In this part of the world, a desk stacked with copies of the Australian Wine Journal is not a common sight. But then, neither is oenologist Panayiotis Papagiannopoulos, one of the more sensitive technicians, tuned in with nature and grasping the broad...
Peloponnese | Red | Agiorgitiko
In this part of the world, a desk stacked with copies of the Australian Wine Journal is not a common sight. But then, neither is oenologist Panayiotis Papagiannopoulos, one of the more sensitive technicians, tuned in with nature and grasping the broader picture regarding wine. There are many innovative, re-thought, back-to-basics approaches at work in this address. Notably, a holistic approach. On a recent visit, their ‘new’ Agiorgitiko stood out. It is a star in the making. The inter-regional Agiorgitiko race is truly on, the grape now popping up as far as the cooler-climate north-east, with notable results near Kavala and western Drama. This effort is a little closer to Agiorgitiko's historic home, Nemea. With all this movement, there is never a dull moment, and the challenges of climate change have inspired a number of thought-provoking realizations. Several years back, while I was walking the Nemea vineyards with visiting IRNA’s chief ampelographer, Jean-Michel Boursiquot, it became clear to me that some of the best terroirs have been planted to olive trees. These are mostly limestone, the first tier, located just above the valley floor. Fact is that with the contraction of the Greek economy (now in its sixth year), these now precious olive trees are not going to be grubbed up any time soon. I am willing to wager that a brighter future lies round the corner. The leading nursery, local boy made good, Kostas Bakassietas has been working diligently with a whole new generation of virus-free Agiorgitiko clones. Perhaps they should first be planted on the aforementioned ‘steps’ overlooking the valley floor. So this new departure over the canyon balconies of the Gulf of Corinth is some location. A single vineyard of northeast exposure at 715 m. high on the nameplace of Pano Pythos. Planted in 2006 on a patch of clay and gravel, it is farmed organically. The wine is made with minimum intervention, wild ferment with a strong nod towards ‘natural’, aged for four months in 5,000-litter upright oak tank from Grenier in Burgundy and bottled unfiltered, using light sulfuring within the new, lower norms of EU organic winemaking laws. What struck me most was how it reminded me of what Nemea looked and tasted like in the mid- to late 1990s. All blue-rim, textured, of higher acidity. There are other realizations, to be posted in a forthcoming longer post under Opinion. In the meanwhile, it is time to rejoice and enjoy this arrival.
Blue rim. Clove-like spiciness with floral complexity. Bright cherry with a green apple bite. Concentration. Beguiling fruit depth. Marked by texture and grippy fresh tasting concentration. Uplifting vibrancy throughout. An exciting source of all-Greek natural wine. Nemea revisited. Best 2014-2024.
06 Dec 2013 © Nico Manessis | Score: 17/20
|Area: Peloponnese|| |
On my recent trip, I was happy to see that Laurens Hartman has started to use low doses of sulphur. No more signs of early oxidation, so obvious on the Assyrtiko. Wines are still made with thought, and a caring, delicate touch. Bringing on consulting ...
Macedonia | Red | Xinomavro
On my recent trip, I was happy to see that Laurens Hartman has started to use low doses of sulphur. No more signs of early oxidation, so obvious on the Assyrtiko. Wines are still made with thought, and a caring, delicate touch. Bringing on consulting oenologist Artemis Toulaki to mind cellar hygiene is another step in the right direction. The work in progress of the various blends has entered a more introspective period. It was this unique, to my understanding, all-Greek blend that was the star of the non-sparkling range. My first recollection of Limniona goes back a dozen years. It was a ten-year-old wine made at the Vine & Wine Institute in Lykovrissi. It was unforgettable how few aging signs it showed. Some genes! It is good to see this then-completely unknown grape to be on the move again. Apparently Limniona hails from the Pindos mountain range. It was “brought down” to the Tyrnavos valley floor, where its thick skin serves it well. Cooler-climate Amyndeo is closer to its place of origin. Hartman's blending Limniona with juicy Xinomavro is an inspired choice.
Deep garnet. Purple rim. Floral. Whispering minerality. Vibrancy throughout: follows onto a crisp, refreshing overlay of all-spice and dark cherries. Ripe, fine-grained tannins. Exemplary use of wood. Textbook fruit purity. Captures with panache the “natural” character and restrained Amyndeo sense of place. As anything with Xinomavro, it begs decanting.
21 Nov 2013 © Nico Manessis | Score: 17/20
|Domaine Karanika Xinomavro Limniona|
|Area: Macedonia|| |
|Variety: Xinomavro / Limniona|
This Nemea-based address dates prior to 1913. Some 15 years ago I met the late Andreas Mitravelas. He was the town's most respected bulk merchant. This was a time when old-school gents' deals in the provinces where sealed with a handshake. Regrettably...
Peloponnese | White | Moschofilero
This Nemea-based address dates prior to 1913. Some 15 years ago I met the late Andreas Mitravelas. He was the town's most respected bulk merchant. This was a time when old-school gents' deals in the provinces where sealed with a handshake. Regrettably, the world has changed and these gents have gone. His trump card was a precious network of top farmers and old vine place names, and this continues to be the estate's asset to this day. Business is mostly Agiorgitiko, with a little white Roditis and Savatiano from the valley hillsides of Korinthia. His son, Kostas Mitravelas, moved this historic house into bottling a fruity Nemea and the old-vine cask-aged Estate. Export demand for the nearby PDO Mantinia had him sourcing outside their base from this cooler-climate plateau. It is here where the blanc de gris Moschofilero reigns supreme. This Moschofilero comes from Pteri. What's in the name, Léfkes? It's Greek for birch trees, which add some interest to the flatness of this plateau in the central Peloponnese.
Spritzy. Pale. Green notes, platinum-white. Floral, with a rose-petal and tangerine fragrance. A steely middle-palate with relative volume in this skinny grape coming mostly of ABV% 12.8. High-acid whetstone mineral edge. Does not fade in the glass; remains focused. A punchy finish. A fun aperitif wine or as a fine accompaniment to oriental chili and garlic dishes. The screw-cap closure is eminently suitable for these early-drinking whites. Fresher, more expressive than with the synthetic closure used in previous vintages. For the quality, excellent value. Best 2013-2015.
20 Oct 2013 © Nico Manessis | Score: 16.5/20
|Léfkes Moschofilero Mitravelas Estate|
|Area: Peloponnese|| |
"Without travel, you can’t really know the place you are from" -David Mansaray In late November 2008, I was graduating with a degree in Enology in Athens, while at the same time I was practising my second vintage harvest on the island of Santorin...
"Without travel, you can’t really know the place you are from"
In late November 2008, I was graduating with a degree in Enology in Athens, while at the same time I was practising my second vintage harvest on the island of Santorini. It was a period in my life when I was becoming ever more curious and excited in discovering with my own eyes and soul the art of winemaking, worldwide.
Early enough in my career, I realized that no matter how many wine books I read, or how many wines I tasted I would never become accomplished before I finally handcrafted my own wine!
My journey across the wine world started in early 2009 with a trip to Mendoza, Argentina. If I were ever asked to express my overall experience in one word that word would be "teamwork", a principle I intend to treasure throughout my career.
Cahors, France, was the second destination of my journey. This south-western region in France, famed for the Malbec grape variety, taught me how the integration of everyday life with the skills of winemaking can generate a new synthesis, called "knowledge".
After France, it was now time for Australia to be my new home. Winemaking in Australia and quality control go hand in hand. I have experienced all levels of winemaking, with their impeccable focus on the preservation of flavours and aromas, both signature characteristics of Australian wines. I have re-visited Australia on numerous occasions and was always faced with the same question: "Are you a white or red winemaker?" In a country where specialization is very important, I was lucky enough to become involved with both types of wines and at the same time deal with all kinds of grape varieties.
Last but not least in my journey across the wine world was California. A land so generously gifted by nature. Napa and numerous other valleys of California are decorated every year with new state-of-the-art boutique style wineries, thus giving the opportunity for new people to develop their winemaking skills and produce new, modern wines.
One of the lessons I derived from my practical work across the world was to appreciate the knowledge that I acquired as a student of Enology in Greece and from my interaction with the local growers. Winemaking in Greece is deeply routed into our culture and has also technologically evolved throughout the years as Greek winemakers nowadays meticulously analyse, assess, and craft all types of wines.
Nonetheless, all individuals must be dedicated to becoming the best version of themselves. Opting for work placement abroad and then implementing the positive experiences from our host countries to our own ethics gives us the foundation for a promising career.
The setting, the spacious canava of Pelekanos Hotel Wine Bar. Haridimos Hatzidakis had invited the farmers from whom he sources some of his grapes, alongside with a clutch of wine lovers, to explore a decade of his Nichteri. If you are unfamiliar with thi...
The setting, the spacious canava of Pelekanos Hotel Wine Bar. Haridimos Hatzidakis had invited the farmers from whom he sources some of his grapes, alongside with a clutch of wine lovers, to explore a decade of his Nichteri. If you are unfamiliar with this term, some insight: In the past, after harvesting all day long, this was the first wine made, after dusk. Nichta is Greek for night. In essence, it was the free-run juice of the then age-old foot presses. It was a canava’s finest and most expensive wine. In today’s terms, it translates into grapes picked later, of ABV14.5% – ABV16%. To put this in context, the bone-dry PDO Santorini are on average ABV%13.5. These wines need strongly flavoured dishes. Their intensity compares to Sherry, Fino en rama. Surprisingly, another wine region also gives a nod to the unique wines of the crescent-shaped volcanic island. More on that in a moment.
On a large communal table, the mingling of land-owning farmers like the genial Christoforos Chryssou and chef Vassilis Zacharakis, who went as far as to name his restaurant, what else, Nichteri, boded for a great evening. The guest list rounded up most of the island’s wine community. Sharing was genuine. Their stories behind these wines, encompassing a very diverse and far-reaching spectrum of experiences and opinions, made this simply the most instructive and enjoyable clan gathering on my wine-route travels in years. Leading the tasting was Paris-based Hatzidakis importer, Yorgos Ioannidis. All bottles came from the producer’s cellar and were decanted between 2-4 hours. To put us in the mood with a "reference", a teaser. 2012 cask sample. Reminiscent of a Vin Jaune from the Jura. It felt like it was harvested a few months ago. Not rated.
2010: Did not reach standards and was declassified
2009: Grapey. Quince. Textured. Elegance. Structured for ageing. 18.5/20
2008: Fino-like. Heat. Tannic bite. Bone dry. Approachable. 17.5/20
2007: Petrol. Heat imprint. Honeyed. Stoney backbone. 17/ 20
2006: Focused. Complexity. Freshness. Classy. Complete. 19.5/20
2005: Petrol. Maritime salinity. Extract. Intensity. 17.5/ 20
2004: A large harvest. Fleshy. Marred by hollow finish. 14/20
2003: Floral. Spice. Cherubic. Playful. 16.5/20
2002: The smallest harvest in recent memory. Lactic. Mushroom. 15.5/20
2001: Lively fresh flavours. Energy. Some staying power! 18.5/20
2000: Back to the Nichteri style. Smokey pyritic aftertaste. Holding up. 17/20
1999: Reductive. Signs of oxidation. Sherry-like flor. Dried out. 14/20
Haridimos explained that these wines were not always from the same sites. Rather, it was all about a quest to locate the most suitable place name to deliver the best Nichteri possible. With hindsight, it is a pity that a team of young technicians with their tablets were not involved to help compile a database to build on from this pioneering quest. Interestingly, Hatzidakis also stated that the average ABV% on all these wines was 14.7. The 2006, the night’s star, was perfection. This breathtaking bottle has joined my pantheon of the greatest wines I have been lucky enough to enjoy over the years. Let me put it this way: There was no spitting out. As I stepped out on the cobblestone street of Fira, cold winter air bracing my face, something quite unexpected happened. I jumped up, clicking my heels. Now, I may be a poor dancer but, with the elating rush throughout my body and soul, it felt, for that fleeting instant, like the gravity-defying, mid-air hovering leap Mikhail Baryshnikov performed in his day.
Switzerland, my adopted country of domicile, could in two words be summed up as thrifty and industrious. One could add organized, too. This is a story of Swiss teamwork on Patmos, where a mountainous and an island culture bonded while reviving an abandone...
Switzerland, my adopted country of domicile, could in two words be summed up as thrifty and industrious. One could add organized, too. This is a story of Swiss teamwork on Patmos, where a mountainous and an island culture bonded while reviving an abandoned wine farm. Patoinos-Domaine de l’ Apocalypse, at Petra, is the vision of ex-parliamentarian Josef Zysiadis.
This ex-theologian and politician has proven a great forward-planner and organizer. Has anyone recently heard of Patmos wine? Not for a while. Sixty years ago, Muscat of Alexandria and the red Fokiano were abundant on numerous terraces throughout the island. Zysiadis turned for advice to leading ampelographer Kostas Bakasietas. He in turn recommended Santorini's great Assyrtiko and another, age-old Aegean specialty, Mavrathiriko (Black Athiri). Four vignerons-encaveurs from the Canton de Vaud were generous with their skills and time.
Gilles Wannaz, a long-term convert to biodynamics on his farm overlooking Lac Leman spearheaded. He first brought his family here in winter to get a feeling of the “energies” and prepare the soil, not using soil-compacting tractors but mules. He returned in spring 2011 with Noé Graff, Raymond Paccot, and Raymond Cruchon to plant.
The soil was “biodynamized” with their know-how. There are several novel to Greece schemes, such as a vine-adoption program. Out of 10,000 vines, 2000 will be leased for ten years and in return you will receive one bottle of each vintage. The day of my visit, a French visitor walked in, inquiring details for adopting one Assyrtiko vine. One wonders what Mavrathiriko rosé will taste like!
There are other exciting plans on this eco-friendly venture: Donators have come forward with an olive press. Further to the estate’s olive trees, remarkably, there are 2000 on the island. There is more to this Swiss-Patmos connection: there is also the wonderfully named Aristides Miaoulis – his surname comes straight out of the 1821 Greek War of Liberation – a local who moved 35 years ago to Moudon, in the Canton de Vaud and became a cheese maker. This busy retiree has set up his small workshop not far from the winery. Tomme de Patmos anyone?
Beyond agriculture, there is a cultural note in these constructive efforts. Old engravings, to the left of the old town, depicting three windmills, have been restored by Geneva's banker Charles Pictet.
Are we looking at a trend here? Is this rebirth, driven by Swiss input and long-term commitment, to be repeated by other like-minded people? One would hope so, as the inertia-riddled, fiscally and morally bankrupt Greek state has at this juncture little to show for itself. My only bone to pick on this pioneering project is why it took the Patmos Monastery of St John ten years to strike an agreement with Joseph Zysiadis? May I suggest to owners of other estates up and down the archipelago a little more of the 21st century: Posting details and inviting lease offers on the Internet would be a good starting place.
For more information please visit www.patoinos.ch