Greek-Swedish ventures in shipbuilding or pharmaceuticals are not unusual. In wine? This recently founded estate, with its own vineyards at Aghios Pavlos in Chalkidiki, is a labour of love by Lena Kapsali, the Sweden-based ex-policeman Jannis Sevastidis a...
Macedonia | White | Athiri
Greek-Swedish ventures in shipbuilding or pharmaceuticals are not unusual. In wine? This recently founded estate, with its own vineyards at Aghios Pavlos in Chalkidiki, is a labour of love by Lena Kapsali, the Sweden-based ex-policeman Jannis Sevastidis and psychiatrist Karl Erik Floven. Ampelou Chora’s guiding light, consulting agronomist-oenologist Spyros Katopodis has been known to me for years. I first met him, toiling in Ossa, north of Thessaloniki, at the cellar of the Zorba-like master distiller Anestis Babatzimopoulos. Spyros's good looks, boyish grin, and sense of humour cut a popular figure in the world of technicians. He belongs to a clutch of specialists who studied, not in France but in Italy. Torino crops up when discussing viticultural and winemaking approaches. To a non-technician, such as myself, the dynamics in grape blends can be endlessly fascinating. Even lesser-thought-of grapes seem somehow to morph into something that grabs one’s attention. This, new to me, Athiri and Muscat of Alexandria is anything but humdrum. Knowing when to pick each grape is crucial. Athiri’s broader issue continues, as it is nearly always picked overripe. Ampelographer Haroula Spinthiropoulou, who farms it in Naoussa, believes that when picked ABV11% it delivers its delicate and insistent character. On Rhodes, where this grape is ubiquitous, her point increasingly makes sense. A high for this medium-acidity white grape is that, around February, it smells of thyme. But I digress. In theory, Katopodis's choice of grapes, unusual though it be, does not spike one's curiosity at first. In tasting: it over-delivers. All this happens in the playground of Chalkidiki, which is better known for its picture-perfect landscape of pine trees caressing crystalline waters, sandy coves and beaches, delicious seafood. Now, if you are expecting a gorgeous Swedish mermaid to leap out of an aforementioned cove into the picture, I am going to disappoint.
Seductive floral nose with jasmine and fresh grape scents. Vivacious, peachy. Elegant blossoming finish, with the creamy Athiri coming through. Cleverly crafted. Easy drinking but enough going on (70% Athiri - 30% Muscat of Alexandria) to maintain interest. Different from a sea of wines in this style. Best 2013-2015.
04 May 2013 © Nico Manessis | Score: 16/20
|Area: Macedonia|| |
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.
As I was darting off from Goumenissa en route to Naoussa, the landscape unfolding before me recalled parts of Sancerre. The outlines of rolling hills share a remarkable visual resemblance. Yet, the French vineyard does have an edge over this lesser-known ...
Macedonia | Red | Xinomavro
As I was darting off from Goumenissa en route to Naoussa, the landscape unfolding before me recalled parts of Sancerre. The outlines of rolling hills share a remarkable visual resemblance. Yet, the French vineyard does have an edge over this lesser-known Xinomavro country. As it has been around longer, place names have be become established stylistic reference points. Travelling the Greek wine routes, one often ponders: Does terroir exist here? Are you driving past the next big thing to emerge from a near-obscure region? On this visit, signs point towards a brighter future. Goumenissa may one day become more "famous" than Naoussa. Readers of these pages may be familiar with Aidarinis' single-vineyard "Ï". It is classy. On a recent visit, it was the regular entry-level wine that impressed me most. It was wholesome. It captured, as few wines can, that elusive T word: why such a vast improvement? It soon became apparent that this stalwart address is, amongst other things, a hard-nosed pragmatist. Grapes for this pretty wine are now sourced near Gerakona from earlier-ripening (September) vineyards. This shift from the botrytis-plagued, now uprooted, older sites close to the village and in the shadow of Mount Paikos – where higher rainfall and harvest in October were the norm – is a revelation of the region's true potential. This change of sourcing demonstrates how important it is to re-evaluate the location of inherited vineyards over time. Christos Aidarinis, whose family has been making and trading wine in these hills for over 130 years, and his oenologist, Michalis Michailidis, are on to a good thing here. I urge all of you to pick up some of this "revisited" 21st-century Goumenissa. It deserves wider recognition and acclaim.
Blend: 30% Negoska - 70% Xinomavro. Average vine age: 10 years. Deeper colour than previous vintages. Ripe, harmonious tannins, packing stone fruit and substance. Both grapes shine and compliment each other on the spicy-laden lengthy finish. Exciting definition. A new benchmark. Best 2014-17.
09 Apr 2013 © Nico Manessis | Score: 17/20
|Area: Macedonia|| |
Within the variation of a vintage, there is much to be said about consistency. Especially in Naoussa, where our friend Mr. Macho Xinomavro can put on quite a show. It can tease, frustrate; does rusticity like few others; exasperate, disappoint, satiate, t...
Macedonia | Red | Xinomavro
Within the variation of a vintage, there is much to be said about consistency. Especially in Naoussa, where our friend Mr. Macho Xinomavro can put on quite a show. It can tease, frustrate; does rusticity like few others; exasperate, disappoint, satiate, thrill; leave us speechless, nodding in approval. On form, it reaches mind and body like only Assyrtiko from Santorini can. Over the years, there is little doubt as to whose Naoussa would top the consistency shortlist. Year-in, year-out, Nikos Foundis' Naoussea comes through with an honesty and value for money that are just hard to beat. In this vintage, it goes a step further and reaches that sweet spot, well, Mr. X rarely ventures into. Naoussea is, nearly always, well-done rusticity. The 2007 has that extra ripe dimension without falling into the trap of the heatwave jammy character. To date it is the most complete effort. Kudos to the whole team for delivering such a tasteful and pretty wine. To those of you who celebrate Easter, mark this wine on your shopping list.
Ripely scented with freshness and energy. No signs of fatigue or dusty earthy rusticity. Impressive entry of focused fruit with a spicy spectrum. Subtle wood. Such a clear terroir picture. Supple structure. Bright flavours. Great balance. A wine of admirable typicity and unusual elegance.
30 Mar 2013 © Nico Manessis | Score: 17.5/20
|Area: Macedonia|| |
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
An action-packed agenda for the autumn update. Much of it involved visiting top-performing addresses, or emerging talent in lesser-known, up and coming regions. Weather Prolonged spring rain brought downy mildew in places. Summer temperatures were steady...
An action-packed agenda for the autumn update. Much of it involved visiting top-performing addresses, or emerging talent in lesser-known, up and coming regions. Weather
Prolonged spring rain brought downy mildew in places. Summer temperatures were steady, with no jarring extremes. Yields were down, which helped overall quality. In spite of a flat market there was shortage of red grapes. Harvest conditions were varied, but overall healthy. In some appellations showers actually helped. Autumn started overcast, with a notable drop in temperatures. This was followed by an Indian summer. Perfect for the late harvesting of red grapes. Tasted wines show no alcoholic imprint. Attractive in these early stages. Bright fruit. Balanced. An opportunity for regional differences to shine. Added bonus? Typicity in the more-demanding grapes.
Achaia: Walked two name places at 840 m and 920 m. Mountainous horizon. One peak faded onto another. An idyllic setting, yet far from easy to farm, I learned. Lack of water in these hills means overstressing of vines is an issue; there are (cumbersome) solutions, though. Climate change? Hot air mass waves originating from the Thessaly plain present new farming challenges. It appears that nature has yet to adapt to fast-paced, extreme changes. Which means, up here, a mixed bag, in contrast to an exceptionally good 2010.
Nemea: Quantity down by 40% from the (recent) average of 15,000 tonnes. Healthy grapes, normal- and smaller-sized berries. Tasting the grapes that are delivered to wineries is instructive: The tastier grape, think of aroma on the palate, were good. No surprise that the best sites (and farmers) achieved this "aromatic" hallmark. Neutral-tasting grapes are destined for bulk- and entry-level labels. Going carefully over the numerous cluster variations one wonders how many types of Agiorgitiko exist. A trustworthy technician mentioned 280. One thing is certain: Agiorgitiko has been around for a very long time. Good colour, charming wines oozing character.
Laconia: The difficult in farming white grape Kydonitsa was bar none the single most remarkable tank tasted. A smoky mineral charged with gravitas fruit bomb. Simply, there is nothing else like it in the Greek vineyard. Photographer Kostantinos Pittas who rarely comments on our daily tastings was smitten. Forget Malagousia. "Little quince" has it all. Aroma, fruit and acidity. Minerality? It transposes the windswept rocky arid environment it struggles in this eastern "finger" of the Peloponnese. Untapped high potential.
Hinterland of Thebes: Quantities were down. Delicate aromatic Savatiano showed more typicity than the blowsy 2010s. Terrific, new to me Assyrtiko. Is this the birth of a new terroir for this star grape? The obscure dark-skinned Mouchtaro may not be the next best thing in the Greek vineyard. Useful in blends with cosmopolitan varieties, such as Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, for rose or dry red wines.
Tyrnavos: Thanks to an up and coming address, another pleasant surprise. Summer was cooler, with marked diurnal temperature variation. Re-discovered floral Limniona is poised, balanced. This cultivar is not to be confused with the demanding Limnio grown in Macedonia.
Thrace: What a difference from recent previous visits! A still hazy terroir has grown up, slowly coming into focus. Fragrant, soft, mouth-watering. Star? The difficult to ripen Limnio. Have never seen this historic, though now obscure, grape deliver its distinctive identity. Drama: in all colours, very impressive. Lip-smacking freshness in whites. Roses are pleasing, with their refreshing bone-dry factor. Reds, varietal or blends, have taken this re-energised region a notch up. They will be talked about.
Kavala: A terroir is unfolding in these foothills of Mount Pangeon, influenced by the cooling breezes of the northern Aegean shoreline. Vibrant freshness, grapey whites. A new dimension of added depth in red blends. These are all worthy efforts.
Naoussa: In 17 years of field trips I have never tasted such attractive site translation (early November). Good colour. Perfumed complexity. Tasty ripe tannins. Elegance. Interesting to follow how these seductive wines develop. There was a change of guard in several underperforming estates. As reported elsewhere in these pages the so-called "Naoussa gang" 30-somethings are upping their game. This, shrinking in acreage, historic region needed this kick start. Look out for forthcoming reviews from a clutch of estates in transition.
Amyndeon: Vineyard hygiene was not the best; affected with downy mildew. Diligent farmers were rewarded with a small yet high-quality crop. Exciting Xinomavro sparkling Blanc de noir developments emphasize the increasingly understood talents of this cooler plateau. Xinomavro's and blends are complete.
Siatista: What a change the Egnatia highway has brought to this, once important, historic old-vine region famous for its late-harvest Xinomavro and Moschomavro dessert wines! The fur business may not be what it once was, with most of the manufacturing moving to China. Nevertheless, I sensed a renewed interest for dry red wine. Met with several younger and older farmers. Soft, spicy aroma. Discreet. Whispering; not shouting. A new to me Xinomavro expression. Extolling the virtues of a wine made from 87 year old vines, I urged vineyard owners not to uproot the precious DNA pool of surviving old vines.
Santorini: Cool weather patterns sealed a terrific vintage. It equals the 2009, perhaps surpasses the exceptional 2006. High standards in all the top names. Citrus-pear aroma, crisp fruit on the mineral-charged template, are all highlighted from some of the highest acidities on record. A keeper.