The Hellenic Society Prometheas

Τη γλώσσα μου έδωσαν Ελληνική

Το σπίτι φτωχικό στις αμμουδιές του Ομήρου.

Μονάχη έγνοια η γλώσσα μου στις αμμουδιές του Ομήρου.                                                 Οδυσσέας Ελύτης


October 2008

Prometheas Upcoming Events


·         Friday, October 3, 2008: "“Christopher Columbus:  A Greek Nobleman”, lecture by James Marketos at Founders Hall, St. George Greek Orthodox Church, 7:30 p.m.  See flyer for more details.

·         Saturday, November 8, 2008: "Prometheas". Opera based on Aeschylus play, in celebration of the 30th anniversary of Prometheas.  See flyer for more details.


Website of the month

Lucy's Big Fat Greek Wedding Dance (Lucille Ball)


Book Selection of the Month

“Eternal Questions: Some notes from Ancient Greece” by Sylvia Moody (The Lutterworth Press)

Sylvia Moody deals with the approach and the answers of ancient Greeks to some questions which have nagged humankind since the dawn of civilization.  Examples include: is there god? What happens when we die? What are the right moral codes?  This book is also a good introduction to Greek philosophers from Anaximenes to Zeno.

Misc Articles

September 21, 2008

The College Issue

The Thinker


With its roots in agricultural education and its remote location in rural Alabama, Auburn University has long been an easy target for ridicule from its archrival, the University of Alabama, whose students refer to Auburn as “the barn” — or as Alabama’s legendary head football coach, Bear Bryant, once put it, to the enduring delight of his fans, “that cow college on the other side of the state.”

Auburn is a land-grant university: it became one in 1872 under a federal program geared toward helping the working class obtain practical college educations. That mission continues largely to this day. A public university with an annual tuition of less than $6,000 for Alabama residents, it accepts roughly 70 percent of those who apply. Among its 20,000 undergraduates, business and engineering are the most popular majors. When students choose liberal-arts majors, they tend to be the more practical ones — communications, criminology, psychology, prelaw.

So it came as something of a surprise when, in the late ’90s, Auburn’s college of liberal arts undertook an internal ranking of its dozen academic departments and philosophy came out on top. The administration figured that there must have been a problem with the criteria it used, and a new formula was drawn up. Once again, philosophy came in first. This time, the administration decided to give up on the rankings altogether. “As I often put it to the dean, you’ve got a philosophy department that you have no right to have,” Kelly Jolley, the chairman of the department, told me recently. “It’s just way, way out of step with what you would expect to find at a place like Auburn.”

Jolley is almost single-handedly responsible for this state of affairs. When he first arrived at Auburn as a young professor 17 years ago, there were just a handful of philosophy majors, and there wasn’t much interest inside the department or the administration in adding more. Today, however, there are about 50 philosophy majors at Auburn. If recent history is any guide, a handful of them will even pursue Ph.D.’s in philosophy at highly competitive graduate schools and go on to become professional philosophers. “I don’t know of a comparable department at a comparable school,” James Conant, a philosophy professor at the University of Chicago, where two of Jolley’s former students are now studying, told me.

This summer I spent several days with Jolley, attending his classes and talking, often for hours at a time, about philosophy and his approach to teaching. At 42, he is a bear of a man with a prematurely white beard and blue eyes. He walks with an unsteady gait, the product of a pair of bad knees from his days as a high-school football lineman. You might imagine philosophers as inaccessible and withdrawn, endlessly absorbed in esoteric thoughts. Jolley couldn’t be further from this stereotype. He’s cheerful and engaged, an enthusiast about everything from college football, which he follows rabidly, even by Southern standards, to pit bulls (he owns two, Ahab and Sadie).

This is not to say that Jolley isn’t, above all, a philosopher. It’s just that he sees philosophy less as a profession than as a way of looking at, of being in, the world. “I am convinced that philosophy is not just about theory,” he told me. “It’s about a life well lived and thoughts truly thought.”

In May, when I visited Jolley, the Auburn campus had just cleared out for the summer, but he was teaching a summer class, Introduction to Logic. He was also running two unofficial, noncredited study groups, one on an early Greek theologian named Gregory of Nyssa and another on the 20th-century philosopher Bertrand Russell, which met in the philosophy department’s cramped, poorly air-conditioned lounge, known as the Lyceum, after Aristotle’s original school of philosophy in Athens.

Jolley has been running discussion groups like these since he first came to Auburn. They are emblematic of his approach to teaching, which, if it’s working properly, quickly migrates out of the classroom and into more informal settings, whether it’s the Lyceum, a coffee shop or the rambling grounds of a Civil War-era mansion where he likes to go for walks with students.

Being a philosopher requires you to engage in the practice of relentless inquiry about everything, so it’s not surprising that Jolley has spent untold hours puzzling over how to best teach the discipline itself. What he has decided is that philosophy can’t be taught — or learned — like other academic subjects. To begin with, it takes longer. “Plato said that you become a philosopher by spending ‘much time’ in sympathy with other philosophers,” he told me. “Much time. I take that very seriously.” We were sitting in his office, which was dark with academic books and journals; a large paperweight reading “Think” sat amid the clutter on his desk. “Plato,” he went on, “talked about it as a process of ‘sparking forth,’ that as you spend more time with other philosophers, you eventually catch the flame. That’s how I think about teaching philosophy.”

Jolley says he thinks of his relationships with his students less as teacher-student than as master-apprentice. His goal, as he sees it, isn’t to teach students about philosophy; it is to show them what it means to think philosophically, to actually be a philosopher. When the approach works, the effect can be significant. Several years ago, a student named Zack Loveless wandered into one of Jolley’s classes and very nearly dropped it after the first day. “I was expecting a survey course, and in walks this big scary guy, using words I’d never heard before, talking about Hume as background for Kant, telling us how hard the class was going to be,” Loveless told me.

Loveless, who grew up in a working-class home in a small town in Alabama, stuck with the course and soon switched his major from psychology to philosophy. He took at least one class with Jolley for each of his remaining semesters at Auburn and did several independent projects with him and is now getting a Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Chicago. He describes Jolley as more of a collaborator than a professor; rather than answer his questions, Loveless said, Jolley tried to work through philosophical problems with him.

Jolley is always on the lookout for students with a philosophical bent, and has urged his colleagues to recruit aggressively as well. While I was at Auburn, he introduced me to one of the department’s current top prospects for graduate school, a rising senior named Benjamin Pierce. Jolley told me that Pierce’s gift for reasoning was first identified a couple of years ago in an entry-level logic class. “If A is greater than B, and B is greater than C, then A is greater than C,” the professor said, introducing the so-called transitive relation.

“Not in rock, paper, scissors,” Pierce volunteered.

Pierce is now majoring in philosophy. “We have high hopes for him,” Jolley told me with the pride of a football coach talking up a strong tackler with great open-field speed. “I would bet that he ends up in a Top 10 graduate program.”

Jolley grew up in Gallipolis, Ohio, a small town in the Appalachian Mountains. He first felt the tug of the philosophical life during his freshman year in high school, when a teacher gave him a copy of Plato’s dialogues. An intellectually unfocused but precocious student, Jolley instantly took to the challenge of wrestling with such a difficult text. “Until then, I’d been clever enough to do whatever I wanted to do, to read with one eye,” he told me. “Then all of a sudden I ran into philosophy, and it was like running into a brick wall.”

But it was the substance of Plato’s meditations — the radical nature of the philosopher’s quest for self-knowledge — that really grabbed hold of Jolley. This was partly a function of his religious upbringing. His parents attended a Church of Christ three times a week. Listening to all those sermons about heaven and hell turned Jolley inward, made him wonder about what kind of person he was. But the church, he felt, hadn’t given him the tools he needed to grapple with that question. Philosophy did. “I’ve never been able to shake the feeling that the old Delphic instruction, know thyself, applied to me,” he said.

At the end of Jolley’s junior year in high school, the College of Wooster offered him a four-year academic scholarship. He skipped his senior year and went straight to college, declaring his intention to major in philosophy on the first day of class. Jolley went on to get his Ph.D. at the University of Rochester and was still finishing his dissertation on Plotinus, the founder of neo-Platonism, when he and his wife packed up their apartment and drove to Auburn in the summer of 1991 with their 15-month-old son.

Jolley’s early efforts to change the culture of the philosophy department at Auburn met with quite a bit of resistance from the university’s administration. Among other things, they rejected his requests for money for more upper-level philosophy classes. Determined to build up Auburn’s philosophy major, Jolley simply taught the courses himself, free of charge.

Many of Jolley’s colleagues were similarly skeptical of what he was trying to do. Several of them urged him to “tone it down,” he recalls, when they noticed the intimidating syllabus for his first class, the history of ancient philosophy, taped to the door of his office. They advised Jolley against wasting his time trying to start a philosophy club at Auburn — the club now has about 30 members — and called his approach to teaching “aristocratic.” In particular, they objected to the fact that he was grading students not on how well they learned philosophical terminology and definitions but on their ability to think philosophically.

Jolley gradually built allies within the department while at the same time looking to bring in like-minded professors. He didn’t expect Auburn to be able to land top candidates, but he was convinced that a lot of talented young philosophers were slipping through the cracks, often because they had the misfortune of specializing in an especially popular area, or because they had been stigmatized for taking too long to finish their degrees. (Jolley’s latest hire, Arata Hamawaki, spent 18 years finishing his Ph.D. at Harvard.) Auburn’s philosophy department is now dominated by graduates of some of the nation’s top philosophy programs.

By any measure, Jolley has accomplished a great deal. But in the service of what, exactly? During my stay at Auburn — and in our e-mail exchanges afterward — Jolley and I returned again and again to that very question. Why does philosophy matter?

Jolley could never seem to come up with a clear, settled explanation, and since clarity is a philosophical virtue, on one level this obviously bothered him. Yet his failure to give a simple answer was, in a way, the best answer he could have given. Philosophy is so much a part of how Jolley thinks, talks and writes that his attempts at an answer were themselves invariably philosophical, which is to say, aimed as much at exploring the assumptions behind the question as at answering it. “One reason it can seem so hard to see how philosophy relates to life is that we have often already decided that philosophy is thinking, not living,” he once wrote me. Explaining why philosophy matters, in other words, requires doing philosophy — the very thing the questioner wants explained.

While I was in Auburn, I attended a few of Jolley’s logic classes. All students at Auburn are required to take at least one entry-level philosophy course like logic. Traditionally, these “core” classes are designed to ease students into a particular subject. This is not Jolley’s approach. As he argues, core curriculums should aspire to do more than merely give students a taste of something. “Look, if the core is really going to matter for a student’s education, they need genuine exposure to that discipline,” he told me a few minutes before class. “You’re not giving them ‘the core’ if what you’re giving them is some sugarcoated simulacrum of philosophy that you’ve decided they can swallow.”

Jolley’s classes are famously demanding. Instead of assigning relatively accessible books on philosophers, he loads up his syllabuses with primary texts and asks his students to record in a notebook their thoughts on what they’re reading. “For the student merely interested in getting a degree, Kelly has nothing to offer,” says a colleague, Michael Watkins. “But for those who are interested in more, Kelly provides an example of what it means to be educated, to take one’s education seriously.”

Logic met at 9:45 a.m. in the Haley Center, a dreary-looking, 10-story building that would have been right at home in Communist East Berlin. Jolley had assigned a short essay by Lewis Carroll, “What the Tortoise Said to Achilles,” an imagined dialogue in which the Tortoise flummoxes Achilles by repeatedly refusing to accept what at first appears to be an easily justified deductive argument. Looking a lot like a forest ranger in his army green shirt, khaki pants and heavy brown boots, Jolley recapped the essay and ran through several opposing interpretations of it. At every turn, he was greeted with an uncomfortable silence.

“Not a very talkative group,” Jolley observed after the procession of flip-flops, orange Auburn T-shirts and backward baseball caps filed out of the room. “I can usually tell if students are getting it from the looks on their faces, but some of these kids were positively Sphinx-like.”

For all of the success Jolley has had creating a thriving philosophy program at Auburn, the core classes still represent the bulk of the teaching load and the biggest challenge to the department’s professors. “There’s a battle at the core level here to convince students that there’s even a possibility that philosophy might have something interesting to offer them,” one Auburn philosophy professor, Guy Rohrbaugh, told me.

It seems fair to wonder whether Jolley’s approach is the best way to win that battle. It’s been years since he has taught, say, a student on a football scholarship, and the size of his classes tends to shrink substantially after the first meeting. Jolley’s goal, as he describes it, is to produce students who are “capable of genuine creative philosophical thought.” That’s a high bar to set for students in an entry-level logic class.

After class, Jolley and I walked across Auburn’s mostly deserted campus and into town for lunch. It was oppressively hot and humid; Jolley wore a fraying straw boater to keep the sun off his face. Over pizza and iced tea, I asked him if he ever wondered whether his style of teaching might be inappropriate for a large state school like Auburn — if the cost of his approach is that he’s teaching to the few rather than the many. “My view is that you really fall into a trap when you start allowing what you believe about your students to dictate how you teach your discipline,” he answered. “Too often these days we end up setting up our courses in light of what we believe about our students and we end up not teaching them. At best, we end up housebreaking them.”

In a sense, what Jolley is engaged in at Auburn is nothing less than a defense of the liberal-arts education. As he points out, the opening stanza of Auburn University’s creed — “I believe that this is a practical world and that I can count only on what I earn” — conveys a certain kind of hostility to the world of ideas in which philosophy and for that matter the rest of the humanities plainly reside. “The creed is a fine document in many ways,” he told me, “but it reinforces a certain picture of what you’re here for, and it can be very hard to break the grip of that with students.”

In Jolley’s ideal world, every student would catch the philosophy flame, but he knows this will never happen. He says that philosophy requires a certain rare and innate ability — the ability to step outside yourself and observe your own mind in the act of thinking. In this respect, Jolley recognizes that his detractors have a point when they criticize his approach to teaching. “It’s aristocratic in the sense that any selection based on talent is aristocratic,” he told me. “I know it offends everyone’s sense of democracy, this idea that everyone’s equal, but we all know that’s just not true.”

Perhaps the dispute between Jolley and his critics boils down to how you define great teachers. You typically think about them as being devoted, above all, to their students. Jolley says his first priority is to philosophy itself. “I care about the discipline of philosophy more than the academic fate of any individual student — and I think I should,” he said. “Otherwise I’m just a baby sitter who occasionally breaks into syllogism.”

Jonathan Mahler is a contributing writer. His most recent book is “The Challenge: Hamden v. Rumsfeld and the Fight Over Presidential Power.“

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company


September 24, 2008

Fast Food Hits Mediterranean; a Diet Succumbs


KASTELI, Greece — Dr. Michalis Stagourakis has seen a transformation of his pediatric practice here over the past three years. The usual sniffles and stomachaches of childhood are now interspersed with far more serious conditions: diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol. A changing diet, he says, has produced an epidemic of obesity and related maladies.

Small towns like this one in western Crete, considered the birthplace of the famously healthful Mediterranean diet — emphasizing olive oil, fresh produce and fish — are now overflowing with chocolate shops, pizza places, ice cream parlors, soda machines and fast-food joints.

The fact is that the Mediterranean diet, which has been associated with longer life spans and lower rates of heart disease and cancer, is in retreat in its home region. Today it is more likely to be found in the upscale restaurants of London and New York than among the young generation in places like Greece, where two-thirds of children are now overweight and the health effects are mounting, health officials say.

“This is a place where you’d see people who lived to 100, where people were all fit and trim,” Dr. Stagourakis said. “Now you see kids whose longevity is less than their parents’. That’s really scaring people.”

That concern has been echoed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, which said in a report this summer that the region’s diet had “decayed into a moribund state.”

“It is almost a perfect diet, but when we looked at what people were eating we noticed that much of the highly praised diet didn’t exist any more,” said the report’s author, Josef Schmidhuber, a senior economist at the food organization. “It has become just a notion.”

Greece, Italy, Spain and Morocco have even asked Unesco to designate the diet as an “intangible piece of cultural heritage,” a testament to its essential value as well as its potential extinction.

The most serious effects of its steady disappearance are on people’s health and waistlines. Alarmed by the trends, the Greek government has been swooping into schools in villages like Kasteli annually for the past few years to weigh children and lecture them on nutrition. The lessons include a food pyramid focused on the Mediterranean diet.

It is an uphill battle, though. This spring, a majority of children who were tested at the elementary school of this sleepy port town of 3,000, also known as Kissamos, were found to have high cholesterol. “It was the talk of the school,” said Stella Kazazakou, 44. “Instead of grades, the moms were comparing cholesterol levels.”

In Greece, three-quarters of the adult population is overweight or obese, the worst rate in Europe “by far,” according to the United Nations. The rates of overweight 12-year-old boys rose more than 200 percent from 1982 to 2002 and have been rising even faster since.

Italy and Spain are not far behind, with more than 50 percent of adults overweight. That compares with about 45 percent in France and the Netherlands.

In the United States, 66 percent of adults older than 20 were overweight in 2004, and 31.9 percent of children 2 through 19 were overweight in 2006, although childhood statistics are compiled somewhat differently in different countries.

In Greece, the increase in the number of fat children has been particularly striking, parents and doctors say.

“Their diet is totally different than ours was,” said Soula Sfakianakis, 40, recalling breakfasts of goat milk, bread and honey. Her son, Vassilis, a husky 9-year-old who had a chocolate mustache from a recently conquered ice cream cone, said he preferred cornflakes in the morning and steak or macaroni and cheese for dinner.

Dr. Antonia Trichopoulou, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Athens Medical School, said the problem had grown acute with the spread of supermarkets and, especially, convenience foods.

“In the last five years it’s become really bad,” she said. “The children are all quite heavy. The market is pushing a lot, and parents and schools seem unable to resist.”

Advertising geared toward children has invaded Greece full force, stretching into the countryside. On television there are commercials for chips; at supermarkets there are stands of candy. Last year, Coca-Cola sponsored a play about healthful eating.

But facing both aggressive convenience food marketing and obesity for the first time, many rural residents here have little resistance to or knowledge of the dangers.

Dr. Trichopoulou said that some older people might have been tolerant of childhood chubbiness because Greece had for so long been a poor nation where hunger was a recurrent problem.

Outside one of Kasteli’s several ice cream parlors, Argyro Koromylla said, “You don’t want your child complaining or feeling left out, so you give him what he wants.” Her son Manolis, 12, was finishing a cone, a large T-shirt draped over his stocky frame.

Dimitris Loukakis, 44, said he was so concerned about changing eating habits that he had bought a farm to grow traditional crops himself. Sitting at an outdoor cafe by the beach, he and his wife drank iced coffee while their chunky 9-year-old daughter, Maria, nibbled on spinach pie and glumly drank water.

“I’m on a diet; I have to eat less,” Maria piped up, noting that the local school had recently started to teach students about nutrition.

“Some diet,” interjected her father. “We’re trying to keep her off sugar now. If we continue like this, we’re going to become like Americans, and no one wants that.”

The traditional diet, low in saturated fats and high in nutrients like flavonoids, was based on vegetables, fruit, unrefined grains, olive oil for cooking and for flavoring, and a bit of wine — all consumed on a daily basis.

Fish, nuts, poultry, eggs, cheese and sweets were weekly additions. Red meat, refined sugar or flour, butter and other oils or fats were consumed rarely, if at all.

Research on the diet took off in the 1990s, as scientists noted that people in Mediterranean countries lived longer and had low rates of serious disease despite a penchant for patently unhealthy habits like smoking and drinking. But that protection is now seen as rapidly eroding.

A generation ago, the typical diet in all Mediterranean countries complied with nutritional recommendations by the World Health Organization that less than 10 percent of calories come from saturated fats and that less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol be consumed per day.

Today, the typical diet in all of the countries exceeds those limits significantly, Dr. Schmidhuber said. In Greece, average daily cholesterol consumption has risen to 400 milligrams from 190 in 1963. Germany’s is similar. In Portugal, consumption went to 460 milligrams from 155.

In 2002, a British study found that 31 percent to 34 percent of 12-year-olds in Greece were overweight — a 212 percent increase since 1982 — and “it has gotten worse, much worse, since then,” Dr. Stagourakis said. One-quarter of all children on Crete have cholesterol problems, he said, and seeing children with diabetes and high blood pressure is no longer uncommon.

Unlike in the United States, where obesity is more pronounced in adults than in children, in the Mediterranean region the rise in weight problems has been more common among the young. Parents’ taste buds still tend to hew to a more traditional diet.

A survey by the World Health Organization last year of statistics from various countries found that among children in the first half of primary school, 35.2 percent in Spain were overweight — the worst rate — and 31.5 percent in Portugal. The lowest rates were in Slovakia (15.2 percent), France (18.1 percent) and Switzerland (18.3 percent). Greece was not included.

Being overweight, particularly being obese, is associated with a wide variety of medical problems, like diabetes and liver disease. While heavy children may not suffer immediate health effects, they are statistically far more likely to grow into obese adults than their trimmer classmates. And in adulthood the conditions can be lethal.

On traditional Crete, there was no need for calorie counting or food pyramids. People were poorer then, so their food was mostly homegrown, and producing it required more physical activity.

“We ate what we grew and what we could make from it,” said Eleni Klouvidaki, 46, who lives in Kalidonia, a mountain village outside Kasteli, and describes her preferred diet as “whatever’s green.” On a recent day she prepared a meal of her staple mix of zucchini, tomatoes and other vegetables, and tossed it all in homemade olive oil. Now and again, she augments this dish with beans, or meat from her chickens or rabbits.

But she said that as more women worked and shops had moved in, the food culture had changed. “We’ve entered an era of convenience,” she said. “Even in this rural village, the diet is very different than it used to be.”

She, too, occasionally grabs dinner in town, and four nights a week her son, who works in a car repair shop, drives to a fast-food restaurant. “They don’t deliver here yet,” she explained.

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company


August 6, 2008


Crisp, Refreshing and Greek


IT’S so easy to fall into a wine-drinking rut. We all have wines that we enjoy and look forward to for just about any occasion or type of food, so why even think about choosing a different bottle?

I get it completely. Some people never tire of exploring France, so never daydream about vacationing in Spain. My own two sons, my own flesh and blood, might consider altering their orders in a Chinese restaurant — but they never do. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just that we are living in a golden age of wine drinking, where so much pleasure is to be had from so many different parts of the world that I find it a shame not to branch out occasionally.

In this spirit of exploration I give you the white wines of Greece, which at the very least will expand your perspective on the popular genre of cool, crisp, refreshing wines that immediately improve any Mediterranean-style meal. You know the type: wines that are lively and unpretentious, that smack of sunshine, whitewashed walls and seafood. They are made to be drunk young and they come most often but not exclusively from Italy, France, Spain and Portugal.

Greece simply offers a subtly different take on these familiar wines. But it’s a great different take, with unfamiliar, indigenous grapes grown nowhere else. From the windswept volcanic island of Santorini in the Aegean Sea comes the assyrtiko grape, which produces dry, deliciously minerally wines. The assyrtiko vines, by the way, are trained in little bushlike circles that hug the ground, both to protect them from the wind and so that they can absorb the morning dew on this largely dry island.

From the Peloponnesus comes the pink-skinned moschofilero grape, which produces highly floral wines that can often have a rosy tinge to them. And there are so many others, like the ancient athiri, the light, citrus-imbued roditis and the textured savatiano. Of course, this is the modern world, so Greece has a growing proportion of nonindigenous grapes, like sauvignon blanc and chardonnay, but so far they play a supporting role.

The wine panel last tasted Greek wines four years ago, at the time of the Athens Olympics, and since another summer Olympics is about to begin it’s time to revisit them. So much has changed and improved.

In 2004, we had to taste both whites and reds to get a full complement of wines. This time we had no trouble finding 25 bottles of white wine. Last time we found too many bottles that tasted tired from languishing on store shelves (always an issue with unfamiliar wines) or that were overpowered by the struck-match smell of sulfur dioxide, used as a preservative but best in amounts too minute to notice.

This time, fewer bottles were dragged down by sulfur, and freshness was not an issue. For the tasting, Florence Fabricant and I were joined by the husband-and-wife team of Scott Mayger, the general manager of Telepan on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and Beth von Benz, a senior wine buyer at Zachys in Scarsdale, N.Y. We were all impressed with the variety of flavors.

“They’re all about summer, freshness, communal eating and all that one envisions going along with that,” Scott said. Beth got even more specific. “Lemon, capers, fish, tomatoes,” she said before trailing off, thinking as well, perhaps, about all that goes with communal eating. I think maybe I haven’t spent enough time in the Mediterranean.

Our No. 1 wine was the 2007 Tselepos moschofilero from the Mantinia region of the Peloponnesus, an unusual yet delicious wine that smelled like roses and tasted like grapefruit. The 2003 was one of our favorites four years ago. Back then I said it reminded me of gewürztraminer, and I can still see that today. Our No. 2 wine, the 2007 Ktima Pavlidis Thema, comes from Macedonia in eastern Greece, near the city of Drama, and is a combination of assyrtiko and sauvignon blanc. Together they produce a floral, earthy wine with flavors of minerals and lime.

We were all big fans of the moschofilero wines from the Peloponnesus, including the 2006 Antonopoulos; the 2007 Boutari, which was also our best value at $12; and the 2007 from Domaine Skouras. Incidentally, Greece uses a French-style system for appellations, including French-language designations. The Skouras, produced outside the boundaries of the Mantinia appellation, therefore receives the appellation Peloponnese.

Our No. 6 wine, the 2007 Sigalas assyrtiko Barrel from Santorini, so-called because it is barrel-fermented in the manner of chardonnay, was the most expensive wine in the group at $33. While it might be easy to deride a wine like this as pretentious, it was in fact well done, taking on a lush, smoky richness. By contrast, another 2007 wine from Sigalas, made from 70 percent assyrtiko and 30 percent athiri and without the oak treatment, was simply clean and refreshing.

A number of these wines are surprisingly low in alcohol, 12 percent and under, which is rare for a dry wine these days. The Antonopoulos was 11.5 percent and the Boutari and the Skouras were 11 percent. Frankly, it’s not something that you think about when drinking these wines, but it does make them all the more appealing in the sun.

I mentioned that fewer wines had sulfur problems, but one was a wine that I’ve grown fond of, the Gaia Thalassitis, an assyrtiko wine from Santorini. I’d made the 2006 a staple in my fridge and had found the citrus, honey and mineral flavors attractive at any time of the year. But in our blind tasting, I marked down the 2007 for having too much sulfur.

I happened to have a bottle of the 2007 at home and opened it to check again. It, too, was burdened by a sulfur aroma. Even after decanting and waiting 10 minutes, it remained. I may wait for the 2008s.

Tasting Report: Conjuring Whitewashed Walls and an Azure Sea

Tselepos Mantinia Moschofilero 2007


Rosy in color, dry and precise with rose petal perfume and grapefruit flavor. (Importer: Athena Importing, Atlanta)

Ktima Pavlidis Themis Drama 2007


Pretty and floral, with lovely texture and persistent flavors of citrus and minerals. (Athenée, Hempstead, N.Y.)

Antonopoulos Mantinia Moschofilero 2006

$17** 1/2

Tart, tangy and refreshing with aromas of grapefruit and flowers. (Fantis, Carlstadt, N.J.)


Boutari Mantinia Moschofilero 2007

$12** 1/2

Juicy and lip-smacking with citrus, floral and herbal flavors. (Terlato Wines International, Lake Bluff, Ill.)

Domaine Skouras Peloponnesus Moschofilero 2007

$18** 1/2

Dry, lively and minerally with zesty lemon-lime flavors. (Diamond Importing, Chicago)

Sigalas Santorini Assyrtiko Barrel 2007

$33** 1/2

Rich and smoky with lush texture and juicy tropical fruit flavors. (Diamond Importing)

Emery Rhodes Athiri 2006


Rich and golden with creamy texture and distinctive herbal and floral aromas. (Athenée)

Megapanos Spata Savatiano 2006


Dense and dry with a pleasing texture and floral and mineral flavors. (Wonderful Ethnic Imports, New York)

Sigalas Santorini Assyrtiko 2007


Clean and refreshing with peach and tropical fruit flavors. (Diamond Importing)

Mercouri Foloi Pisatis 2007


Floral and zesty with mineral notes. (Athenée)


Ratings, from zero to four stars, reflect the panel’s reaction to the wines, which were tasted with names and vintages concealed. The wines represent a selection generally available in good retail shops and restaurants and on the Internet. Prices are those paid in shops in the New York region.

Tasting Coordinator: Bernard Kirsch

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company



Bouzouki: also spelled buzuki, long-necked string instrument of Greece, introduced by the Turks and closely related to the tanbur, a lute of Afghanistan. Resembling a mandolin, the bouzouki is fretted, with metal strings arranged in three or four double courses. The bouzouki is traditionally used for dancing and entertainment at social gatherings, although the music is usually nostalgic or melancholy.

Tanbur: also spelled TAMBUR, long-necked lute played under various names from the Balkans to northwestern Asia. Closely resembling the ancient Greek pandoura and the long lutes of ancient Egypt and Babylon, it has a deep, pear-shaped body; a fretted neck; and 2 to 10 double courses of metal strings fastened with front and side tuning pegs without a pegbox. The tanbur has remained popular since medieval times. Its derivatives include the Greek buzuki, the Romanian tamburitza, and the Indian sitar and tambura.

Copyright 1994-1998 Encyclopaedia Britannica


Α. Θεοφυλακτίδου: ΛΕΞΙΚΟΝ ΤΟΥΡΚΟ-ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΟΝ, Κων/πολη 1960
σελ. 105
bozuk (μποζούκ): χαλασμένος, (μουσ) είδος μουσικού οργάνου με 9 χορδάς


MEYDAN – LAROUSSE: ΜΕΓΑ ΛΕΞΙΚΟ ΚΑΙ ΕΓΚΥΚΛΟΠΑΙΔΕΙΑ, σελ 540 bozuk: i. Türk halk musikisinde bir çalgι türü.
- Ansikl. Uzun saplι, tambura ve baGlama tipli Anadolu çalgιlarιnιn orta boydaki bir türüne
Güney ve Batι Anadolu'nun bazι bölgelerinde ve Kayseri ilinin köylerinde bozuk adι verilir
Bir halk etimolojisine göre makamdam makama geçiSte, düzeninde deGiSiklik yapιldιGι için
bu adla anιlmaktadιr. Yunanistan'da buzuki adlι tipi pek yaygιndιr.

Μετάφραση: Bozuk (Μποζούκ) : μουσικό όργανο της τουρκικής λαϊκής μουσικής.
- Εγκυκλ.
Ονομασία που δίνεται σε ορισμένες περιοχές της Νότιας και Δυτικής Ανατολίας και στα χωριά του νομού Κάισερι (Καισαρεία) σε ένα είδος μουσικού οργάνου της Ανατολίας, του τύπου του ταμπουρά και του μπαγλαμά , μετρίου μεγέθους και με μακρύ μπράτσο… Βάσει μιας λαϊκής ετυμολογίας το όνομά του οφείλεται στο ότι πρέπει να γίνουν αλλαγές στο χόρδισμά του (στο ντουζένι του) στα περάσματα από τον ένα (μουσικό) δρόμο (μακάμι) στον άλλο. Στην Ελλάδα είναι πολύ διαδομένος ο τύπος του με την επωνυμία μπουζούκι.

(Σχόλιο: Η "αλλαγή" που αναφέρεται στο λήμμα είναι το λεγόμενο μποζούκ ντουζένι ["bozuk düzen"], το "χαλασμένο χόρδισμα".)

Γ. Κατσαούνης, προσεκτικός αναγνώστης λεξικών και γνώστης της τουρκικής.