Fifteen years ago, Amyndeon was a no man's land. It has now emerged as an exciting forward-looking region. Surrounded by mountains, it experiences the largest swing in diurnal temperatures. During the growing season, April to September, nights are cool...
Macedonia | Red | Tannat
Fifteen years ago, Amyndeon was a no man's land. It has now emerged as an exciting forward-looking region. Surrounded by mountains, it experiences the largest swing in diurnal temperatures. During the growing season, April to September, nights are cool (+10° C), highs rarely rise above +31° C.
Of all the non-Greek red grapes planted in this important 65-hectare estate, Syrah, Montepulciano and Tannat have excelled. They have adapted to such a degree that no one, including here, could ever imagine such impressive wines.
The Alpha 1 grape choice changes yearly. It is either a varietal wine or a blend. In essence, it is the top performing grape(s) of the vintage. It is a halo wine, sold at double the price of the excellent flagship Alpha Estate, a Syrah, Xinomavro and Merlot blend. If reductive aromas and rustic tannins is your experience with Tannat, well, this newcomer to Greece is a rather different, tamed, beast. There is a rarely achieved phenolic ripeness, balance, even polish here. Not the usual descriptors one associates with this love-it-or-leave-it tannic grape. The 2006 vintage was a long, protracted affair. Mustering one of the lowest recorded(1420) degree days. The wine spent 18 months in Allier Bertrange medium-toasted new oak casks at 200% (9+9). The wine is bottled unfiltered.
Opaque. Pharmaceutical nose with camphor dominating. Vinosity, chocolate/cocoa powder. Compact. Enveloped with finesse on the outside with a creamy core. Tastey, ripe tannins. Well balanced and round. Lingering finish. Suprisingly complex. Best 2009-2016.
13 Aug 2009 © Nico Manessis | Score: 18/20
|Alpha Estate Alpha 1 Tannat|
|Area: Macedonia|| |
While tasting at Gaia's Nemea-Koutsi winery a few years back, I was looking out of their tasting room. Staring at me, amongst their Aghiorghitiko vineyard, was a patch of young vines. I asked what clones and rootstock they were using. I got a very diff...
Peloponnese | Red | Agiorgitiko
While tasting at Gaia's Nemea-Koutsi winery a few years back, I was looking out of their tasting room. Staring at me, amongst their Aghiorghitiko vineyard, was a patch of young vines. I asked what clones and rootstock they were using. I got a very different answer from the usually humdrum numbered codes and the like. "It is Syrah. As the soil is marl, it is a gamble," replied Yianni Paraskevopoulos. That’s news, I said to myself. Since Gaia's inception in 1994, they have devoted their energies only to indigenous varieties.
Syrah thrives on granitic slopes dusted with mica. It does rather well on schist at various sites in the Iberian peninsula. In Greece's fragmented vineyard, this sun and wind grape has been taken to a variety of different latitudes, microclimates and soil types. With promising, to very good, results so far, easily outperforming the darling of the 1980s and 1990s, the ubiquitous Cabernet Sauvignon.
Central Crete, the red soils of Maronia on the northern Aegean shoreline, and the sandy-limestone bedrock of cooler-climate Amyndeon are three top-performing Syrah sites that spring to mind. These early (since the 1990s) Syrahs display lovely aromatic complexity and flavours. So, you may ask, how is this incomer adapting on a hillside in Nemea? Having tasted ’06-’07-’08 vintages in cask solo, it does not thrill me. Muted aroma, "sweeter" than Aghiorghitiko. As they say, it is no great shakes. Thus far it is of mild interest - a work in progress. The answer lies in the cellar and not in the vineyard. This Franco-Hellenic marriage does become something rather different when blended and in bottle. The Koutsi terroir dominates the Syrah, packing it with finesse and toning down the pepper and other usual Syrah aromatics fireworks. It is a clever blend. With 70% of Aghiorghitiko, it essentially becomes a new type of wine. Think of it as a mixed-blood well-mannered cosmopolitan. Does it have a raison d'etre? Unreservedly yes. Are we witnessing the birth of a super Nemea as Tuscany experienced in the 1970s? Quite possibly, but only time will tell. So far, the all-indigenous Gaia Estate is superior. That Syrah patch yielded enough in 2007 to produce 7,614 numbered unfiltered bottles. Price-wise, Gaia S sits just below Gaia Estate. As the first two vintages sold out within 48 hours even with the current economic downturn, there seems to be a demand for the new and unusual.
Youthful purple rim. Medium dark. Seductive floral aroma with "sweet" berry notes. Round and juicy. Warm fruited. Long and intensely flavoured, oozing black cherries. Bold but soft tannins. Vanilla notes meshed with Koutsi signature limestone mineral. Still raw. Worth decanting. Best 2011-17.
03 Jun 2009 © Nico Manessis | Score: 17.5/20
|Area: Peloponnese|| |
Have for days been studying a geological map of Naoussa: There is a great variation of soil type. Not all are suitable for producing fine wine. The heavier types produce mediocrities. A few are a terroir scout's dream. There are slivers of limestone be...
Macedonia | Red | Xinomavro
Have for days been studying a geological map of Naoussa: There is a great variation of soil type. Not all are suitable for producing fine wine. The heavier types produce mediocrities. A few are a terroir scout's dream. There are slivers of limestone bedrock and volcanic soils which contribute to making wines of real class. Then, there are microclimate nuances. Such as the cooling winds that blow down from Mount Vermio. I revert to near-endless thumbing through my note books. Gleaming a word here, a word there, trying to sketch one of nature's fascinating patchworks. Occasionally, right there, staring you in your face, that great French term: terroir! Several Naoussa place names, such as Gastra, Paliokalia, Roudina, spring to mind. Each one of them distinctly different. As of 2004 a worthy new addition has emerged.
Apostolos Thimiopoulos' vineyards are located at Trilofos. At the very southern tip of the appellation of Naoussa. He has several formidable aces up his sleeve. Among them, terroir and his father. The former came with owning vineyards on some of the best suited aforementioned soil types. Sterghios, the energetic father, has been described to me by technicians as Naoussas' top farmer. In the emotion-driven culture from which today's Greece often suffers, such professional praise is rare indeed. And there is proof of this accolade not being empty words. Thimiopoulos' ever vigilant pro-active stance in their vineyards during the unusually hot and dry 2007 conditions has paid off handsomely.
Deeper garnet than in any other vintage. At 14.3 ABV, checking in near identical to the cooler and wetter 2006. Hard to believe that it is not higher. Architecturally the two could not be further apart. The purity of fruit and sheer freshness just shines through all the strong earthy, spicy notes. It powers to a sprinting finish. Xinomavro's usually hard tannins are, yet again, coaxed to bring out the pretty side of this high-acid grape’s inimitable character. Depth with finesse. With so much stuffing, it won't start delivering on some of its early promise and uniqueness before winter 2010. Do not be afraid to carafe it. If you can hold out, best from 2011-2018.
20 May 2009 © Nico Manessis | Score: 18.5/20
|Ghi ke Uranos|
|Area: Macedonia|| |
US Distributor (where the label is Uranos): www.winebow.com
France agent email: Oenos.firstname.lastname@example.org
Assyrtiko originates in Santorini. It is now grown, with great success, on other Aegean islands, such as Paros, more recently on Tinos. It is different on the mainland, gentler, of less in your face mineral intensity. Measurable acreage is to be found ...
Macedonia | White | Assyrtiko
Assyrtiko originates in Santorini. It is now grown, with great success, on other Aegean islands, such as Paros, more recently on Tinos. It is different on the mainland, gentler, of less in your face mineral intensity. Measurable acreage is to be found also in Eastern, Central and now Western Macedonia, where Argatia, the recently established vineyards and winery, is located.
Haroula Spinthiropoulou wears many hats. Ampelographer and researcher. Active in viticultural consulting services and author. In establishing with her husband, Panayiotis Georgiadis, this new, tiny but ambitious venture, she now says, "I must now learn how to make wine." Her sounding board for technical matters is Vassilis Marinos, Head of the successful Thessaloniki based Ampelooeniki Laboratory and Consulting Services.
Her choice of white grapes speaks volumes. Assyrtiko, the fashionable at the moment Malagousia and the under-appreciated Athiri. Some of you may be bored (count me in on this) with just another Assyrtiko and Co blend. Yet, this wine is so different. It goes beyond the all Greek experience. There is a statement here. A fact foreign judges at the recently held 9th Thessaloniki International Wine Competition (see www.wineroads.gr) were quick to pick up on. Over lunch it was one of their favourites. Sales excluding, could a wine producer wish for a higher endorsement?
Intense nose of green tea and summer herbs. Fat, alternating with sappy flavours. Weight and structure. Mouth filling tasty extract. Rich, leesy, lively aftertaste with a botanical hint of thyme. Though still tight, there is much going on here. A novelty for the region. With its attractive (Assyrtiko derived) phenolic bite very much a food wine. Luke-warm fava puree, drenched in olive oil, adorned with crisp caper leaves. Slowly cooked spit roasted lamb. Mmm…
16 May 2009 © Nico Manessis | Score: 17/20
|Area: Macedonia|| |
Agent for Greece www.aioloswines.gr
As the largest in size appellation planted to one grape, Nemea has much going for it: Proximity to Athens, the nation's largest single market. A countryside reminiscent of Umbria or Southern Tuscany. No wonder it is a hot destination for wine exploring...
Central Greece | Red | Agiorgitiko
As the largest in size appellation planted to one grape, Nemea has much going for it: Proximity to Athens, the nation's largest single market. A countryside reminiscent of Umbria or Southern Tuscany. No wonder it is a hot destination for wine exploring weekends. The town of Nemea itself is not attractive, a fact made all the more apparent by its pretty location on the foothills of Mount Profitis Ilias, studded with a diverse maquis, olive groves, conifers. Imposing, above the town is the old school with its neoclassical facade. It was to this school that Kostas Mitravelas went. This soft spoken 30 something is the fourth generation Nemea merchant of bulk wine. Without much fanfare, in 2004, he started to bottle some of his best batches. Having tasted yearly with him, I have made him one of my Nemea templates. If only other Nemea producers paid such attention to his vineyard appraisal and blending discipline. Assisted by 20 something oenologist Gregory Vrettos, and with much hard work, they have quickly risen to one of Nemea’s top addresses. Sensibly, with the current crisis, they are concentrating on two labels only. The other being the Mitravelas Estate, a cask fermented, dense, more expensive wine. It is good; different to many that have come my way. There will be a future posting. Meantime, the estate's trump card remains the Red on Black(Kokkino se Mavro).
It is a blend of +20 year old, mostly bush vines. The colour is deep, of blue-purple rim. A burst of fruit, with the black cherries of Aghiorghitiko leaping out of the glass. It has good structure. Richly flavoured, with freshness keeping it interesting all through the finish. Polished. Retailing in Greece at Euro 6 per bottle, this 'rule breaker' (slightly chilled) soft fruity red wine is a cracker. You will not find so much bang for your money elsewhere from this in vogue appellation.
05 May 2009 © Nico Manessis | Score: 16.5/20
|Red on Black Nemea Mitravelas Estate|
|Area: Central Greece|| |
UK Agent : www.bibendum-wine.co.uk
Where to stay and eat in Nemea: Yiorgos Sofos rooms above his restaurant at the end of the square, near the monument of the Fallen Soldier is a welcoming oasis.
As I stood in the grounds of the chapel of Ai Giorgis, at the edge of Nemea, the town, I took in the views unfolding in front of me. There is snow on Mt.Kilini(2,300m). Near by a row of almond trees has blossomed. Fallow fields are vivid green. Pruning...
Peloponnese | Red | Agiorgitiko
As I stood in the grounds of the chapel of Ai Giorgis, at the edge of Nemea, the town, I took in the views unfolding in front of me. There is snow on Mt.Kilini(2,300m). Near by a row of almond trees has blossomed. Fallow fields are vivid green. Pruning in the vineyards has started in earnest. Heading for my visit to the Zafiri winery I run into a retired farmer who I first met in the 1990's. He was grinning from ear to ear. 'There has been much rain, from Xmass to early February. His facial expression became pensive. This fuss on climate change… pause… is true. A dusting of snow in town is getting rarer. My grandchildren have yet to witness it!' After more small talk I get my brief on, what else, wine politics and the customary invitation to the kafeneion. Plenty of coffee and tsipouro to go round. I don’t mind either, it’s the smoking that keeps me away.
I first visited the Zafiri winery nearly a decade ago. It is one of 30 wineries scattered all over town and in various villages in the appellations sprawling 2,500 hectares. Achileas Lampsidis of the Oktana group was renting space and helping out an Australia-based French oenologist making wine for some English super market chain. The pound was stronger. Greek wine was in vogue in the UK. It was a different world. As it happened, there was no Zafiri in sight.
Finally, in the courtyard, stood Dina Zafiri. 'There are lots of Z's in our family, followed by a lovely grin. My husband's name is Andreas Zavos, he is in the vineyards. One my daughters name is… Zaharoula'. We tasted all 2008 tanks. Two lesser ones, most rather good. A small selection is cask aged and bottled. The 2007's and 2008 were in cask. The 2007 are atypical, due to heat waves and lack of rain, in two words, concentrated and textured. The 2008 is turning out to be good to very good. Fruit and tannins in balance, especially true for wine from older bush vines. Kiato based oenologist Yiannis Ligas is the consulting oenologist. Athens University assistant professor Giorgos Kotseridis supervises the bottled wine. If only more bulk merchants would follow their approach. The Z's are onto a good thing.
A blend of two single vineyards. Koutsi and Heraklio(Arhea Nemea). The latter is from + 40 year old ungrafted bush vines. Good colour. Black cherry fruit exhuding finesse. More depth and complexity than most. Attractive slightly rustic bite on the finish. Character and individuality. Priced Euro7,50 a bottle at the winery.
26 Apr 2009 © Nico Manessis | Score: 16.5/20
|Area: Peloponnese|| |
Zafiri Wines, Nemea.
On the last day of the 9th Thessaloniki International Wine Competition (www.wineroads.gr) my Canadian friend and co-judge Tony Aspler asked me to taste a retsina. Luckily, one of the finest addresses of modern made, far from lacklustre retsina is close...
Macedonia | White | Assyrtiko
On the last day of the 9th Thessaloniki International Wine Competition (www.wineroads.gr) my Canadian friend and co-judge Tony Aspler asked me to taste a retsina. Luckily, one of the finest addresses of modern made, far from lacklustre retsina is close by. There are dozens of cheaper labels on the market. None though as intriguing and different as To Dakri tou Pefkou (the tear of the pine).
So, before going to lunch, we tasted it. His comment? "It is… elegant." That it is. There is more to this upmarket handcrafted retsina. Bear with me putting things into context. Retsina (resinated wine) is usually made with the Savatiano grape. Its historic homeland is around Athens, in the villages of Markopoulo and Spata, not far from the airport. Thessaloniki is another retsina town, mainly due to the huge Malamatina concern. Very little is actually made elsewhere. How is it made? In short, after fermentation kicks off in your stainless steel tank, one adds the pine resin. Presto! your menthol-like freshness. You either love it or cannot stand it. There is opinion but no dogma in these pages. No one is asking to like our heritage. To me retsina is above all a summer wine. Alfresco dining. Barefoot, twirling tows in sand or lukewarm, moist pebbles. It makes a great spritzer (long glass, ice and soda). Grilled sardines? Here the usually ultra-food friendly Chardonnay fails the test. Frankly, retsina does not often feature on my winter shortlists. Yet, one has to remain open minded. On a whim and with rather high curiosity stakes, I recently gambled by pairing it with a medium-hot perfumed curry. Delicious. It works a lot better than lager beer.
Back to this top-end vintage-dated resinated wine. Two influential factors have been changed from the above outlined recipe. The grape. Upgraded, if you wish, to Assyrtiko. Noted for its structure, mineral sympathies and high acidity. It is then fermented, not in stainless steel tanks, in which most good commercial large-volume retsina is now made. Our Dakri (Tear) is fermented in new oak casks. After fermentation has ceased, it is left on its fine lees for some time. Just as aspiring to greatness Chardonnays, the lees are stirred to broaden flavour. So this is Kechris winning recipe: Start with the most striking white grape of the eastern Mediterranean. Add Halepensis pine resin, and, after fermentation has run its course, let autolysis, oak and nature to do the rest.
Its aroma is delicate. Not your heavy-handed, well, turpentine burst of a coma-inducing resin mega dosage. In fact, its aroma (almost) behaves like any other fine wine. Nuanced, constantly changing. A whiff of lavender. A broad, layered spectrum of fascinating flavours. Freshly grated ginger and Chios mastic. Crisp, clean, lemony tasting, with persistence on the finish. Let's face it, no other wine jolts your senses like good retsina. Serve chilled but not cold. Otherwise you will miss out on most of the action. The best is yet to come. Does not wine have the last word? Go ahead and astonish yourself - enjoy it again in intervals of 6, 12, even 18 months. Nature's greatness is infinitely instructive. It is humbling, too.
How did this wine do in the competition? It won a Gold medal. Three years ago, it scooped up 'Double Gold,' which is the most coveted gong of all. This time, neither Tony or I judged retsina. There is always next year.
18 Apr 2009 © Nico Manessis | Score: 17.5/20
|To Dakri tou Pefkou 2008 Stelios Kechris & Daughters|
|Area: Macedonia|| |
I have been 'looking at' several dark horses from the lesser-known indigenous red varieties. There are some truly unusual and different wines in the works. Now that the so called heritage vines are increasingly coming into the fray (an Australian Assyr...
Thessalia | Red | Limniona
I have been 'looking at' several dark horses from the lesser-known indigenous red varieties. There are some truly unusual and different wines in the works. Now that the so called heritage vines are increasingly coming into the fray (an Australian Assyrtiko is on it's way), who knows what may catch on and create a worthy following. So, back to the 'new' reds: None impressed me more than the high potential of Limniona in the hand of Christos Zafeirakis. To all of you keen on our varieties, Limniona (Greek spelling with omega) is not to be confused with Limnio. Let’s look as to what has been unfolding in Tyrnavos. In his late twenties, Christos Zafeirakis will be much talked about in the future. A brilliant farmer and oenologist with valuable work experience in Northern Italy, he comes across far more mature than his age. He and others such as Louiza and Thanos Dougos and Melina Tassou are the latest clutch of breezy characters to enliven the wine scene.
First glance, the rather dowdy front label has the outline of a mechanism in the background. For an instant, it reminded me of a navigation instrument, such as a sextant, and then the fascinating Antikythera instrument - an early computer of sorts. Well, the forensics of the front label are divulged on the back label. It states that it is a piece of a watch unearthed in the vineyard where the densely planted (in 2005) Limniona took a new lease of life. And who does not have a label story. The Scops owl heard late at night by the label designer. Or the engraved initials of the Polish stonemason found by accident while picnicking on the terraced vineyards in Switzerland's Valais. The current crop of Greek labels is in dire need of improvement. If one opens their eyes and ears a little, who knows what is right there under our nose.
So, what is all the fuss for such a young vine 'newcomer'? Many sub plots. Some clues. The vines are trained high to achieve balanced, fully ripened, grapes. The little that is known by technicians is that this thick skinned grape has remarkable resistance to oxidisation, hence ageing potential. Since 2000, much thought and research has been done by Zafeirakis and a leading nursery. It is ongoing, as the farming know-how of this virtual unknown has only just started to be documented. From my front row seat, fascinating stuff. For wine lovers it is nothing but good news.
The grapes were initially fermented in a large wooden vat and then aged in second and third fill French oak barriques. Vivid medium-dark, not unlike a great Burgundy. Blossoming into a fruited spice. A new to me aroma; so far nothing remotely like it in the Greek vineyard. A nod of herbs. Creamy. Classy. Despite the 'heat' of the vintage, a refreshingly present acidity. Lacey. At this stage, a little facile (young vine playfulness) on the finish. With bottle ageing, it will open up. One of the most exciting 're-discoveries'. Available as of autumn 2009.
15 Apr 2009 © Nico Manessis | Score: 16.5/20
|Area: Thessalia|| |
If your travel's take you to Litochoro on Mt. Olympus, the only address pre-viewing the maiden vintage of this Limniona, enjoy(responsibly) their hand crafted Kozani saffron flavoured tsipouro. www.gastrodromio.gr
Contact e-mail: email@example.com
Nemea, the appellation, is overwhelmingly planted with one of the more seductive indigenous red grapes, the Aghiorghitiko. Some white grapes are also to be found. Savatiano, Roditis, more recently Assyrtiko and the usual and in my opinion, so far, less...
Peloponnese | White | Malvasia
Nemea, the appellation, is overwhelmingly planted with one of the more seductive indigenous red grapes, the Aghiorghitiko. Some white grapes are also to be found. Savatiano, Roditis, more recently Assyrtiko and the usual and in my opinion, so far, less successful (cosmopolitan)suspects.
The 15 stremata (1,5 hectares) of this producers Malvasia Aromatica is a new departure. Few grapes can muster, such a broad aromatic spectrum and actually taste of fresh grapes. Over the past 15 years, a tiny acreage of M.A. has emerged in various cooler (Velvendo) and warmer sites such as Nemea. This new to me varietal is to be found in Arhea Nemea is what Nemeans refer to as Heraklio.
Specifically, the full name of this estates cultivar is the Malvasia di Candia Aromatica. It is a distinctly different type of the many to be found in Italy under the umbrella term of Malvasia. It is also reputed to have the most personality which jibes with the Anastasiou's effort. It is an inspiring choice. A stand out from the plethora of labels on offer by the other 29 Nemea based wineries.
The winery was founded in 1954. In a period, when Greece had to heal the social and financial ravages of WWII and it's bitter civil war(1944-1947). Kyriakos Anastasiou now runs this artisan family owned and managed address. It is easy to locate, on the main road, which runs from Arhea Nemea to the larger in size, nearby, Nemea valley. They do brisk cellar door sales and increasingly sell to wine merchants.
Pink hued & slightly spritzy. Floral. Rose-petal, acacia and mandarin. Almost muscat flavours with peachiness riding on rich mouth filling grapey fleshiness. Dry finish. More than just a novelty value. Begs for chilli-lemongrass Thai dishes. Cellar door price? A most reasonable Euro 5 per bottle.
09 Apr 2009 © Nico Manessis | Score: 16/20
|Malvasia Aromatica Ktima Anastasiou|
|Area: Peloponnese|| |
Ktima Anastasiou, Arhea Nemea Korinthias
There are oceans of bland Savatiano, even poor ones. Self styled Greek wine cognoscenti turn up their noses to the potential of this misunderstood grape. In fact, the most widely planted cultivar in Greece. Perfectly adapted to the arid and hotter regi...
Central Greece | White | Savatiano
There are oceans of bland Savatiano, even poor ones. Self styled Greek wine cognoscenti turn up their noses to the potential of this misunderstood grape. In fact, the most widely planted cultivar in Greece. Perfectly adapted to the arid and hotter regions it is found in. Not all wines are born equal. Experience has shown that in any given vineyard I have ever visited there are always exceptions. My most recent experience with Sylvain Fadat's old vine (unfiltered) Carignane. As they in Corfiot dialect 'nobile paesante'.
Third generation farmer and winemaker Vassilis Papagiannakos has much to be proud of. His energy efficient winery, and a first in Greece, could not have been better timed. Made of stone, steel and ultra violet protective glass with an ingenious pro-active management of natural wind flow and venetian blinds are some of it's several features that help reduce energy costs.
To my knowledge, one of the most dedicated consulting oenologists whose mission is to showcase indigenous grape varieties is Yiorgos Anagnostopoulos. He does have a wider grasp than most of his fellow professionals on scores of lesser known grapes like the Ionian island specialty Vardea for example. Proof? The dramatic turnaround in the handful of wineries he consults to. I have been tracking for years his endeavours in other far flung island vineyards such as Cephalonia and Paros.It is an impressive record.
There is no shortage of old vines in Attica. Further to his own vineyards, Vassilis does know his way around the best farmed sites. With the current climate change he sources 80% dry farmed 40 year-old vines. The balance is from drip irrigated younger + 25 year old vineyards. These two non egocentric characters are refreshingly open minded. This healthy attitude brings good team work. All this does contributes to this eye popping wine as one of the finest of class. Retailing at Euro 6 per bottle, it is a strong candidate in vying for top spot recession proof dry white on the market. Next time you entertain serve this wine in a carafe. I did, over Xmass, to friends, who were waxing lyrical for this 'un-oaked Greek… chardonnay!'
Attractive green-pale yellow crystalline colour. A light but insistent nose with textbook 'seve'. Mouth filling richness, initial depth, moving onto a gently skin derived tannic presence. Balanced if quirky flavoured crisp finish. Personality with a strong sence of place.
Lastly, a favour. Not a word to the…cognoscenti.
06 Mar 2009 © Nico Manessis | Score: 16.5/20
|Area: Central Greece|| |
The market is awash with Champagnes, Prosecchi, featherlight Asti Muscats, even Aussie sparkling Shiraz. So what's happening on the home front? Rhodes, Mantinia, Amyndeo and Zitsa sparklers have been around for almost 50 years now. Curiously, investmen...
Epirus | Sparkling | Debina
The market is awash with Champagnes, Prosecchi, featherlight Asti Muscats, even Aussie sparkling Shiraz. So what's happening on the home front? Rhodes, Mantinia, Amyndeo and Zitsa sparklers have been around for almost 50 years now. Curiously, investment in this underdeveloped category has been lacking. Surely someone must have spotted this lucrative niche!
Have just spent two days tasting the streamlined range and a peek into the future, up north at Katogi Averoff, the pioneering boutique winery and now hotel in Metsovo, which lies almost in the middle of the Pindos mountain range. There was thick fog on the Katara Pass and snow on the higher elevations.
Dijon graduate oenologist Dimitri Ziannis is a man of few words. His carefully chosen comments are factual and candid. While quizzed about the 2006 Pinot Noir herbaceous notes, he mentions the rains of that vintage and that the holy grail of grapes was not as phenolically ripe as the 2007, which is perhaps the most promising of the tiny in presence very fine grape now in cooler climate Greece.
Back in 2004, he sought the advice of the Zitsa specialist and respected colleague Vassilis Vaimakis to identify one of the finest of the Debina grape farmers. The 2005 vintage was terrific in this cooler region in the north-western corner of the highly fragmented Greek vineyard. Harvest took place on October 3. The wine was kept on its fine lies for 5 months. It was then bottled with the addition of liqueur de tirage to undergo a secondary fermentation. It was aged for 24 months prior disgorging and corking in spring of 2008.
Quantities may not be large here, but qualitatively this exploratory effort has been a revelation. The mousse in a flute shaped glass is initially medium small. A few minutes later the sparkles become smaller beads. The carbon dioxide is soft, not metallic and harsh, something that plagues other Greek sparkling wines. The aroma is balanced, with an alternating yeasty creaminess and a nod towards the non-muscaty terpenes of Debina. It is elegantly balanced and, despite the residual sugar of 6 gr./l., finishes bone dry. Alcohol is 11.8% ABV. The name? Local Vlach dialect for: Flower of the Mountain.
If the grape sourcing can be expanded there are plans for a little more to go round. The Floara di Munte 2005 is, yet again, indisputable proof that the location of the vineyard and its farming practises do play such an important role in any wine, even if it is made using the methode traditionnelle, which is how Champagne is made.
14 Feb 2009 © Nico Manessis | Score: 17/20
|Floara di Munte 2005 Methode Traditionnelle Katogi Averoff|
|Area: Epirus|| |
Greece distributor: www.karoulias.gr
After an acrimonious split with his brother Konstantinos in 1996, Yiannis Boutaris named this Naoussa estate, which he first planted in the late 1960's, Kir Yianni. Yiannis has now gone into politics. More importantly, Kir Yianni is now in the hands of h...
Macedonia | Red | Xinomavro
After an acrimonious split with his brother Konstantinos in 1996, Yiannis Boutaris named this Naoussa estate, which he first planted in the late 1960's, Kir Yianni. Yiannis has now gone into politics.
More importantly, Kir Yianni is now in the hands of his eldest son Stelios. He has sought to introduce some stability and much needed changes. He has implemented an extensive re-planting program, as the inherited Xinomavro vines had for years been working overtime (see large yields) to cater for the negociant needs of Boutari Naoussa Grande Reserve. Remember that old chestnut?
Diaporos is a new cuvee, launched in spring 2008 with much noise at a lavish event at the Zappeion Hall in Athens. So what is all the hoopla about? Is it the breakthrough wine it is claimed to be? Though winemaking is now more modern at the estate, this wine, other than the claimed blend of Xinomavro 87% and Syrah 13%, is stylistically nothing new per se. Contradictory? Bear with me: If all the choices of clones, rootstock and new farming practice are correct, we will not know for quite some time into what direction Stelios and his team of consultants have steered this, now in transition, estate. Such is nature's pace that it will be years before the new vines settle, pick up age and show how good the anticipated modern profile really is.
One-dimensional kirsch - like nose-twitching spirit. Gamey. Slowly blossoming into spice and some 'sweetness'. Harsh raw 'green' tannins. Bretty. The label states 14.5% ABV, though with no fruit on the palate to pad it out it tastes much higher. Finishes very hot. No terroir imprint which can shine here. The 1994 Pinot Noir mirrored it with laser-like accuracy. In its maiden vintage, Diaporos is another out of sync, rustic Kir Yianni. Not the step forward I would have liked to report.
23 Jan 2009 © Nico Manessis | Score: 14.5/20
|Diaporos Kir Yianni|
|Area: Macedonia|| |
Greece distributor: www.karoulias.gr
|Variety: Xinomavro / Syrah|
December 1995, in a packed room at a Christies auction in Geneva. I had marked two lots of rare old Samos in my catalogue. As none was available at the pre-auction tasting, I had no idea about the condition of these old Muscats. How many of these olde...
Aegean Islands | Sweet | Muscat
December 1995, in a packed room at a Christies auction in Geneva. I had marked two lots of rare old Samos in my catalogue. As none was available at the pre-auction tasting, I had no idea about the condition of these old Muscats.
How many of these older vintages are still around? My feeling is, very few. Samos was toasted in Versailles before the French monarchy was toppled. In Flanders and in various German , Polish and Scandinavian port towns. Much later, up to the 1920s, it was also shipped in cask to Swiss merchants in the Valais.
After hard bidding, I was lucky to secure both of these lots of, rarely seen on the market, 1927 and 1919 Samos vintages. From the now defunct (more about this shortly) Karlovassi based negociants C.P. Antoniades.
Fast forward to autumn 2007, when I made a two day journey to the island. While admiring the recently completed museum, amongst numerous precious old bottles, their labels in French, German, English and Swedish, was a solitary 1927 Antoniades which I had donated to the Union of Samos Coop in 1996.
The Samos Union was set up by a government decree in 1934, following the civil war that erupted when short ended farmers revolted against the greediness of the negociants. That is another story, told in detail in my forthcoming book.
In today's export market, Samos remains a paradox. More appreciated abroad than home, it holds the top spot as the most exported Greek wine. Which country adores sweet Muscat the most? France. The clear favourite in the Hexagone is the fortified (15% ABV) Olympio Samos Grand Cru.
It was here on the island that I first tasted this 1975 Nectar. Thirty two years on, it is now in perfect shape. Such 'liquid history', retailing at selected Athens merchants for Euro 50 per 375 ml bottle does not often come around. 14% ABV with total acidity 7.3 g./l. Residual sugar: 190 g./l. Tellingly, the pH is 3.5. As this 1975 Liastos (sun dried) is a rare release, I urge you to go out and get some.
Mahogany. Classy volatile lift. Caramelized orange peel. A dusting of cocoa. Layered. Dessicated fig and cigar leaf. "Dry" finish with red tea and sage herbal notes. Balanced.
A wonderful example of oxydative aged Muscat's.
03 Jan 2009 © Nico Manessis | Score: 18.5/20
|Samos Nectar Liastos Vin Naturellement Doux|
|Area: Aegean Islands|| |
Greece distributor: www.karoulias.gr
French importer: www.la-martiniquaise.fr
The driving force behind the ongoing revival of this 1980s pioneer boutique address is the irrepressible Petros Markantonatos. A fellow Ionian to me, the embodiment of the mischievous Lixoriote-Cephalonian spirit . Armed with witty repartee. An arsenal of...
Ionian Islands | White | Robola
The driving force behind the ongoing revival of this 1980s pioneer boutique address is the irrepressible Petros Markantonatos. A fellow Ionian to me, the embodiment of the mischievous Lixoriote-Cephalonian spirit . Armed with witty repartee. An arsenal of puns. Oh yes, and his humour: it can slaughter imaginary or real monsters. He is, also, a man on a mission.
While tooling with the micro-cuvee of the estate's Syrah, he has been up to (what else?) more mischief in the cellar. First, he earmarked a high (850 m.), single vineyard of ungrafted Robola, planted in 1954 (following the devastating 1953 earthquake). He then revved up research on numerous ambient yeast strains of this other great white indigenous grape. Dozens of micro-vinifications later, the Robola 2007 CS is now with us. In essence, it represents a trial effort, ultimately seeking to improve his very good Robola. Interestingly, the restless Petros also tried all these wines with synthetic closures as well as natural cork. The aromatic profile was slightly more intense with natural cork. Methinks, why not go all the way and screw cap it? The ultra-conservative home market, though, is not quite ready for it, yet.
Even without the above suggested closure, it is all around sharper in focus. It exhibits more concentration vis-a-vis his current Robola, which, at 28 hectolitres per hectare, could hardly be described as thin. Redolent of jasmine and lemon zest. There is more depth and a clearer definition of the island's flint-stone Robola character. The severe bright acid mineral tow on the finish is pretty serious stuff. It reminds me of the Kimmeridgian Chablis Grand Cru soil. There is no doubt that the CS is a smart path towards eliciting even more terroir out of the Mount Ainos limestone rocky slopes, covered with vines, maquis and 'waves' of silvery-green olive trees that fade into the Ionian Sea.
For the time being, the Robola CS is sold at the winery. One last thing: The island's hued autumn light is nothing short of wondrous.
10 Nov 2008 © Nico Manessis | Score: 17.5/20
|Robola Cellar Selection Gentilini|
|Area: Ionian Islands|| |