longer.

Since this is a dessert wine, I obviously paired it with dessert. My fiance and I enjoyed it with two desserts from a local bakery, a dark chocolate tort and a hazelnut mousse covered in a hard chocolate shell. I think that the wine paired better with the hazelnut mousse dessert because the walnut note played well of the nuttiness of the hazelnut, but it was still delicious with the dark chocolate tort. I also think this would go well with a pecan pie, or with some type of chocolate and raspberry dessert, to play off the fruitiness of the wine. I would definitely recommend this wine to anyone who has trouble getting into dessert wine, and for anyone who already enjoys dessert wine. My fiance is a big fan of port, and he thought that this wine was even better than most ports that he's had. Even though I bought this from a local wine bar, I did a little digging and found it available for purchase online as well.