Thanassis Parparoussis is an emblematic figure of the boutique winery movement that burst on the scene in the late 1980s. His generation helped change the face of Greek wine. His manner and profound interest in a broad spectrum of subjects carry the hallm...
Peloponnese | Distillates | Sideritis
Thanassis Parparoussis is an emblematic figure of the boutique winery movement that burst on the scene in the late 1980s. His generation helped change the face of Greek wine. His manner and profound interest in a broad spectrum of subjects carry the hallmark of a gentleman. One can spend hours listening to him. On a recent visit I found him rejuvenated. Much of this newfound momentum has to do with daughters Erifili and Dimitra now actively part of the new team ushering in new ideas and directions.
Parparoussis followed his own heart, with off-the-beaten-track choices. When his colleagues were betting their future on French-origin cosmopolitan grapes, he went even deeper into all-Greek grapes. Roditis, Nemea Agiorgitiko, Mavrodaphne and Muscat for dessert wines. Then came Sideritis, on the fringe, a misunderstood minor player. A late-ripening grape, a.k.a himoniatiko (of the winter), it is mostly found hanging from pergolas over hundreds of courtyards up and down Greece. It adds colour into late autumn-winter, picking up pink hues as it slowly matures. It is named after sidero (iron) due to its high acidity and minerality. Parparoussis has marketed Ta Dora tou Dionysou label, a refreshingly lower-alcohol, high-acid, touch-of-spice, bone-dry white. Tagging it as the Greek vineyard's answer to Gros Plant would be too simplistic. It is fatter, and then there is that turn of the pepper mill. I had first seen the grapes of this wine in old bush vines at Parparoussis's home vineyard at Bozaitika, now a suburb of Patras. While there, I had a chance to visit his other vineyard in Movri on the western coast of Achaia, overlooking Cephalonia, the largest of the Ionian islands. In the shadow of a large eucalyptus forest he farms Assyrtiko, Athiri, Sideritis and Mavrodaphne. Soil is alluvial sandy littered with all sorts of stones. Parparoussis picked up a conical stone with an inner darker circle. "That is manganese". The two As (Assyrtiko and Athiri) and the dark-skinned Mavrodaphne had been harvested. As we approached the late-ripening Sideritis, I was pleasantly surprised: They were flame-orange-red and small-berried. In fact, they looked like nothing I had ever seen before. I shot a video interview and gleaned insights on clonal selection and cultivating Sideritis on trellised vines.
In addition to the above-mentioned dry white, Parparoussis also distils Sideritis wine and then ages it for 12 years in Limousin oak casks. The name of this spirit stands for "Aged Wine Distillate". Now why on earth such a uniquely identifiable handcrafted spirit is not better known is beyond me. Even dressed-up in its elegant new packaging, care of Erifili and Dimitra, it has not yet met with the success it deserves. I urge all sommeliers and mixologists to check it out. If you appreciate its one-of-a-kind character, spread the news.
Medium-dark amber. Clear. Vinous. Floral, allspice. Gentle oak accents. Middle palate is round, almonds alternating with vanillin. Balanced and persistent, richly flavoured smoky finish. Intense. Outstanding. "Read" the empty glass - there is a lot in there.
25 Mar 2012 © Nico Manessis | Score: 18.5/20
|Parparoussis Apostagma Oinou Paleothen 40% ABV|
|Area: Peloponnese|| |
The first recollection of this estate harks back to the 1980s - a period when Greek wine was not yet a renaissance story. My esteemed colleague Gerald Asher, whose well-researched, urbane essays remain amongst the finest in the wine-writing canon, actuall...
Macedonia | Red | Xinomavro
The first recollection of this estate harks back to the 1980s - a period when Greek wine was not yet a renaissance story. My esteemed colleague Gerald Asher, whose well-researched, urbane essays remain amongst the finest in the wine-writing canon, actually drove to Polla Nera, an area on the north-eastern tip of the Naoussa appellation.
In spring 1993, I first went to see the founders, brothers Trifonas and Dimitris Markovitis. The very name Polla Nera ("a lot of water") was - for a budding wine writer - alarming, to say the least. During my formative years of working in France, my mentors' mantra was that well-draining soils make the finest wines. In that pre-climate-change period this was proven time and time again. Why, but why would anyone start a boutique winery near a place with such a name? The answer was unexpected in part. Apparently, during the 1922 population exchange (euphemism for ethnic cleansing) of Greeks from Turkey and Bulgaria, the Modern Greek state allocated these uprooted people land in remote, sparsely populated areas. There is a charming story here: Someone was given the task of establishing a new village, named Polla Nera (a rudimentary topo in hand? Wrong directions?). The location proved to be wrong. By the time the designated area was discovered to be elsewhere, its water springs and plane tress indeed befitting its evocative name, it was too late. On my recent visit I mentioned this to Dimitris Markovitis, who illuminated further. Chuckling, he added, that the correct location was 16 km away at Polyplatanos (a placename meaning: "many plane trees").
Dimitris's son Markos shares two cultures, the other being German. He studied at Weissberg, in Baden-Württerberg. The year 2007 was his first vintage. He is partially replanting the extensive, well-draining vineyards; his first steps include changes in cellar practices, such as less oak. To my understanding, Pegasus was one of, if not the first, boutique producers to embrace organic farming over 25 years ago. Biodynamic agriculture next? The winged horse enters a new era. Good to see Markos blazing his own path.
The 2007 vintage in Naoussa was one of extended heatwaves. Xinomavro does not thrive in these conditions, especially over-stressing during véraison (when grapes change colour from green to red). It actually performs best in cooler summers, such as the pretty 2011. So does this mean a five-hour decanting? Not quite. I found one hour was sufficient for it to come on song.
Unusual and different fragrant fruit aromas due in part to red topsoil. Ripe thanks to low yields and old vines. Not as tannic as other 2007s. Follows through with a floral place signature; gentle spice on the finish. Seductive digest-style, mid-weight Naoussa. Best 2012-2017.
29 Feb 2012 © Nico Manessis | Score: 16/20
|Area: Macedonia|| |
After orange wine, is edge the next thing? One never knows. I doubt it. By their very nature they are challenging and demanding wines. Some say that the world is full of smooth-tannined fruit bombs and there is a niche for such styles. This is a valid arg...
Macedonia | Red | Xinomavro
After orange wine, is edge the next thing? One never knows. I doubt it. By their very nature they are challenging and demanding wines. Some say that the world is full of smooth-tannined fruit bombs and there is a niche for such styles. This is a valid argument.
This review is about an estate en route from edge to modernity while maintaining its identity - a tightrope act worth following closely.
The Naoussa Protected Designation Of Origin (PDO) vineyard sits on numerous undulating foothills of Mount Vermion.
Ever heard of Mantemi? It lies due north and lower of the slope of Gastra. Walking it was illuminating: Topsoils are intriguing, with sandy clay and large green stones of an unidentified porous material. Different to Gastra's - and to everything else I have come across in this clutch of dispersive vineyards for that matter. It reminded me that there are several Naoussa sub-regions that are not really suitable for viticulture. Naoussa is not alone in this; such areas exist in much grander addresses. There are other crops, too, such as peaches and cherries.
So far Mantemi is a monopoly to Yiorgos Diamantakos, who has focused on wine, contrary to his tsipouro-distiller father Evangelos. Polishing up partly hidden terroir, Yiorgos has quietly produced a string of Naoussas since the 2006 vintage. They translate the vintages, albeit without clearly defining their name place yet, in a welcome development in the change of guard at Diamantakos.
Dark ruby. Slowly opens up to earth, sous bois. It then blossoms to strawberry scents. Cocoa. Depth. Tannins reminiscent of Renato Ratti's Nebbiolos, with increased volume, firework aromatics and an intense palate. "Sweet" strawberry and graphite on the bitter-almond, edgy, rich in glycerol finish. A highly strung thoroughbred. At this juncture, three hours of decanting, and all parts meet in harmony. Serve at cellar temperature. Best 2012-2018.
15 Feb 2012 © Nico Manessis | Score: 17/20
|Area: Macedonia|| |
Time to debunk another, very modern Greek myth. In fact, this is one of the most annoying bits of disinformation in circulation: "Limnio was Aristotle's favourite wine." Wow, thinks the unsuspecting gullible punter. It was a handy sound bite for score...
Thrace | Red | Limnio
Time to debunk another, very modern Greek myth. In fact, this is one of the most annoying bits of disinformation in circulation: "Limnio was Aristotle's favourite wine."
Wow, thinks the unsuspecting gullible punter. It was a handy sound bite for scores of journos discovering Greek wine in the late 1990s. It was repeated ad nauseam. I doubted this as a cheap, opportunistic marketing gimmick. In the very small world of Greek wine it almost got as big as the Black Athena story. Thankfully, it did not come up during the NBC Television live overview of the Greek vineyard to mark the Athens 2004 Summer Olympic Games. Now, imagine Aristotle the philosopher on his peripatetic campus below today's Naoussa. Amongst his pupils from nearby Pella, a young prince, Alexander. Yes, the very one. Dusk, supper. What did they drink? Generous quantities of Limnio? Not so, says wine historian S. Kourakou-Dragona. She attributes this to a rear-label distortion of facts by a naughty consultant. "The only person linked to Limnia ampelos (the Limnos vine) is Polydeuces", she clarifies. Will get round to him in a forthcoming post.
Traveling on today's Via Egnatia motorway. Eastbound. Fog. Time to focus on my visit ahead to Kikones. It becomes impossible. Seasonal changes tease. The light is shades of sandstone, gold-grey hues. Lake upon lake to my right unfold, as do convoys of trucks. As I enter Maronia, the sun beaks, softly. The northern Aegean shimmers, platinum. Billowing smoke from fields becomes one with the lifting fog. As I turn off, I spot a solitary heron with his striking stance and hunter’s glance. Kikones, the winery, named after the warrior race that lived in this part of the world two millenia ago, comes into view.
Sister-brother team Melina and Vassilis Tassou are a breath of fresh air. Cosmopolitan, realists, conscientious stewards of the soil. They are pioneers in reviving wine and its culture in Greek Thrace. In the 1990s, their father, Apostolos, planted the first modern-day Maronian vineyards. There are several novel approaches that this switched-on, open-minded address has to show for itself. All wines have taken a quantum leap forward. Until now, most Limnio ended up in blends, mostly to conform to arcane legislation. This is now changing, however. Kikones offers not an over-cropped example. In all honesty, this is the first ever varietal of this now obscure grape of anecdotal acreage that translates such a clear picture. While I research Polydeuces and the Athonite monasteries, I enjoy this worthy newcomer’s breakthrough.
Mid-ruby. Elegant aromatics. Initial whiff of griottes (morello cherries). With aeration it opens up to maquis-botanic notes. Firm, tannic backbone, with tension on the savoury, long finish. Well-judged extraction and oak ageing. A stand-apart wine, brimming with character. Decant and "watch" it evolve over what can be a long dialogue. Instructive and enjoyable. Best 2012-2017.
16 Jan 2012 © Nico Manessis | Score: 16.5+/20
|Area: Thrace|| |
Agiorgitiko is new to northern Greece: all of 12 years. Having in situ tasted current and forthcoming releases, the future looks bright. The cherry core present in Nemea is still there, enveloped by a tauter, less Mediterranean generosity. As seen in t...
Macedonia | Red | Agiorgitiko
Agiorgitiko is new to northern Greece: all of 12 years. Having in situ tasted current and forthcoming releases, the future looks bright. The cherry core present in Nemea is still there, enveloped by a tauter, less Mediterranean generosity. As seen in this review, it is capable to stand its ground as a varietal. However, the great surprise was some rather clever blends. There will be a series of postings. Four such wines in the rich 2010 and the pretty 2011 vintages are a step up. In fact, they take your breath away. Vassilis Tsaktsakrlis "listens" to his numerous vineyards. As vines with time increase complexity, he fine-tunes blends accordingly. In my recent visit, all wines were focused and articulate, subtle and effective. His gentle touch and use of cooperage is textbook. A consummate professional, he is a man of few words, with the smarts to keep away from politics. He is walking the vineyards most of the time. It shows. The 2008 was, again, not a uniform vintage, with regional variations swinging either way. In broad strokes, solid yet low on excitement. Certain mesoclimates and addresses achieved a touch of seriousness. There is no doubt of wines improving not something than can be said about label design. Even though there are improvements, the packaging of some of today's Greek wine is doing little justice to it's content. This label stands apart. At first glance it reminded me of Spanish landscapes "leaping" from Miles Davis's Concierto de Aranjuez. The artist? Vassilis's daughter, Areti: She painted Harvest when she was seven. I can see her perky-faced shot framed in her dad's office. There is little doubt that the northern expressions of Agiorgitiko will continue to pleasantly surprise us. Beyond the senses, they tickle the intellect. Nemea is hedonistic, at this juncture Macedonia has added stature. Watch this space for more!
Purple rim. Dark, for this grape. Red berry fruit with gentle cocoa aroma. Layers of velvety tannins. Morello cherry follows up on a creamy intensity. Stony mineral on the richly-flavoured, fine-grained, dry finish. Serious stuff. Best 2012-2018.
16 Dec 2011 © Nico Manessis | Score: 17.5/20
|Areti Biblia Chora|
|Area: Macedonia|| |
Frankly, I never thought I would be writing these lines. In essence, this post has been in waiting for 17 years. What's it all about: The missing link in today's Greek wine has arrived. I cannot wait to share my enthusiasm on this new entry. In all ...
Macedonia | Sparkling | Xinomavro
Frankly, I never thought I would be writing these lines. In essence, this post has been in waiting for 17 years. What's it all about: The missing link in today's Greek wine has arrived. I cannot wait to share my enthusiasm on this new entry.
In all of the fragmented Greek vineyard, it is landlocked Amyndeon that boasts of the most impressive diurnal temperature variations. Recent statistics only reinforce the comparative advantage of this cooler climate. For several reasons, it is ideal for sparkling wines.
Xinomavro is an endlessly fascinating grape. It is different in warmer Naoussa, where the aromatics are more Mediterranean (tomato vine comes to mind), and in Goumenissa, with its discreet, spicy aroma - and these are just two out of several nearby sites where this leading cultivar is to be found. Furthermore, the Xinomavro-induced aromatic and palate intensity would be overpowering for a sparkling wine. The subtlety and freshness of Amyndeon wins hand down
What is admirable is that a relative newcomer, the Dutchman Laurence Hartman, found his way around this largely uncharted, nuanced Xinomavro terroir. Thanks to a thought-through approach and the precision required for a handcrafted Methode traditionelle, we are also seeing the more discreet side of this, now booming, region. The choice of focusing on 40-year-old vines contributes to a restrained, polished profile.
This Blanc de noir is a revelation. It has been taught good manners. Yet, my gut feeling is that there is still so much more to learn and receive from this, now urbanized, strong-gene peasant. For this I what I can only liken it to due to the infinite guises and name places to which this grape is capable of morphing into. I urge you to search elsewhere on this site my chronicling of the new wave of Xinomavro and blends. If you like wines that speak to heart and mind, then you may have found a new soul mate.
To date, of the 12 wineries now operating in Amyndeon, Domaine Karanika has under its belt the most convincing effort in this under-invested category. Catch early this unfolding act and, pokerfaced, glass in hand, go ahead and surprise your friends. Serve it blind. As this going-places address grows, I expect new nuances to be introduced to this, so far, all-black grape cuvee. Perhaps some of the delectable 2011 vintage could undergo its secondary fermentation in magnums.
Beyond pleasure, further clues could be gleamed on the microclimate and the silt, sandy and limestone bedrock on which these vineyards sit. Laurence is a thinker; he plans ahead. Beyond a twinkle in his eye there is grit. It serves him well. This is an estate to watch. As I leave, his smiling wife Annette and a school of dogs see me off in the autumn afternoon mist. Heading west on the Egnatia Highway to under-revival Siatista for yet another Xinomavro "you-know-what".
Pink-grey hues. Fine, small, bead mousse. Yeasty. Subtle gunflint. Hint of strawberry. Finely defined tannins. Vibrant, tangy acid. Persistent "string of pearls" beads with no sign of going flat even after 15 minutes in a fluted glass. Neat and light-footed, elegant even. From the 2009 maiden vintage. Best 2012 - 2015.
21 Nov 2011 © Nico Manessis | Score: 17/20
|Domaine Karanika Cuvée Speciale Brut|
|Area: Macedonia|| |
This joint venture underlines the open-minded attitude of Nemea-based I Sofia tis Fisis (Nature's Wisdom) and the forward thinking of the Katogi-Strofilia wineries. It all started after a casual roadside meeting between Nikos Bouzinelos and veteran Achi...
Peloponnese | Red | Agiorgitiko
This joint venture underlines the open-minded attitude of Nemea-based I Sofia tis Fisis (Nature's Wisdom) and the forward thinking of the Katogi-Strofilia wineries. It all started after a casual roadside meeting between Nikos Bouzinelos and veteran Achilleas Lampsidis. As Sofia tis Fisis make Greek varietal and herb-infused vinegar, petimezi (grape syrup), and other grape-based products, they are not geared to make wine per se.
A healthy dose of skepticism enters my mind every time I read "organically farmed grapes" on a label. "Who is your neighbor", is the first of many questions any wine writer worth his salt should ask. So after tasting this news-worthy effort, off I went to see where The Wise Owl grapes originate. Beyond a pretty bucolic setting of olive groves interrupted by nature's exclamation marks, cypress trees, this Paleochori single vineyard on the north-eastern flank of Koutsi is in good company: conifers. With a growing demand from the US market and Europe for natural wines, both principals jumped to the opportunity and joined their talents. Petros Keknopoulos, oenologist at the Katogi-Strofilia winery in Nemea's Asprokambos, was the perfect man to take up this challenge. His principals had the good sense to send him off for a year to become a post graduate student at the Australian Wine Research Institute, in Adelaide. "No-sulphite wine is the most difficult to control. Luckily, harvest had not yet begun. There is quite a lot of preparation; one needs to sterilize all the kit. It is a demanding but fun project."
So all you switched-on readers are by now wondering why the back label still states: "10 parts per million of sulphur". The answer is that the fermentation process naturally creates tiny quantities of sulphur. Interestingly, white wine produces higher amounts than red. Another tip: Just after harvest, I got to taste the 2011 Wise Owl. It is fruitier. No lover of Nemea should give this wine a miss. It is a new to all of us facet of this charmer of a grape. Yet again, as this novel approach clearly demonstrates, we really know very little about its dynamics.
Very dark for this grape, as no-added-sulphite wines usually are. Bright floral notes with black pepper. Textbook Agiorgitiko core of cherries on the mid-palate. Ripe tannins, spice following through on the rich, tasty finish. Vibrant and pure. Such a sense of place that not all of Koutsi (500m) is capable of. Stylistically, a modern take of Nemea, which I first encountered in 1993. Serve it at cellar temperature in large glassware. For immediate enjoyment. Best 2011-2013.
09 Nov 2011 © Nico Manessis | Score: 16/20
|Agiorgitiko The Wise Owl|
|Area: Peloponnese|| |
For more information please visit www.sofiatisfisis.gr
One of my summer highlights was rediscovering Sake as wine. My Japanese friend and I bartered Sake for wine made from indigenous grapes. Now, what has this got in common with fresh beer in these pages? Surprisingly, quite a lot, even a terroir connecti...
Aegean Islands | Distillates | Assyrtiko
One of my summer highlights was rediscovering Sake as wine. My Japanese friend and I bartered Sake for wine made from indigenous grapes. Now, what has this got in common with fresh beer in these pages? Surprisingly, quite a lot, even a terroir connection.
SBC's ambitious new venture was founded by a clutch of cosmopolitan partners. The guiding lights as to three, so far, styles of fresh beer are an Austrian consulting brewer, an English marketing guru with a penchant for brewing, and a Greek oenologist. The resident Master Brewer is Boban Krunic, who is Serbian, and Managing Director is the Californian Magda Anderson. I know, this sounds like an introduction to a joke. In fact, this is a serious effort by players brimming with talent and determination. In the current economic gloom, smiles have been wiped off people's faces in Greece. This effort could not be more timely. Something positive to fuel some passion back into our daily lives.
In search of my hunting terroir, I get to taste unexpected, to say the least, concoctions. A taste apart? A white wine, of sorts, on the island of Evia. It was kept in cask made of Cyprus wood. Taste-wise, let's call it a medicinal elixir. There is something similar, though more sophisticated, on the island of Lanzarote. As those of you who have followed my writing may know, I have never liked beer. This mass-produced, pasteurized stuff is one-dimensional, lifeless, tasteless. What's worse, the morning after, I wake up with a soapy palate. Enough said.
This new crazy donkey ale is of limited production. No hype here, all true. Per batch 200 champagne bottles. The wine connection comes through two unexpected sources. This is the world's first unfiltered, non-pasteurized barley-malt beer primed with Santorini Assyrtiko (2011) must. The wine kinship continues with help from another famous wine producing island, New Zealand. Not in the form of its signature grape, but Sauvin, one the world's prized New-Zealand-grown hops. As the tasting note reveals, though, there is a similarity in the aromatic and tasting profile.
The back label is no crashing bore of legal requirements. It is informative, entertaining too. Not unlike the people involved in this venture. The witty parting shot is, "HIP HOPPY KICK-ASS ALE". Semantics apart, crazy donkey is the first ale as wine that I know of. SBC's other two brews are yellow donkey and red donkey. More about those later.
Cloudy orange in colour. Long-lasting frothy head. Hoppy wine notes reminiscent of Sauvignon blanc. The southern-Aegean volcanic juice seems to lurk somewhere in this briny, yeasty, rich cocktail. As improbable as this sounds, it works. This is an unexpectedly fruity ale, with an IPA-ish mid-palate which goes on to a very fruity finish that seems to go on forever. A rarity. Who knows, it may even convert a few of us wine lovers to what Egyptians called "liquid bread".
24 Oct 2011 © Nico Manessis | Score: 18/20
|Santorini Brewing Company crazy donkey 5.5% ABV|
|Area: Aegean Islands|| |
Within eye distance of Athens International Airport one sees thousands of acres in vine. This is, par excellence, white wine country, planted to the Savatiano grape. More recently, the aromatic Malagousia grape has also been grown in this "sea" of Sav...
Central Greece | Sweet | Savatiano
Within eye distance of Athens International Airport one sees thousands of acres in vine. This is, par excellence, white wine country, planted to the Savatiano grape.
More recently, the aromatic Malagousia grape has also been grown in this "sea" of Savatiano vineyards. Hailing from north-western Central Greece, this fashionable aromatic grape seems to have adapted well in its new limestone-rich home.
In its 21st century incarnation, the Papagiannakos winery has garnered praise in architecture magazines. It has also picked up several awards for its energy-efficient design. In a roundabout way, this new dessert wine has much in common with its ancestors in these vineyards. Malagousia, is the Greek vineyard's less oily answer to Viognier. In Attica's long-standing farming traditions, out of thrifty necessity, locals maximized the vine's offerings through resourcefulness. In late spring/early summer, vert jus from unripe green grapes was used as an alternative to lemon juice. During harvest, grape must was used as natural sweetener to bake biscuits named mousto- (must) kouloura. A dash of cinnamon et voilà: healthy energy-packing carbohydrates. The fine lees were used in baking pork. Lees and grape pips were used as a protective rind in cheese-making. Nothing went to waste.
Topping this rather long list of uses is "vrasto" (boiled) to make sweet wine; some of it served sacramental purposes and some as a handy pick-me-up during winter pruning. There was a social aspect in partaking at Xmas, or drinking by the fireplace. Vrasto is the method that 3rd-generation winemaker Vassilis Papagiannakos has revived for this maiden vintage of Melías: He starts with boiling approximately 40% of the desired final quantity of wine with Malagousia grape must. He then adds successive doses of the live fermenting grape must. Eventually, this golden-coloured nectar ends up with 13% ABV. Natural sugar reaches 120 gr./l. Balance in such a rich wine comes from 6.9 gr./l. of acidity (in tartaric). The uncluttered label is elegant, not unlike the liquid itself, in a useful 500 ml. clear bottle. Who says Attican wines are boring?
Honeycomb waxiness, acacia-honey aroma. Smokey. Ripe pineapple. Textured cedrat on the medium-length, layered finish. Fine balance. Satisfying. Drink 2011- 2016.
29 Sep 2011 © Nico Manessis | Score: 17.5/20
|Melias Domaine Papagiannakos|
|Area: Central Greece|| |
The colour of several Naoussas has become increasingly, and atypically, darker. Is this down to climate change? I do not think so. New clones? The acreage is minute to make such a difference. One of the attractive traits of this grape is its inherently...
Macedonia | Red | Xinomavro
The colour of several Naoussas has become increasingly, and atypically, darker. Is this down to climate change? I do not think so. New clones? The acreage is minute to make such a difference.
One of the attractive traits of this grape is its inherently medium red colour. There is no purple-blue anthocyanin here as in Syrah or Aghiorghitiko. Colour-wise it keeps company with Pinot Noir. Its tannic structure resembles Nebbiolo from Piemonte.
Unfortunately, a few addresses are succumbing to a makeover notion that ”darker is better”. I find it a pity that the odd bucket or two of Syrah, or poorly farmed Merlot, find their way into these wines. Yet, the crux of the problem is farming practices. Few Greek winemakers understand that, with climate change and vines overstressed by lack of water, especially during véraison, there is a risk for the muscular tannins of Xinomavro to dry out. Recent statistics show a decrease in annual rainfall on this patchwork of vineyards below Mount Vermion (2,052 m.), especially during periods when it is most needed. Moreover, only a handful of vignerons are willing to risk harvesting late, which would give this vigorous grape a chance to deliver fully ripened grapes
Ever since the remarkably aromatic and delicate 2004, I have chronicled the rise of Ghi ke Uranos(Earth and Sky). It was more than an eye-opener; it was the long-awaited next step.
With this young-vine Naoussa, Apostolos Thymiopoulos continues to set an example to this underperforming appellation of how to ripen Xinomavro. This estate has now become Naoussa’s tannin management champions. This single-vineyard wine in its maiden vintage comes from the young vines on the Ghi ke Uranos slope. Back in 2005, I took note of these, then scrawny, vines. Wine from these young vines was sold in bulk – until now. There is a lot to be said for patience: It is essential if one is to make a statement backed by deeds, rather than marketing hype.
It is for this level of commitment in safeguarding the high standards of Ghi ke Uranos (Uranos in the US) that this producer continues to earn praise. 2009 was a difficult, rain-plagued vintage, but the breeze on this slope helped out against rot, as did terroir.
Bright ruby. Upfront fruity charm. Dark cherries, freshness. Smooth texture. Seamless oak. Persistent, crystalline, elegant. Purity and breed. Serve at cellar temperature. Best 2011-2016.
04 Aug 2011 © Nico Manessis | Score: 17/20
|Area: Macedonia|| |
US Importer: www.atheneeimporters.com
US Distributor: www.winebow.com
My first recollection of Paris Sigalas is from another life. His "winery" was the basement of his beach-front house, where he still lives today. He posed, somewhat bewildered, for a portrait shot for my long-standing photographer, Kostantinos Pittas. Lo...
Aegean Islands | White | Assyrtiko
My first recollection of Paris Sigalas is from another life. His "winery" was the basement of his beach-front house, where he still lives today. He posed, somewhat bewildered, for a portrait shot for my long-standing photographer, Kostantinos Pittas. Located in north-eastern Santorini, this artisan winemaker offers a distinctly different wine style to that of the other wineries on the island, mostly located on the southern slopes of Episkopi, Pyrgos, and Megalochori. Initially, he also sourced grapes from Imerovigli (Greek for "watchtower", altitude 280 m.), overlooking the Caldera. His Santorini was, and still is, lemony and honeyed.
Summer 2010, visit number 23 to this unique island vineyard, I stopped off again at the Sigalas winery, long ago moved out of the beach-front house. Here, I got a first glimpse of this, then yet-to-be-released, single-vineyard wine. Tasted it from tank: Leesy and quirky, my Moleskin notebook reads, tastes like nothing else.
On my recent visit to Sigalas, I had the opportunity to taste it bottled. My terroir jigsaw puzzle had another piece - or so I thought. Cold sweat gripped me as the realization hit me: Impervious to the Greek economy meltdown, building construction continues unabated on this mother-of-all-terroirs. I lack the time to research public records to establish the number of hectares of this highly regarded vineyard that have disappeared under the cement of a now prime real estate location. We should be grateful to Paris Sigalas for bottling this 2.2-hectare single-vineyard located at Imerovigli. How much longer these vines will survive is another story. I urge all of you fellow terroir boy- and girl-scouts to squirrel some away. Watch it unfold its distinct character and style. One other thing: Focus on the silhouette outline, embossed on the bottle label, of the late Kir Giorgos, the farmer who tended this vineyard for over half a century and gave this place its name. Turn it upside down (it might be easier if you are reading this on a tablet) - clever!
Green tints. Pink grapefruit aroma. Intensely yeasty. Honey and stones on the aftertaste. A full-bodied, bold wine. Very different to any other bone-dry Santorini on the market. More suitable for cold-weather pairing with grilled-meat enjoyment. Carafe it for at least two hours, or give it the refrigerator test by sipping it over a week. There is a lot in there. Best 2011-2017.
06 Jul 2011 © Nico Manessis | Score: 17/20
|Area: Aegean Islands|| |
I love Syrah. But after tasting several new producers' efforts, detachment set in - and for a good reason. Deeply coloured. Loaded with bright fruit. For the most part suave tannins, cocoa-oak notes galore. They could have been produced anywhere in ...
Ionian Islands | Red | Vertzami
I love Syrah. But after tasting several new producers' efforts, detachment set in - and for a good reason. Deeply coloured. Loaded with bright fruit. For the most part suave tannins, cocoa-oak notes galore. They could have been produced anywhere in the world. There is an audience for Syrah, and the reasons why such styles exist are many. Only one, from a little-known region, had a sense of place, a soul. Not all of the numerous topsoils and mesoclimates in Greece will produce "fireworks", such as this lone, and a future star in the making. So my attention turned to an indigenous red grape you have probably never heard of: Vertzami. It is to be found on the Ionian Islands, in western Greece. I recall the word Vertzamo (-i) since I was around 8-9 years of age, harking back to my Corfiot autumns. Its dark skin colour made an impression on me at the time. It still does, today. Ampelographer Haroula Spinthiropoulou says, "There are several clones in the central part of high Lefkada. Above 500 m., it ripens with difficulty. There is unlocked potential."
The style of this wine could not be further away from the aforementioned confected Syrahs. When fully mature, it is reminiscent of that other great tannic high-acid red grape, Switzerland's Cornalin. The owner of the Lefkafitiki Gi winery, oenologist Dimitris Robotis, is on to a good thing here. He works closely with his suppliers, trying to persuade them to lower yields in order to achieve phenolic ripeness. His marketing communication is understated and to the point. The uncluttered back label of this fascinating, high-quality variety carries the following message: "No big stories. Just quality wine!"
Restrained aroma of spice and violets. A defined, delicious tannic grip. Shades of integrated oak. A core of red cherries. Vivacious, crisp palate. Expressive mountain character comes through on the finish. Best: 2011-2015
10 May 2011 © Nico Manessis | Score: 17/20
|Lefkaditiki Gi Vertzami|
|Area: Ionian Islands|| |
Lefkada, the Ionian island, brims with wine history. Yet, even insiders would have a hard time mustering a few sentences on today's scene. Earlier visits remained ones of unrealised potential. I was therefore excited to see changes in my return. With...
Ionian Islands | White | Vardea
Lefkada, the Ionian island, brims with wine history. Yet, even insiders would have a hard time mustering a few sentences on today's scene. Earlier visits remained ones of unrealised potential. I was therefore excited to see changes in my return. With over 300 indigenous varieties, nature has been generous to the fragmented historic Greek vineyard. Lefkada surprises, with two grapes which are the specialty of this island: the white Vardea and the dark-skinned Vertzami.
Nothing quite prepares you for the wild beauty of the southern part of the island. An overcast early-spring morning, dense dark green olive groves. Sunlight bursting through silver and white clouds, casting giant shadows over a silvery Ionian sea. A sense of wonder, seizing this change-of-season moment.
Driving past Nidri, the island sailing hub, one leaves behind the off-season resort melancholy. As the twisting road climbs en route to Vassiliki, one of the world's great windsurfing spots, one arrives at the Lefkaditiki Gi winery. Its honey-coloured stone buildings would not have been out of place in southern Tuscany, or Umbria. To this traveller, it is the most attractive recently built (finished in 2008) wine address to date. Mediterranean at its best. Dimitris Robotis is a man of taste. This goes beyond his architectural interests.
Most of his wines are sold locally, or exported. With the current meltdown of the Greek economy, he is clearly less exposed than if he had depended on national distributors going bust and leaving large unpaid bills. Market sources say it will be even worse in 2012.
Vardea is one of the most intriguing lesser- seen high-quality grapes. The wine it produces is distinctly different from that other Ionian-island great white grape, Robola from Cephalonia. The success of this flourishing winery has spurred more acreage of the distinct Vardea now been planted in the sandy-clay soils of the villages of Vassiliki, Kontarena and Ayios Petros. These initiatives are more than just news. They are important steps in strengthening regional diversity and individuality in a market awash with me-too blends.
Golden. Floral. Smells of grapes. Orange peel. Creamy texture lifted by minerality. Tannic bite. Honeyed opulent fruit lingers. By far, the most exciting discovery in ages. A bright light for the future.
19 Apr 2011 © Nico Manessis | Score: 16.5/20
|Area: Ionian Islands|| |
Winter came late. Many higher-altitude vineyards have had repeated snowfall. Ski resorts will stay open until mid-April. Rain has been abundant. Brooks and rivers are flowing with water. The odd early wild-flower patch of white, light purple, or ...
Central Greece | Distillates | Assyrtiko
Winter came late. Many higher-altitude vineyards have had repeated snowfall. Ski resorts will stay open until mid-April. Rain has been abundant. Brooks and rivers are flowing with water. The odd early wild-flower patch of white, light purple, or yellow is to be seen. Some Irish-like green. Nature is gearing up for the new vintage.
I am back in Boeotia, scouting unexplored ground. The Savatiano at Mount Cithaeron from the Arbëresh village of Kriekouki is impressive. Smart money should source wine from here for the financial crisis now gripping the country. In the last quarter of 2010, the Greek economy contracted at unprecedented levels. Financial analysts expect 2011 to be the worse in the last 60 years. What is obvious is the lack of a plan in place to navigate these difficult times. I am digressing.
The term tsipouro (grappa) is hardly doing any marketing favours to dozens of distilleries making these clear, grape-based spirits. Perhaps a simpler, easier to the ear word would be of help for export-minded addresses. Despite the economic gloom, tsipouro is becoming the winter drink of choice for the 20- and 30-somethings. Nikos Zacharias, of Ktima Mousson in Askre, is one of the most astute oenologists and distillers I have met. His worldly outlook on European- and Greek-market issues makes him a pleasure to listen and talk with. Lost in mist amidst the snow falling on nearby Mount Helicon, I entered their tasting room in Askre. A cracking fireplace. A cloudy tank sample of 2010 Savatiano appears. It reconfirms Askre’s terroir. My attention turns elsewhere, as the reviewed tsipouro takes centre stage. Positive conversation. Time flew. If you go looking for the Zacharias distillery, make sure you head for Petra Boeotias and not Askre, where vineyards and winery are to be found.
The still is Italian, manufactured by Gadalpe. Each batch takes 5.5 to 6 hours of distilling. All grapes are sourced from low-yielding vines from the Valley of Muses. (See Tasting note of Samartzis Dyo Potamia ). Seven varieties: Assyrtiko, Savatiano, Roditis, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and the local red -skinned oddity Mouchtaro.
Clear. Complex aromatics. Bright fruit leading into a textbook pomace character. Richly flavoured. Persistent grapey long spicy finish. A stand-out, sophisticated tsipouro. Chill before serving. Tastes great neat, or with ice cubes and a splash of water, served in a tube-like tsipouro glass.
21 Mar 2011 © Nico Manessis | Score: 17/20
|Tsipouro Zacharias 42% Vol|
|Area: Central Greece|| |