Discovering two terroirs within the same year is a treat. Thebes and the nearby hillsides were on my shortlist of new scouting grounds. Even for this traveller, I never expected to stumble on such an important find. Yet again a fascinating puzzle has l...
Central Greece | White | Savatiano
Discovering two terroirs within the same year is a treat. Thebes and the nearby hillsides were on my shortlist of new scouting grounds. Even for this traveller, I never expected to stumble on such an important find. Yet again a fascinating puzzle has landed on my desk.
Kontoura is a synonym for the grape Savatiano. In these hills it goes by the former name. There is a flurry of emails to technicians, who to my surprise had never been to the Valley of Muses, a history-rich valley lying 60 kilometres east of Delphi. In the village of Askri, farmhands and old boys seeing the days out in the cafes are being asked to help out. What plots were planted when? What nursery supplied the vines? Clones? Are we looking at Kanellatos, or the highly thought of Perachoritis? Or something entirely out of time and place, thus new to all of us? Will keep you abreast of findings.
This puzzle started while tasting, from tank, the 2010 Kontoura at the Samartzis spotless and tidy winery. Each tank had such a clear imprint of place! Expressed in fruit, textured, with the sappiness often found in quality Kontoura, a tasty acidity, glycerol-based fat. As true terroir, this wine slowly reveals itself in a subtle language. There was something beyond the 380 to 420 m. altitude and the lowest yields I have ever encountered (800-900 kg. per 1000 sq. m.) for this usually overcropped grape. The microclimate of this valley in the shadow of Mount Helicon on the northern edge of the Mount Parnassus massif (2457 m. / 8061 ft), is the real deal. There is still more ground to cover. Soon off, back on the wine routes for springtime adventures. Twelve years ago, there was a memorable Savatiano at what was then the Coop of Thebes. It was sourced from Mount Cithaeron. See you there.
Floral, melon. Rich, bold and silky. Sappy core. Gravel minerality. Layered. Texture and creaminess. Focused. Terroir shines. Raises the bar. From all the known indigenous grapes none is more food versatile.
21 Feb 2011 © Nico Manessis | Score: 16.5/20
|Dyo Potamia [Two Rivers] Samartzis|
|Area: Central Greece|| |
Late October. Parched yellow post-summer colours were fading into autumn shades of still life. The light, so lucent in the Aegean, was softer, in ever-changing shades of platinum-grey-blue. For a raft of inexplicable reasons, of all the 14 vineyard isl...
Aegean Islands | Sweet | Muscat
Late October. Parched yellow post-summer colours were fading into autumn shades of still life. The light, so lucent in the Aegean, was softer, in ever-changing shades of platinum-grey-blue. For a raft of inexplicable reasons, of all the 14 vineyard islands featured in the forthcoming book, Limnos strikes an inner cord. To say the least, it is different. Not a tourist destination as such. The energy so far unfailingly connects. There is a flow, a dialogue with this volcanic island, reaching all beyond the vineyards and the hard-working, unpretentious farmers I have met over the years doing the rounds.
Ioannis Savvoglou and his partner Pantelis Tsivolas are a breath of fresh air. Greek wine could do with more of their straight-talking, calm professionalism. The current financial crisis gripping the country is a great opportunity for reform. Wine prices have been tumbling and will eventually stabilise after the clear-out to reflect their true market value. For consumers, 2011 will be full of opportunities to broaden their horizons without spending over the top, as the artificial bubble of living beyond one's means has left the country's economy in hardly unexpected, long overdue tatters. To their credit, Limnos Organic Wines were never greedy with their pricing. Ever since their inception they have steadily offered value for money.
Recently, three Muscat of Alexandria sweet wines have left a lasting impression. One is Spanish and the other is from Cyprus. The third is the reviewed wine. All three, wonderful in their own right. Highlighting the variety of the Mediterranean profiles of this fragrant grape.
Veteran oenologist Ioannis Savvoglou has for over 20 years made dry to varying levels of sweet Muscat of Alexandria. He knows his way round the island's scattered vineyards, its best farmers and sites. He was a pioneer in grasping the notion that the island has near perfect climatic conditions for organic farming. The 2008 vintage produced 4,700 500-ml. bottles. I urge you to get some while stocks last.
One of the islands best terroirs. Bordering a dam. Sandy-clay soil. Single vineyard planted to 35 year old vines. Grapes were left to dessicate on the vines. Very fine nose, camomile, bee pollen and honeycomb. Minerality. Not cloying apricot mid palate. Brims with pit stone fruit on the persistent finish. Precice structure. Serve slightly chilled.
28 Jan 2011 © Nico Manessis | Score: 18/20
|La Terra Moschatos Limnou Limnos Organic Wines|
|Area: Aegean Islands|| |
History buffs apart does anyone care if Mandilari has been grown for thousands of years in the southern Aegean islands? What readers in these pages are interested in are what new and exciting they can enjoy in their glass. In a recent, in depth visit ...
Crete | Red | Mandilari
History buffs apart does anyone care if Mandilari has been grown for thousands of years in the southern Aegean islands? What readers in these pages are interested in are what new and exciting they can enjoy in their glass.
In a recent, in depth visit to Crete, I came across several unexpected suprises. Searching for terroir usually ends returning to base with not much to show for. This time persistence paid off. Clocking 1,200kms on Greece's largest in size island made it more than worthwhile. In addition to the reviewed wine, the discovery of a heritage terroir, on a new to me topsoil is one in once in decade stuff. This DNA bank is a major find. The un -grafted Vidiano(a promising white grape) is 98 years old. More importantly this name place of the still largely unrealized potential of the Cretan vineyard has as a modern cosmopolitan profile. It will stand, anywhere. Look out for future postings.
It is timely, to reveal a long held fascination with Mandilari. My gut feeling kept telling me that something special was lurking beyond those unattractive green vegetative notes and mouth puckering drying tannic structure. 7 years ago, while visiting on Rhodes, I got a sneak preview when then flying winemaker Angelos Iatridis was experimenting with a smaller berried clone of Mandilari for the Emery winery. Iatridis analysis findings were revealing. The potential was way above my empirical hunch. The chief culprit for the less sexier Mandilari varietal and blends about is that it still by in large planted in the wrong place and over cropped.
It took the focused team of Lyrarakis technicians to locate a potentially promising terroir. The Plakoura vineyard is on sand-stoney soil slope. They are low yielding 17 year old bush vines. Agronomist Nikos Somarakis with oenologist Myriam Abuzer are realists. They both admit that it still is an ongoing struggle, to unlock all of its potential in every vintage. They are on to a good thing. From my vantage point it has been years of patiently waiting to taste such Cretan Mandilari. Bravo.
Very dark red. Viscous. Summer herbs with a telltale Aegean vinosity. Broad shouldered. Attractive balancing freshness with robust mouthwatering tannic bite. Seamless cask. Polished. Intense and demanding. Best 2010-2018.
20 Dec 2010 © Nico Manessis | Score: 16.5/20
|Mandilari Plakoura vineyard Lyrarakis|
|Area: Crete|| |
Greece agent www.genkacomm.gr
My recent weeklong Cretan visit kicked off with one of the great personalities of today's Greek wine. Yannis Economou marches to his own idiosyncratic beat. It is a complex, challenging and ultimately rewarding rhythm. With an unrivalled curriculum v...
Crete | Red | Liatiko
My recent weeklong Cretan visit kicked off with one of the great personalities of today's Greek wine. Yannis Economou marches to his own idiosyncratic beat. It is a complex, challenging and ultimately rewarding rhythm. With an unrivalled curriculum vitae, fluent in five languages, this 47-year-old was, when I first visited him back in 1995, a reluctant disciple of natural wine.
He argues, convincingly, that he had no other choice in making such wines. It is the anomaly of the Ziros plateau (600 m.) that these 60- to 70-year-old ungrafted vines are solely responsible for delivering low yields and a naturally high acidity. He adds, "I just nurture them (very low sulphuring) and bottle when I feel they are ready".
He does admit to selling off lesser vintages and keeping only the best vintages. The current release is the 2000 Sitia. The only other dry vintage to preview was a stunning 2006 Sitia. It tasted so shockingly youthful that it only reiterated Economou's viewpoint of his unique plateau where he sources his remarkable grapes. Economou claims that what is called "Liatiko" in central and western Crete could well be another, altogether different grape. I am not so sure. Fellow Cretan producer Nikos Douloufakis, in Dafnes, above the town of Iraklio, claims he has seen the Ziros Liatiko grapes. He says it is a different, smaller-berried clone. Coupled with the high altitude and much cooler nights, this may explain the measurable difference in styles and the success of this remarkable bone-dry red wine.
Having recently enjoyed a Morgon by the father of natural wine, the late Marcel Lapierre, I could not help thinking what Marcel would have thought of this vin-de-terroir natural-wine rarity.
Pale, ruby brown. Initially reductive, it opens up after 20 minutes in carafe. Very Burgundian, floral and spice, Pinot-noir nose. Ethereal, very fine aromas evolving in the glass. Delicate but insistent middle palate that blossoms in layers on the aftertaste. A wine of great purity. Classy. Complete. There is nothing remotely quite like it elsewhere in the Greek vineyard.Best: 2010-2015.
29 Nov 2010 © Nico Manessis | Score: 18.5/20
|Sitia Domaine Economou Ziros Crete|
|Area: Crete|| |
I am skirting the foothills of Mount Parnassus (2,457 m.). Mist, constant drizzle. It is a pleasant change from the sunny spells to a cloudy autumn. I am heading into a sea of olive groves. My cook friends argue that the local olive oil, fr...
Central Greece | White | Asproudi
I am skirting the foothills of Mount Parnassus (2,457 m.). Mist, constant drizzle. It is a pleasant change from the sunny spells to a cloudy autumn. I am heading into a sea of olive groves. My cook friends argue that the local olive oil, from the Megaritiki variety, is the most balanced in taste now on the market. To an outsider, such as myself, the olive trees look immaculately cared for. It is a year with crop. Despite the abundance, there is little joy to be found in the cafe I stop. My — eager to inform the passing stranger — farmer friends inform me that the price for extra virgin oil has collapsed. With that update and caffeine coursing my veins, I head to Polydrosso, Fokida. Having visited four years ago, it was time to see what progress this area, relatively recent to vineyards, had to offer.
With his ageing-preppy good looks, tall, slim and blond, Nikos Argyriou looks like a middle-aged Californian folk-rock musician. During my flying visit we did not have time to discuss music. His humour, though, always a good sign, is wry. This time he received me in the recently built tasting room in the grounds of stone-built apartments. Here, I had the opportunity to see what he has been up to in his vineyards and cellar. Of his seven labels, including an intriguing Pinot Noir in the works, it was his white Erochos that stood apart. The grape mix is delightfully different, and this is reflected in the wine. Estate-grown. 70% Asproudi, the balance being Malagousia and Sauvignon Blanc in equal parts.
Synthetic closure. Pale straw yellow. Beads of carbonic gas that dissipate. A botanical nose. Sage. Lightly honeyed. Grapey, Some depth. Clean, bone-dry, persistent, fresh-tasting finish. Useful lighter-bodied sipping wine. Best 2010-2012.
15 Nov 2010 © Nico Manessis | Score: 16/20
|Erochos Argyriou Winery|
|Area: Central Greece|| |
Over the past decade, much has happened in cooler–climate Amyndeon. Incomers continue to invest in this, once sleeper, region. Currently there are ten wineries. Annette and Laurens Hartman left publishing in Holland to establish their vineyards and...
Macedonia | Red | Xinomavro
Over the past decade, much has happened in cooler–climate Amyndeon. Incomers continue to invest in this, once sleeper, region. Currently there are ten wineries. Annette and Laurens Hartman left publishing in Holland to establish their vineyards and winery overlooking Lake Vegoris.
Annette no longer handles encyclopaedias and reference books. She is hands-on vigneronne and discusses their newly planted five grape varieties and the challenges in farming healthy and ripe grapes. Laurens’s approach to wine making is like no other in the region. A horizontal basket press resembling the ones used in champagne is not his only "doing it my way". They have a gentle touch, with a nod towards "natural" wines. He does use minimum sulphur and so avoids all the weirdness and extremes these cult wines sometimes reach. Another attractive factor to all these handcrafted wines is the refreshingly lower alcohol levels. This one of a kind and new to me blend was the most homogeneous of their current offerings in a recent in-situ tasting.
For fragrance and texture, 30-year-old Xinomavro. Cabernet Sauvignon Bordeaux clone 330. Stawberry nose and black cherries on the palate. Balanced backbone, capturing the best of the two characterful varieties. Freshness of Amyndeon’s cooler mesoclimate. At 12.6 % ABV, it almost whispers. Not short on presence. Focused. Toothsome and different. Best 2010-2014.
01 Nov 2010 © Nico Manessis | Score: 16.5/20
|Terra Levea Xinomavro - Cabernet Domaine Karanika|
|Area: Macedonia|| |
Dutch agent: www.grieksewijnen.com
During my first trips to Drama in the mid- 1990s, I often lamented that there were no Greek varietal or blends. In this re-energised region, French-origin grapes were dominant, alongside the odd Italian, such as Trebbiano , and not much else. How thing...
Macedonia | Red | Refosco
During my first trips to Drama in the mid- 1990s, I often lamented that there were no Greek varietal or blends. In this re-energised region, French-origin grapes were dominant, alongside the odd Italian, such as Trebbiano , and not much else. How things have changed! This inspired Italian-Greek blend is one of the more interesting new things to emerge from this North-Eastern Macedonian inner valley. It is one of several limited-production premium labels made in the Chateau Julia series by the Costa Lazaridi Estate, Adriani, Drama.
While tasting this wine, a flash of memory reminded me of what a solid, uniform-quality vintage 2005 is. Even the beneficial post-harvest rains were appreciated. Weather-wise, the picture is getting far more complicated, with decreasing rainfall and extreme heat peaks. Back to this lovely new departure — Drama wine. My in-situ post-harvest notes to this professionally-managed estate read: Tank sample Refosco; purple blue-black colour, full bodied, high acid, crushed fresh blueberry paste-like. What will this lead to? This vintage is a landmark year for Domaine Costa Lazaridi for another reason, too: Michel Rolland went to work with them. He walked the vineyards extensively prior to the harvest. Every January he comes to Adriani to prepare the blends. The wild side of aforementioned Refosco dal peduncolo rosso was softened and fleshed out with 40% Agiorgitiko. This is clever stuff. It is a big, gutsy wine that benefits from being served at cellar-room temperature. Carafing, too.
Floral, with ripe plums. Black cherry, mocha-choc flavours. Thickly textured. An earthy note leading on to a tannic grip with a warm spicy afterglow (14.6% ABV). A true sense of place. Not for the faint hearted. Enjoy with spicy dishes. Best 2010-2015
19 Oct 2010 © Nico Manessis | Score: 17/20
|Chateau Julia Refosco - Agiorgitiko|
|Area: Macedonia|| |
The head of France's ENTAV (Etablissement National Technique pour la Amelioration de la Viticulture), Jean Michel Boursiquot, has discovered in his travels issues that have slipped through the proverbial net. Two years ago, he visited Australia, where ...
Macedonia | Red | Xinomavro
The head of France's ENTAV (Etablissement National Technique pour la Amelioration de la Viticulture), Jean Michel Boursiquot, has discovered in his travels issues that have slipped through the proverbial net. Two years ago, he visited Australia, where he found out that what was thought to be Albarino vines was in fact Savagnin. As chronicled in these pages, I met JMB in the vineyards of Nemea. For a non-scientist like myself, it was a rare treat to be in such company. This fils de vigneron from the Charentes, whose professional manner was free of any pomposity and wine chauvinism his compatriots may be prone to, was an objective reality check of the status quo in Greek viticulture. His grasp and spot-on comments on wines I had selected for him was another highlight. I will get back to JMB.
Angelos Iatridis is a man on a mission. With his redoubtable partner, farmer Makis Mavridis, they have brought a scientific approach and discipline in vine cultivation that is new to Greece. Their 21st-century vineyards were largely first planted in 1997. All of the 65 hectares are recent, excepting a block of old Xinomavro bush vines. Here lies the Boursiquot connection. JMB was intrigued by the Amyndeo Xinomavro "DNA bank" to be found in this cooler-climate, sandy plateau. Alpha Estate was keen on showing him the ungrafted old Xinomavro. Boursiquot asked for them to dig at several vines. His findings? Well, err, it is not ungrafted. The rootstock was French in origin and had been decommissioned over 50 years ago. There is another, even more intriguing JMB find in the Greek vineyard. Look for this myth-busting discovery in the all-new forthcoming book. This time with much wider ramifications than this Amyndeo sortie.
Due to its limited production and high price (retailing at 48 Euro), many perceive that Alpha One, the iconic wine of Alpha Estate, is their top wine. Marketing wise, it is positioned so. Yet, is it? Well, with this Xinomavro Reserve, which also costs less money, the Alpha One has been eclipsed.
There are several factors other than the top-notch vintage for making this wine the star of the estate. One cannot ignore the "wisdom" of the 86-year-old bush vines. Further to the phenolically ripe tannins, there is the - bordering on the obsessive - approach to these heritage vines applied by Angelos Iatridis with his cellar technical know-how. Whatever my reservations on Iatridis's approach to some of his wines, the results in this Xinomavro Reserve are unequivocal. Above all, I get a clearer picture of the, only now realized, potential that this star grape has on offer. The dynamics are shiver-down-the-spine stuff. This wine goes beyond being a landmark for Amyndeo. Such red wines are a step up, closing the gap to the excellent white wines that the South-Eastern Mediterranean corner has been consistently producing for over a decade now.
Very dark ruby. Multifaceted and refined, classy aroma. Smoky black fruit and strawberry. Freshly ground allspice. Sous bois. Cote de Nuits-like spicy earthiness. Mouth-filling, polished tannins. Hugely attractive tannic bite. Generous, vivacious, savoury-textured mineral finish. Best: 2011-2027.
04 Oct 2010 © Nico Manessis | Score: 18.5/20
|Alpha Estate Xinomavro Reserve Vieilles Vignes|
|Area: Macedonia|| |
New York www.frederickwildman.com
The 2007 vintage was not uniform in all regions. Only the best-farmed sites produced very good wines; a few, even great. The lack of spring rainfall and periodic heatwaves left many vineyards with water-stressed vines. A Syrah in Drama was ...
Macedonia | Red | Xinomavro
The 2007 vintage was not uniform in all regions. Only the best-farmed sites produced very good wines; a few, even great. The lack of spring rainfall and periodic heatwaves left many vineyards with water-stressed vines. A Syrah in Drama was not irrigated in July, despite the obvious signals, and is so far the most blunted varietal I have recently come across. Does anyone tell them about these just unattractive drying tannins?
Another northern region with tannin-management issues is Naoussa, one of the four Xinomavro playgrounds, where this great grape, particular to the north-western Macedonia, is cultivated.
The Argatia vineyards, just north of Yanakohori, are just outside the appellation boundaries. No matter. In fact, many of the farmers of this scattered and fragmented vineyard should take a closer look at what ampelographer, author and now winemaker Haroula Spinthiropoulou is doing in her organically farmed vineyards. Yields, canopy management and carefully planned irrigation anyone can do. As she walks me through her vines, she adds, “Each plot is managed according to its own rhythm; the aim is harmony”. I will add patience and risk taking. Xinomavro is a late ripener. It is this coaxing to get the tannic, high-acid grape phenolically ripe that marks out the handful of current top-performing Naoussa addresses.
Darker than the paler ruby red we are accustomed to from this grape. A hint of sweetness on the floral aromatics (peonies?). Spice. Coconut (American oak), not overly done, integrated sweetness. Juicy fruit. Firm but ripe tannins. A richly flavoured, austere aftertaste of refreshing acidity. Entering a closing-down period. All xinomavro varietals and blends benefit from carafing. Best 2011-2021.
20 Sep 2010 © Nico Manessis | Score: 17.5/20
|Area: Macedonia|| |
Market forces demand custom-made wines. This applies even to niche players like Greece. The Hatzidakis Cuvee No. 15 was made for the French market. Paris-based importer Yiorgos Ioannidis, who is tireless in his endeavours to promote hand-crafted wines,...
Aegean Islands | White | Assyrtiko
Market forces demand custom-made wines. This applies even to niche players like Greece. The Hatzidakis Cuvee No. 15 was made for the French market. Paris-based importer Yiorgos Ioannidis, who is tireless in his endeavours to promote hand-crafted wines, ended up sharing some of it with a France-based Japanese sourcing agent. The usually reticent Japanese were smitten by this wine, as well as by the Ghi ke Uranos Naoussa 2007, also reviewed in these pages. "What a sense of placeness" was the terse, Far-East utterance of approval.
Haridimos Hatzidakis has been through a rough patch. He is fighting his way back. He spent time this past spring talking up this and his other wines with Parisian clients who were thrilled to meet this shy Cretan. He was on good form when I recently saw him on the island. This off-the-beaten-path Santorini was one of the few bottles to take with me, as I wanted to taste it from afar. It ended up in an impromptu tasting of various Greek wines at 1600 m. altitude in the Swiss Alps. Mountain biking and long walks had sharpened the senses.
The 2009 Hatzidakis wines were chiefly made by Apostolos Thimiopoulos, whose above-mentioned Naoussa rocked the sleepy appellation, resting on her past glories. He exceptionally, and as a one-off, helped out a colleague in need. Nice. For the 2010 vintage Helias Roussakis(ex Sigalas) has joined Haridimos Hatzidakis.
Cuvee No. 15 is a blend of grapes from three different organically farmed vineyards. Thimiopoulos adds, "It was a gamble. Wild yeast ferment and minimum intervention. It was left in a corner; it turned out beautifully". There was no sulphur added. The 2009 harvest conditions were exceptional. The cooler nights preserved the crunchy freshness of the near-perfect grapes. You are getting ahead of me. This micro-cuvee, is very much in orange wine category. It makes sense, in such a top-notch vintage, to go for it in this style, currently undergoing revival, of esoteric wines with a cult following.
Hazy, golden-copper orange. Starts off a little dull. After aerating, flint stone and acacia honey. Raw quince? Tannic core, honeycomb. Punchy minerality picks up from the mid palate. Compact, bone-dry, mineral, very, very long, persistent finish. Label states 14.5% (tastes like 15.5%ABV). A more modern version of 1990's Nyhteri from Vourvoulos. The sheer volume and pronounced lively acidity, with a savoury umami parting shot, are memorable. It will continue to evolve, eventually resembling Jura vin jaune. Best 2010-2015.
01 Sep 2010 © Nico Manessis | Score: 18/20
|Santorini Cuvee No. 15 Hatzidakis|
|Area: Aegean Islands|| |
France agent email: firstname.lastname@example.org
As I drove out of the parking at the Raxa-based distillery, near Trikala, Makis Tsililis’s parting words were: "Until the age of 12 I looked after my father’s sheep." Over the course of a long-planned two-day visit, I came to appreciate this guy, o...
Thessalia | Distillates | Muscat
As I drove out of the parking at the Raxa-based distillery, near Trikala, Makis Tsililis’s parting words were: "Until the age of 12 I looked after my father’s sheep." Over the course of a long-planned two-day visit, I came to appreciate this guy, one of two brothers, and their success story.
The wiry Makis (55) is refreshingly down to earth and candid about his vineyards and wine shortcomings. "We focused during the past 20 years on building the Tsilili (tsipouro) brand. We now have to sort out our vineyards and winemaking." A breath of fresh air. It has been ages since I had last been subjected to never-ending “inventive” vintner tales.
While being driven around the various vineyard sites, I came to appreciate Makis’s knowledge of local geology and profound understanding of nature. Equally impressive was his grasp of the sub-cultures of the Karagouni, Hasiotes (himself one) and Vlachs, which is part of the diverse human mosaic of today’s Greece. Speaking of origins, mine are Arberesh. All in all, it a was an enriching fact-finding mission. Thanks to Makis being a great guide, this previously little-known to me part of the western Thessaly plain has now been "sketched". According to a paper recently sent to me, geologists have recently discovered (near Hasiote country) granitic rocks dating some 700 million years. So far thought to be the oldest in Greece. This is already on my next vineyard trip action list.
After studying chemistry, Makis and his elder brother Kostas, who manages sales in Athens, started distilling Muscat of Hamburg, of which there are 2.000 hectares. How did this lightly aromatic grape come to dominate the Thessaly plain? In 1934, a disastrous frost left thousands of farmers with a loss of an important source of revenue. State agronomists recommended planting high-yielding MOH. 70 odd years later, the Thessaly plain, with a reported 3.000 stills, is the nation's unofficial tsipouro capital, and the Tsililis Brothers have become one of the leading tsipouro producers. Makis has another reason to be proud: His daughter Ioanna, a Bordeaux graduate, recently joined the family firm.
Clear. Very clean, delicate, muscat aroma – reminiscent of flowering vines. Finely balanced, grapey spirit offset by a creamy textured, assertive yet not aggressive finish. Charms with a spicy finish. Re-confirming that lower-ranking grapes make worthy distillates.
16 Aug 2010 © Nico Manessis | Score: 17/20
|Tsipouro Thessalias Tsilili 41% ABV|
|Area: Thessalia|| |
All upcoming regions have seminal tastings. Some are better publicised, others less so. In the not too distant 2000, at a press tasting in London organised by Steve Daniel, then Buying and Marketing director at Oddbins and now at Novum, he placed "blin...
Aegean Islands | White | Assyrtiko
All upcoming regions have seminal tastings. Some are better publicised, others less so. In the not too distant 2000, at a press tasting in London organised by Steve Daniel, then Buying and Marketing director at Oddbins and now at Novum, he placed "blind", last in a line-up of Chardonnay tasting, a ringer. "Chablis on steroids" was one explicit comment. The wine? A 1999 oak-fermented Santorini Argyros.
On a recent stay on the island of Thera, better known internationally by its medieval Latin name, Santorini, I tasted several older vintages, with Mattheos Argyros, the fourth generation of this top-notch address. We looked at 2006, 2000, and 1997. The 2006 was a mere baby, and the 1997 was reductive. It was the 2000 that showed best. It struck me as the closest this piece of volcanic rock in the southern Aegean will ever be stylistically to Puligny Montrachet, with a hugely surprising nod to the Middle Mosel. Over an hour or so, I savoured it. It just got better. Holding up beautifully to the last drop. There was some sea urchin lurking in my fluffy risotto. This 2000 Santorini held its own against the onslaught of the rich in iodine sea urchin froth, even rising to the crisp and sweet marathoriza (finnochio).
Beyond the sheer pleasure of sharing this rarity with friends, at Perivoli restaurant, the telling factor of this hypothetical cross, where Burgundy meets the thoroughbred purity of Santorini, was that it was tank fermented. No oak, but time in bottle, in a humid cool cellar at the Argyros estate. Cork was in great shape too. The very same wine, a blend of Episkopi and Pyrgos vineyards, continues today under the recently new label: 2009 Assyrtiko Santorini Argyros.
Initially shy. Slowly opening up to a subtle hazelnut aroma. Whiff of the saline minerality and bracing acidity with which these wines are so blessed. Revisiting the glass: petrol and honey on the ever expanding aromatic complexity which follows through on a very long, textured palate. Supple, classy minerality, wrapped in a "gentler", bone-dry, linear finish. All fronts in complete unison. Best 2010-2014?
07 Jul 2010 © Nico Manessis | Score: 19/20
|Santorini Canava Argyrou|
|Area: Aegean Islands|| |
20.00 hours. King Ra was just about to disappear into the pink-grey of the Aegean. I glanced over my shoulder and saw a paraglider hovering majestically over the Caldera. With the thermal bouncing off the volcanic rock, he occasionally went into in a...
Aegean Islands | White | Assyrtiko
20.00 hours. King Ra was just about to disappear into the pink-grey of the Aegean. I glanced over my shoulder and saw a paraglider hovering majestically over the Caldera. With the thermal bouncing off the volcanic rock, he occasionally went into in a holding pattern resembling number 8. This Caldera sighting of the bird-man swooping over the whitewashed domes and orange-purple sky was new to me. Improvisation struck, a plan was hatched. To drive towards this modern-day Icarus and follow him to his landing spot. Hopefully, to get a comment on what it is like flying off the Caldera, to ask him about his bird's-eye view take on the vineyards. Who knows? He may even appreciate wine. Then the plan went terribly wrong: The cell-phone went off with news of change of address for our supper rendezvous. By the time I was back on track, the bird-man had flown overland to Faros (Akrotiri), where he became a hazy blur before I eventually lost sight of him. If I am to bag the bird-man, I will have to check wind forecasts on sailing websites.
This Caldera scene was still vivid when in the kitchen of our beach-front taverna we had gone through the Greek ritual of selecting "our victims". I was now faced with two large glass-door refrigerators. In them, a varied selection of the island's bone-dry whites and an assortment of other Greek wines. I pointed the 2009 Sigalas to the bearded taverna owner, whose elongated craggy looks remind me of a French actor whose name has shamelessly joined my ever-growing pantheon of "anonymous" heroes.
The 2008 Santorini vintage was good. As were the 2005 and the 2007, though not a match for the exceptional 2006. Perhaps the 2009 will match it, or surpass the 2006. By summer 2011 a clear picture will emerge of how it stacks up. (See Articles: The 2009 Vintage Report). Evenings are not the best time for review. Mornings are far more suited to deconstructing a wine. Yet, despite the day's fatigue and fast-dropping adrenalin, this 2009 Sigalas Santorini shone like a beacon. It is still going through the motions, heading for its starting point. From the very first sip, it was lively and complete, if a little subdued. Cellar this wine. It will reward your patience. Look at it periodically and (re)-discover a great terroir of the Greek vineyard.
Platinum and green tints. Floral, reminiscent of vines flowering. Seamlessly flows on into aromas of flint and green tea. Fireworks of crisp minerality kicking in with a lemony, stony, layered palate. Very long, refined, classy aftertaste. A saline iodine postscriptum. In "reading" the empty glass, a lesson in expression(s) of wine minerality unfolds. Best as of 2011-2018.
15 Jun 2010 © Nico Manessis | Score: 18.5/20
|Area: Aegean Islands|| |
A behemoth of Greek wine, Tsantali is 12 million bottles large. You can find something of their vast range on many a remote island. In villages, even settlements, where a bakaliko (grocery store) acts as social centre. This ubiquitous giant also distil...
Macedonia | Red | Cabernet Sauvignon
A behemoth of Greek wine, Tsantali is 12 million bottles large. You can find something of their vast range on many a remote island. In villages, even settlements, where a bakaliko (grocery store) acts as social centre. This ubiquitous giant also distils those quintessentially Greek drinks, tsipouro and ouzo.
One quite never knows what Tsantali has in mind. More recently, having headhunted Panayoti Kyriakidis from Ampeloeniki (a leading consulting outfit), they appointed him as Chief Oenologist. I am closely watching what new ideas and direction this experienced technician and his team will bring to this volume-oriented wine and spirit address. The reviewed wine shows that they can do small (for them) lots of 15,000 bottles, which are worth the discovery of a bull's-eye effort. As I have mentioned in these pages, overwhelmingly Greek CS are off-target. Made according to a French protocol, not tuned to Greek climatic farming requirements, they do not have much of a future. In the current grim financial situation, crystal-ball gazing what to replant for the future comes sharply into focus. Yet, this organic vineyard, located opposite their sprawling base in Aghios Pavlos, Chalkidiki, could not be a more enticingly no-compromise example. Soil is silty clay lying on a bedrock of limestone. My favourite pet of phenolically ripened tannins is near-perfect. Indeed, such were the seductive powers of this lucent varietal, it left me enchanted. It is also good to see one of the big players offer such characterful individuality.
Deep red. Initially 'sweet' nose with spice and chocolate. It opens up to earthy notes, cedar. Shoulder is covered with encrusted tannin in what the French call 'chemise'. Ripe tannins, well-knit oak. Generous, persistent feral finish. Big and bold. Carafing recommended. Best: 2010-15.
12 May 2010 © Nico Manessis | Score: 17/20
|Organic Cabernet Sauvignon Chalkidiki Tsantali|
|Area: Macedonia|| |
Exclusive Greece retailer: www.wine-house.gr
|Variety: Cabernet Sauvignon|