With Greece's entry, in 1981, to the common European Market, structural funds became available. Until then, Greek wine was carved up by four behemoths. In this antiquated wine scene, a sea of change unfolded. Many of the all-new co-operatives that sproute...
Peloponnese | White | Malagousia
With Greece's entry, in 1981, to the common European Market, structural funds became available. Until then, Greek wine was carved up by four behemoths. In this antiquated wine scene, a sea of change unfolded. Many of the all-new co-operatives that sprouted were political driven. There is no doubt of the initial and long-lasting impact. Due to infighting, a few became lame ducks. Though stricken, they were given a lifeline of sorts through political hand-outs in exchange for votes. Inevitably, marketing inertia forced many to became ''banks'' (I will get back to this later). On the western leg of the Peloponnesos, Nestor Cooperative of Messinia was set up – and on a grand scale, too. The world was not yet interested in indigenous grapes at the time. Santorini Assyrtiko was a unwanted child going for 50 Drachmas a kg. Instead, acres were planted with the ubiquitous Cabernet Sauvignon. So much so, that by the mid-1990s the new mid-size names or merchants sourced CS from Nestor. Merchants would dip into the huge CS reserves to top up their brands, then on their last leg, sold mostly to Greek tavernas such as those in the German market. Eventually, this and other not pragmatic business models simply died out. The world is a much changed place since those giddy days. This holds true also for the now re-energised world of Greek wine, where 84% of wineries are privately owned. Out of Nestor came Dimitris Panagiotopoulos, who founded in 2004, with his family, the eponymous winery and 25 hectares of vineyards. From a dozen labels, the standout is the Malagousia Bio. Not all of Greece is suitable for organic farming. All the more so if your neighbours happen to farm on different principles. There is another enticing, alas little seen, feature on this cracker of a wine: a screw cap. Those who should be using this closure type are in the hundreds up down the country. But that is another story. Yannis Flerianos, who consults to other boutique wineries in a wide cross-section of latitudes and grape varieties, nailed one of the most intriguing of these currently in vogue varietals. It's the difference, with its dip into the exotic side of this semi-aromatic grape, that is worth seeking. This endorsement comes with a twist. Though I understand the reasons for the popularity of this fashionable grape, currently Malagousia sits nowhere near the top of my current shortlist. If I was just discovering wine, it could well be a favourite. A lifetime ago, a neophyte to wine in London, an almost unpronounceable grape initially impressed me. This was none other than the hedonistic, swirling fruit-salad bowl of Alsace Gewurztraminer. This once tasted never forgotten sensation was just a path on my way to discovering and enjoying Chablis and Mosel Riesling. Does Charco's ring a bell?
Pachimari: single vineyard at Pirgos Trifilias. Alluvial soil. Altitude: 500m. Organically farmed. The wine? Initially closed, it opens up slowly. Marked fresh-basil nose. A cocktail unfolds on the palate of citrus, muscat and spice. Did I mention it opens up slowly? There is so much more character here that I kept it in the fridge for 12 hours. Utterly different wine. Less exuberant on the nose. All exotic fruit, attractive grip. Underlined by a subtle, smokey, mineral tow. Depth and texture rarely seen in this grape. Focused and concentrated. Good balance of modern winemaking know-how and terroir. Top vintage. A jewel. Best 2014-2018
29 Jul 2014 © Nico Manessis | Score: 17.5/20
|Ktima Panagiotopoulou Malagousia Bio|
|Area: Peloponnese|| |
In the scope of history, Retsina is a recent arrival in the Mediterranean. Resinated wine was first mentioned in Greece in 2300 BC. It was also made elsewhere, where vines and pine trees were to be found. That covers a large part of the northern Mediterra...
Macedonia | White | Roditis
In the scope of history, Retsina is a recent arrival in the Mediterranean. Resinated wine was first mentioned in Greece in 2300 BC. It was also made elsewhere, where vines and pine trees were to be found. That covers a large part of the northern Mediterranean coastline – amongst other places, Narbonne, in today's France, and the Greek-founded port town of Eborio, in today's Spanish Catalunia. Other, older cultures made it long before. Looking eastwards: coastal China, 6000 BC. Shiraz, in today's Iran, where grape pips and crystallised resin were found in jars dated 5000 BC. With bacteria lurking in water, wine was an accessible and safer base for medicinal potions. Honey, herbs, roots, various tinctures, bitters were also used. Fresh seawater was added as a mild laxative. The antiseptic properties of resin were also known. How did the R word enter Greek culture? In a not entirely unexpected moment of serendipity, it was the sealing properties of resin that are thought to have accidentally given birth to resinated wine. Wooden casks were first used by Romans. The Greeks also widely used jars to ferment, store and transport. Plaster, leather, or wood were used as closures. At some point, a resourceful potter, or perhaps a merchant ship captain, added a swipe of resin on the circular jar top. While at sea, the protector resin, acting as sealant, came into contact with wine. This newly born, pine infused wine actually reached beyond the flavour sensation and sense-awakening burst of menthol. Let me put it this way: If a soldier were struck by diarrhoea, it was not the best of conditions to go fight. It was comforting and reassuring to stay healthy by dropping by your local wine merchant’s shed with amphorae stuck into the ground and take in a dose of homeopathy while enjoying a drink. Hop into our time capsule and fast forward a couple of millennia to Thessaloniki, where Stelios Kechris reinvented retsina by repositioning it for the 21st century. To put things into perspective: In this bustling maritime city, there are several large retsina-only houses with most envied profitability for the Greek wine world. Their cash flow reflects the thousands of bottles opened daily. It is a different business model to capital-intensive wineries in need of time, expensive oak, additional bottle ageing, where retsina is not in sight and in some addresses, indeed, looked upon as anachronistic anathema. When the Greek wine sector was investing in modern farming techniques of indigenous grapes, underground cellars, modern wine making kit, and replacing modern graphics for kitsch labels, Kechris bet the shop by focusing on a niche, quality retsina. He had to fight the price issue and a clientele initially indifferent to this revisited retsina. Ultimately, he won the wager. He underestimated by how much, though. After 15 years of uphill struggle, he now sells 900,000 500 ml Kechribari bottles annually. Even more remarkably, this achievement took place in a highly competitive large-volume environment, where the dominant negociants count their quarterly production in millions of bottles. Chapeau bas, Monsieur Kechris & Filles!
Kechribari, a clever play on the words of the producer’s surname and the amber colour of the pine tear. Cork closure. Star-bright. Green tints. Deftly blended Goumenissa Roditis (85%) and Attica Savatiano (15%). Citrus on the clean, dry, modern, fruity aftertaste. Understated menthol lift. Harmonious. Balanced. Imaginative and well done. A lot of character packed in the light-bodied 11.5% ABV. Aleppo pine (pinus halepensis) resin, sourced mainly from Chalkidiki and Attica, added while the grape must ferments. Not just for Modern-Greek fare. Try with spicy aromatic Indian dishes.
28 Jun 2014 © Nico Manessis | Score: 17/20
|Kechribari Retsina Stelios Kechris & Daughters|
|Area: Macedonia|| |
Under your nose. While shooting videos on eastern Crete, a discovery unfolded. It came from that deep, dark ocean of life's fountain: the great unexpected. Santorini lies about 100 nautical miles north of the Ziros Plateau. This 500-m. valley bolted out ...
Crete | White | Assyrtiko
Under your nose.
While shooting videos on eastern Crete, a discovery unfolded. It came from that deep, dark ocean of life's fountain: the great unexpected. Santorini lies about 100 nautical miles north of the Ziros Plateau. This 500-m. valley bolted out of anonymity in the 1990s thanks to Domaine Economou. Yiannis Economou was making ‘natural’ wines before it became a movement from the likes of Josko Gravner et al. Ever since my first trip to Crete, a question haunted me. Simply put: Why wasn’t there any Assyrtiko on this island? Although there are now recent plantings, there was none back in 1993. Or was there? Bearded and professor-like, the patriarch of modern Cretan wine Sotiris Lyrarakis is a pleasure to catch up with. He has 50 years of experience on the Liatikos of Ziros, which Yiannis Economou has turned into a cult winery now listed for over 100 USD in New York's finest restaurants. When I picked his brains, he was adamant that it was Liatiko and nothing else: ‘The smaller berries are due to the centenarian vines and cooler microclimate. When I founded Lyrarakis with my brothers, in 1966, we brought grapes from this plateau. My nephew Giorgos and son Bart have reconnected.’ During the shoot, I followed the Lyrarakis crew in sourcing grapes from this no-man’s plateau on the south-eastern tip above the port town of Sitia. Olive-oil aficionados are familiar with the produce of these hillsides and canyons. Wine-lovers, less so. We met two enlightened farmers who grow grapes and other crops. This was one of my many unforgettable travel experiences. Their succinct factual details of climate change were a tour de force. I broke out in cold sweat. It had me thinking long into my next port of call. A small patch of vineyards with a different shade of green foliage came suddenly into focus. It had been harvested. Instinct told me it was not Greek. What is this? ‘Chardonnay,’ came the improbable answer. ‘The [Sitia] Co-operative suggested to plant this in the 1990s. To move forward.’ Yet, I was surrounded by rare ungrafted Thrapsathiri, Liatiko, Vilana, and a few other, completely unknown to me, heritage vines. It was suggested to visit a vineyard where Assyrtiko was about to be harvested. I could not believe my ears. As we scrambled around, my enlightened new friends informed me that the A cuttings had arrived in 1981 from Santorini Co-op as a gift to the Sitia Co-op. It smells of politics, but who cares? To my understanding, this is the oldest, possibly the first, Assyrtiko vineyard on Crete. This chance encounter happened in 2012. It was a difficult vintage on the big island. Nikos Somarakis, the Lyrarakis vineyard technician, had not yet offered his input to reduce vine stress. Patience is rewarded. Ample rainfall, no heat spikes, Somarakis’ coaching, all had a positive effect in the exceptional 2013 vintage. This discovery left me grinning, saying: under your nose.
Bold, yet delicate. Botanical. Gravel notes. Pear drop, crystalline fruit. Refined, expanding, textured saline finish. Minerality well done. Classy structure. Stylistically, this Cretan Assyrtiko is the ‘link’ between the take-no-prisoners Santorinis and the discreet mainland styles. Beyond rarity, two points: Altitude giving it freshness, and the relatively and usefully lower ABV13%. Unlike any other on the scene. A find. Best 2014-2019.
06 Jun 2014 © Nico Manessis | Score: 18/20
|Area: Crete|| |
On Santorini, the three As mature in the following order: Athiri, Assyrtiko, Aidani. Visually the vigour of Aidani is the more impressive. Yet, appearances can be deceiving. If there is a problem, it lies in its small acreage, as well as market forces...
Aegean Islands | White | Aidani
On Santorini, the three As mature in the following order: Athiri, Assyrtiko, Aidani. Visually the vigour of Aidani is the more impressive. Yet, appearances can be deceiving. If there is a problem, it lies in its small acreage, as well as market forces. It is mostly found in the field mix and in few more-recently planted vines notably by the beautifully restored Argyros’s Episkopi vineyards, or Hatzidakis’s Pyrgos organic plots. Aidani is gifted with a more aromatic, though lower in acid, profile than king Assyrtiko. The revisited, much in demand Aidani is needed on two fronts, resulting in some serious price hikes. Sun-dried Vinsanto's backbone tannic bite and acidity remains Assyrtiko. It is the smokey, floral aromatic qualities needed for Vinsanto that set the wineries reaching deep into their pockets. During harvest the Aidani word has become almost a battle cry. With chilling chambers now being the norm, this once overlooked grape has become something of a prima donna. Price continues to rise as demand far outstrips supply – especially as the dry varietal emerged over the last decade. This softer introduction to the bone-dry Assyrtiko has become the new darling of the fooderati. Nature’s wisdom is such that in a given year not all three As mature in the same time window. Athiri likes cooler climatic conditions, such as the 2009 and 2011. Aidani ripens slowly and in some areas it struggles to reach the full aroma spectrum and expressive flavour levels. The outstanding 2013 seems to be kind to most Aidanis. Consulting oenologist Athina Tsoli has left few stones unturned in improving quality and individuality at Karamolengos. Fully aware of the value of terroir-driven place names, she has grouped them in styles to structure their shape for each label from the vineyard up. This may be a logistical nightmare but much needed discipline. Fact remains: one has to go with these building blocks or happy-go-lucky end up in messy mediocrity. Even for the softer, aromatic Aidani, this terroir has such a strong imprint that it needs a proactive stance after the harvest futile attempts in blending. The acidity in this, much improved, varietal is impressive. It is sourced at the highest and cooler Pyrgos sites, arguably the highest and slower-ripening vineyards on this one-of-a-kind island vineyard. Interestingly, as Pyrgos village reaches 340m and the vineyards 300m, the locals refer to the microclimate as ‘Siberia’. According to Artemis Karamolengos, he sourced from the east-facing Exo Gonia and the south-western upper-Megalochori slopes. The look on his face after asking him how many hours of extra labour to harvest Aidani involves, was, well, priceless.
Platinum. Pale yellow tints. Lime scented, wet pebbles. Fat, vibrant freshness. Sweet blossom, smokey, mineral, long aftertaste. Food was made for such wines. My Portobello-mushroom risotto, spiked with six-month-old Cretan umami-rich graviera cheese, was quite a match. I urge you to stock up of this, yet another surprise from this world-class improbable vineyard. Palate-cleansing hedonism at its best.
19 May 2014 © Nico Manessis | Score: 17.5/20
|Artemis Karamolengos Aidani|
|Area: Aegean Islands|| |
This redefining-Xinomavro Naoussa address seems to be carefully unfolding more cards at this juncture. Struck by cruel fortune after loosing his younger brother, Theodore, to an accident and his father, Stergios, shortly after, Apostolos Thymiopoulos...
Macedonia | Red | Xinomavro
This redefining-Xinomavro Naoussa address seems to be carefully unfolding more cards at this juncture. Struck by cruel fortune after loosing his younger brother, Theodore, to an accident and his father, Stergios, shortly after, Apostolos Thymiopoulos, acknowledged as a brilliant farmer, has regained momentum. His post-modernist Gi ke Uranos and his clever Jeunes Vignes de Xinomavro have opened new markets for the cultish Xinomavro in North America, U.K., France and Japan. Never keen on the Greek market, he early on, in 2005, pushed to open exports. He is now a role model for others to follow, as his export strike rate is over 98%. If anything, following his personal loss, Apostolos had to come closer to his vineyards in Trilofos and Fytia, on the southern fringe of the PDO Naoussa. This bottling is another step in re-engaging in his terroir. Each year, he selects a single vineyard of 40-plus-year-old vines and bottles it with no added sulphites. In essence, he is decoding all these wonderful plots that his late father had stitched together. Being pressed on any other news, Apostolos was not forthcoming. The twinkle in his eye gave away that he has more than one set of cards up his sleeve. As I was leaving, he was hand-bottling Magnums of this reviewed wine. It all goes to be poured by the glass in wine bars in Paris and Tokyo. His parting shot was, “I did this wine to prove that not all natural wine is rubbish, with high volatile acidity, carbonic gas and weird reductive off-smells. With care, it can be done right”. The minimalist label, with a wry-humoured little boy flying its kite, captures the spirit of this wine, flying into refreshingly uncharted territory. Lying at 500m on a slope in Fytia that contains red schist. This old-vine single vineyard, named Agios Athanassios, is organically farmed. Checking in ABV15 per cent, it is broad shouldered, kept in balance with terrific acidity (7gr/L in tartaric).
Of a dark colour, for this grape. Upfront strawberry-scented fruit, followed by a dense (characteristic of the vintage) fruity core wrapped in fine-grain tannins. As no sulphur is added, which would harden tannins (especially in Xinomavro), it strikes a vivacious, clear picture. Fleshy, utterly delicious. Difficult to say how it will evolve. Still, a 1.5 L size, kept below 12ºC in the dark, could be an eye opener of how such ripeness from late-harvested grapes and high inherent acidity, for a red grape, could be brilliantly expressive of the vineyard’s full potential.
04 May 2014 © Nico Manessis | Score: 17/20
|Xinomavro Nature Thymiopoulos Vineyards|
|Area: Macedonia|| |
On the large, southern-facing slope of this jewel of a island vineyard lie the villages Pyrgos Kalistis and Megalochori. For centuries, they have been the heartland of Santorini's wine production. Alas, with no strict, enforceable land zoning, new, la...
Aegean Islands | White | Assyrtiko
On the large, southern-facing slope of this jewel of a island vineyard lie the villages Pyrgos Kalistis and Megalochori. For centuries, they have been the heartland of Santorini's wine production. Alas, with no strict, enforceable land zoning, new, large eyesores continue to be built. One sadly often appreciates something only after it has been lost. Still, demand has resulted in some good news from this diminishing acreage. Perhaps the newly found momentum of boutique wineries springing up will buffer this madness. Will it usher this under-threat terroir into common-sense long-term planning? What is heartening, bone-dry wines have scaled new heights, beyond a great low-yield vintage that 2013 has turned out to be. The quality competition amongst 11 existing wineries, soon to be joined by three new ventures, is escalating. That can only have a positive effect. Viticulture cannot be done on hot air; it needs capital to improve. I have argued in these pages that the way forward in order to protect, and add value to, these rare vineyards is to identify name places and enable us to enjoy more of this great terroir through minimal-intervention winemaking. More than anyone, Gavalas has upped his game. There are modern wines across the board, where terroir shines through a 21st-century touch. The exciting feature of this reviewed wine is not the Natural Ferment, though that has a say in the overall style. Hatzidakis has spoilt us with bottling several Pyrgos single vineyards. The grapes in this new departure by Gavalas mostly come from their Megalochori estate. Broadly speaking, Pyrgos is crisper – a study in minerals. Megalochori is not blunt on the mineral front, yet is softer, highlighting finesse. Thirty years ago, wine from these vineyards was shipped to Athens in bulk from the now defunct Megalochori wineries of Akilas, Chryssou and Venetsanos. Fast-forward to now, wine is bottled and increasingly exported throughout the world. Santorini Assyrtiko are in fact the first two words that professionals in cosmopolitan wine markets have become aware of in modern Greek wine. It only took 20 years.
White flowers. Incisive aroma of honey meshing with supple, briny phenolic yeastiness. Creamy, lemony plump texture. Marine salinity on the playful, lasting finish. A forward, approachable, soft style. Brimming with a unique sense of place. Best: 2014-2019
07 Apr 2014 © Nico Manessis | Score: 17/20
|Gavalas Santorini Natural Ferment|
|Area: Aegean Islands|| |
A great memory booster for one's armchair travels, wine has that magic-carpet-ride capability to transpose you to the top of a hill, or to a panorama of soil and nature. Nearly 20 years now, I have been fortunate to criss-cross the Greek vineyard. Whe...
Peloponnese | Red | Agiorgitiko
A great memory booster for one's armchair travels, wine has that magic-carpet-ride capability to transpose you to the top of a hill, or to a panorama of soil and nature. Nearly 20 years now, I have been fortunate to criss-cross the Greek vineyard. When in Mitteleuropa, the ''cheapest'' way for a quick visit to Hellas through my mind's eye is to savour one of her sun-drenched wines. I value two things above all: finesse and the more elusive regional identity. When Kostas Mitravelas announced that he has something ''new'' for me to taste I was curious as to how he had handled the newborn. Confession time: I have never been enamoured with over-extracted, inky-black monsters. Anyone anywhere can ape them. Would he have also bred one of these monsters? It would be out of character for him to do so, but who knows? Finally, sur place, my fears dissipated in a pleasant surprise. Kostas is hardly the talkative type. Getting him to open up somewhat was like pulling teeth: "Two bush-vine place names, Ahladia and Tsindari (at the foothills of Koutsi), are over 40 years old. They are also the lowest-yielding of my vineyards. I blended these as building blocks to produce a different expression of old-vine Nemea. It has more colour and concentration than my Ktima." Quantity, subject on the vagaries of weather, can reach 4,000 bottles. The 2011 vintage is all of 1,300 bottles. A 2012 and 2013 were also made. Mind you, this maiden vintage was not the most uniform, or a top vintage. Neither a poor one. Gaia went as far to declassify their iconic Gaia Estate. This is a genuine effort to create a jewel in the crown of this estate’s wines. If Nemea wants to move forward and shake off the current inertia, it should look for inspiration to such thoughtful efforts.
Deep red-blue rim. Cocoa powder. Fine-grained tannins. Black-cherry freshness. Depth. Finesse on the finish. Balanced. Authentic. A creamy, classy, fruity, terroir-driven Mediterranean red, capturing Nemea's Agiorigitiko core character. Though perhaps a lacklustre vintage, the old bush-vine wisdom shines. A wine with soul. Decant for 45 minutes. Best 2014-2021.
19 Mar 2014 © Nico Manessis | Score: 17.5/20
|Mitravelas Estate Nema, Old Vineyards|
|Area: Peloponnese|| |
In the haze, the Aliakmon River flows into the man-made Polyfytos Lake. In the distance, a solitary pelican glides on the mirror-like water surface. Seen from a particular angle, the abstract white building of Ktima Voyatzi could be mistaken for an interg...
Macedonia | Red | Xinomavro
In the haze, the Aliakmon River flows into the man-made Polyfytos Lake. In the distance, a solitary pelican glides on the mirror-like water surface. Seen from a particular angle, the abstract white building of Ktima Voyatzi could be mistaken for an intergalactic docking station. The striking elongated walkway ascending to the tasting room, the brainchild of architect Yiorgos Pappakostas, brilliantly captures what an uphill effort quality wine-making is. I urge future winery ventures to visit this address to see that one does not have to hark towards the past for inspiration and turn 'traditional' to eyesore. Inside, there are commanding views of the lake and the estate vineyards. One can see a battery of stainless steel tanks. It is all thought out with workflow in mind and attention to detail. So are the wines. Yiannis Voyatzis has been the longstanding chief oenologist of Boutari. Located in Velvendos, a prime peach-producing region, this estate is his own gig. Voyatzis is one of the top professionals of his generation. His approach is methodical and focused. He is keen on terroir yet sees beyond varieties, crafting a patchwork of place names into a classy, convincing mélange. His philosophy is lucid and coherent. There are no power-vinification show-offs here. What is there is a great in-situ support team. A thoughtful manager, oenologist Irine Zande daily breathes life into this venture. Roving ambassador, strikingly different younger brother Nikos Voyatzis is a great storyteller. Funny, too. Velvendos lies behind Naoussa's Mount Vermion. It is also home to distinct Xinomavro clones – different aromatics, darker colour, softer tannins. Though a Xinomavro varietal is indeed bottled here, it was the Ktima that quietly stole the show.
Comprising 65% Xinomavro, 25% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, it is the Xinomavro aromatics that take centre-stage, with a zippy acidity that holds interest, more so after carafing for several hours. Structure and tannins are so neatly interweaved it seems grafted by nanotechnology. Precise, polished sophistication, with a wink towards Bordeaux, the Xinomavro introducing exotic, charged aromatics and tension. Gratifyingly cerebral. Now, if you want to impress friends new to Greek wine, this is a great candidate for some blind tasting. The fun factor should be sky-high. Best 2014-2020
08 Feb 2014 © Nico Manessis | Score: 17/20
|Area: Macedonia|| |
A stone building houses the winery and pot still. Outside, two horses are eating hay. Several hens and a solitary turkey are “cleaning up” the edges of a linear vineyard. In the background, Vermio’s peaks, Dourlia and Giona, in a puff of snow. Winte...
Macedonia | Red | Xinomavro
A stone building houses the winery and pot still. Outside, two horses are eating hay. Several hens and a solitary turkey are “cleaning up” the edges of a linear vineyard. In the background, Vermio’s peaks, Dourlia and Giona, in a puff of snow. Winter light, so treasured by painters for their craft, adds a crystalline touch to this frozen-in-time, bucolic scenery. Ever heard of Dalamari? Methinks it is going to become justly famous in the very small world of Greek wine. It lies 420 m. high above the town of Naoussa. Recent convert to wine Stavros Kokkinos started out as a fruit farmer. Back in 2000, he had the good sense to invest in some of Naoussa’s prime place-names. One hectare of Paliokalia. He also owns 1.2 hectares of Gastra. Another 1.2 hectares of Xinomavro have been planted around the winery. Beyond his reviewed PDO Naoussa, he is also working on an ambitious Xinomavro-Cabernet Sauvignon blend. The fruit hails from another 1.7 hectares. Interestingly, the Cabernet Sauvignon vines are 30 years old. “Though I farmed fruit orchards I always wanted to make wine.” When visiting new addresses one way in assessing the vineyard’s pedigree is by “looking” at the distillates from these grapes. His tsipouro was raw, just a few weeks old. Yet, this all-Xinomavro clear-grape spirit was aromatic and textured. It is also one of the most refined I have ever tasted. The cynic may ask, “Is this estate a one-hit-wonder?” Quite on the contrary. The maiden vintage (2009) was a cracker. So much so that Xino Nero (Florina) restaurateur Nikos Kontosoros accurately commented that this vintage tasted more like cooler-climate Amyndeon than warmer Naoussa. The three aforementioned place-names have a proven track record, though only the first two are shared by other growers, namely Dalamaras, Karydas and Melitzanis. Previews of 2011, 2012, 2013 are promising, reflecting their vintage characteristics. Above all, they capture the wholesome classic (modern, not rustic) side of Naoussa. This “new” blood may not be redefining Xinomavro, but is a useful source of yet another facet of a lesser-known, rarely dull terroir.
Very fine aroma of black-berried fruit, strawberry, disappearing into ripe tannins. Expansive juicy fruit. Not over-extracted. Seamless oak. Attractive balance between acidity and tannins. Smells and tastes like no other Naoussa, yet brims with character of the PDO snapshots from which it hails.
06 Jan 2014 © Nico Manessis | Score: 16.5/20
|Ktima Kokkinos Xinomavro|
|Area: Macedonia|| |
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|| |
On the western fringe of the vast Thessaly plain, Domaine Zafeirakis is a breath of fresh air. Christos, a tall and good-looking 30-something, hails from a farming family. With studies at the American Farm School in Thessaloniki and an oenology degree...
Central Greece | White | Malagousia
On the western fringe of the vast Thessaly plain, Domaine Zafeirakis is a breath of fresh air. Christos, a tall and good-looking 30-something, hails from a farming family. With studies at the American Farm School in Thessaloniki and an oenology degree from Torino in his pocket, he has work experience at Kellerei Kaltern in the Alto Adige and Avignonesi in Tuscany.As one approaches his Tyrnavos winery during harvest time, there is a 500 m.-long queue of trucks waiting to deliver a the Tyrnavos Co-op. Muscat of Hamburg. Most of it is distilled into tsipouro, clear grape spirit. DZ is on a different cue. Its cellar is packed with Austrian-coopered foudres. Christos is precise in his approach in the vineyard, in winemaking and in his ideas regarding blending. "I like my wines to have freshness, digest, not oily – to seek another glass. The Malagousia is a blend of two vineyards: sandy clay and clay-limestone." One gives lime, green pepper and white peach, and acidity. The other offers mid-level acidity, fat and muscaty aroma." As his vineyards pick up age, Zafeirakis listens, adapts, and grows. New addition: the tasting facility overlooking vineyards and the massive limestone ridge. In the 1870s this was the border of the Modern-Greek state.
Pale. Wild ferment. A less floral, soft botanical profile. Fresh basil. Palate-awakening freshness. This focused Malagousia punches above its station. Not short of substance. Continues to evolve in the glass. It "sits" on a steely Burgundian flint axis. Best 2013-20.
10 Oct 2013 © Nico Manessis | Score: 16.5/20
|Domaine Zafeirakis Malagousia|
|Area: Central Greece|| |
Santorini's geology is a marvel, yet at the same time it is relatively straightforward. Its people's histories – that's another matter. The land split after Marco Sanudo's death, in 1227, was distributed to 20 families. Today, it is survived by an intri...
Aegean Islands | Sweet | Assyrtiko
Santorini's geology is a marvel, yet at the same time it is relatively straightforward. Its people's histories – that's another matter. The land split after Marco Sanudo's death, in 1227, was distributed to 20 families. Today, it is survived by an intricate weaving of Eastern-Mediterranean peoples and the Orthodox and Catholic churches. As I walk, again, the vineyards, a great jigsaw puzzle comes into focus. Some of the finest vines belong to the Orthodox monastery of the nearby island of Amorgos. Digitalized property deeds are attributed to Hellenised names of Italian, Catalan, and Maltese origins. The perfect setting for an Umberto Eco novel. One constant in this extraordinary geological and human landscape is Assyrtiko. The nuances now found in the single-vineyard bone-dry wines are impressive. Two are set to emerge with the 2013 vintage. On this trip my focus is sweet wines. Before me lies a 300-year-old cellar. Dug out of a tephra hillside at Episkopi, it is filled with various-size casks of Vinsanto. I am in for a treat. Tasting vintages 40 years back, tracing their differing stages of development, is a fascinating way to obtain insight on this one-of-a kind dessert wine. As I cross into the humid, quiet cellar, I cannot help thinking centuries of Venetian galleys sailing out port of Santa Irini from the islet of Thirassia, their ledger, complete with the commercial branded markings or initials stencilled on casks of the mostly illiterate Canava owners. The Episkopi cellar belongs to the Catholic Church and is leased to the Argyros family, who are Orthodox and of Byzantine origin. Recently, it has been lovingly restored. A low key affair, just like the great late Yannis Argyros, whose work ethic and discipline is a formidable legacy. Argyros was an astute person, observing, reacting, adapting. He lowered volatile acidity by carefully laying out to sun whole bunches. Blemished or not perfectly healthy grapes were eliminated. Timing is of essence in winemaking. Grapes are sun-dried for up to 14 days depending on ambient humidity levels in order to obtain the right level of evaporation. Fourth-generation Mattheos Argyros now manages this standard-setting estate. This 1998-vintage Vinsanto rises above the very good. Weather patterns helped. A perfect amount of rain when needed, no heat spikes. It takes many human decisions to help nature get that extra bit, and only some passive non-intervention to adversely subtract from a year-long effort. Apparently, Argyros pieced together all the details.
A blend of 80% Assyrtiko, 10% Aidani, 10% Athiri. Pale amber, mahogany. Botanical notes. Viscous. Laurel. Black figs. Stoney. Integrated tannic bite. Freshness and vivacious throughout. Textbook structure. The figures are as impressive as the taste, with residual sugar 240 gr/ lit 3.18 pH and 7.02 gr/l. acidity (tartaric). Age this bottle for at least five more years. It will surpass the current 1990 20-year-old. Best 2018-2038
03 Aug 2013 © Nico Manessis | Score: 19/20
|Estate Argyros Vinsanto 12-year-old barrel-aged|
|Area: Aegean Islands|| |