In the haze, the Aliakmon River flows into the man-made Polyfytos Lake. In the distance, a solitary pelican glides on the mirror-like water surface. Seen from a particular angle, the abstract white building of Ktima Voyatzi could be mistaken for an interg...
Macedonia | Red | Xinomavro
In the haze, the Aliakmon River flows into the man-made Polyfytos Lake. In the distance, a solitary pelican glides on the mirror-like water surface. Seen from a particular angle, the abstract white building of Ktima Voyatzi could be mistaken for an intergalactic docking station. The striking elongated walkway ascending to the tasting room, the brainchild of architect Yiorgos Pappakostas, brilliantly captures what an uphill effort quality wine-making is. I urge future winery ventures to visit this address to see that one does not have to hark towards the past for inspiration and turn 'traditional' to eyesore. Inside, there are commanding views of the lake and the estate vineyards. One can see a battery of stainless steel tanks. It is all thought out with workflow in mind and attention to detail. So are the wines. Yiannis Voyatzis has been the longstanding chief oenologist of Boutari. Located in Velvendos, a prime peach-producing region, this estate is his own gig. Voyatzis is one of the top professionals of his generation. His approach is methodical and focused. He is keen on terroir yet sees beyond varieties, crafting a patchwork of place names into a classy, convincing mélange. His philosophy is lucid and coherent. There are no power-vinification show-offs here. What is there is a great in-situ support team. A thoughtful manager, oenologist Irine Zande daily breathes life into this venture. Roving ambassador, strikingly different younger brother Nikos Voyatzis is a great storyteller. Funny, too. Velvendos lies behind Naoussa's Mount Vermion. It is also home to distinct Xinomavro clones – different aromatics, darker colour, softer tannins. Though a Xinomavro varietal is indeed bottled here, it was the Ktima that quietly stole the show.
Comprising 65% Xinomavro, 25% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, it is the Xinomavro aromatics that take centre-stage, with a zippy acidity that holds interest, more so after carafing for several hours. Structure and tannins are so neatly interweaved it seems grafted by nanotechnology. Precise, polished sophistication, with a wink towards Bordeaux, the Xinomavro introducing exotic, charged aromatics and tension. Gratifyingly cerebral. Now, if you want to impress friends new to Greek wine, this is a great candidate for some blind tasting. The fun factor should be sky-high. Best 2014-2020
08 Feb 2014 © Nico Manessis | Score: 17/20
|Area: Macedonia|| |
A stone building houses the winery and pot still. Outside, two horses are eating hay. Several hens and a solitary turkey are “cleaning up” the edges of a linear vineyard. In the background, Vermio’s peaks, Dourlia and Giona, in a puff of snow. Winte...
Macedonia | Red | Xinomavro
A stone building houses the winery and pot still. Outside, two horses are eating hay. Several hens and a solitary turkey are “cleaning up” the edges of a linear vineyard. In the background, Vermio’s peaks, Dourlia and Giona, in a puff of snow. Winter light, so treasured by painters for their craft, adds a crystalline touch to this frozen-in-time, bucolic scenery. Ever heard of Dalamari? Methinks it is going to become justly famous in the very small world of Greek wine. It lies 420 m. high above the town of Naoussa. Recent convert to wine Stavros Kokkinos started out as a fruit farmer. Back in 2000, he had the good sense to invest in some of Naoussa’s prime place-names. One hectare of Paliokalia. He also owns 1.2 hectares of Gastra. Another 1.2 hectares of Xinomavro have been planted around the winery. Beyond his reviewed PDO Naoussa, he is also working on an ambitious Xinomavro-Cabernet Sauvignon blend. The fruit hails from another 1.7 hectares. Interestingly, the Cabernet Sauvignon vines are 30 years old. “Though I farmed fruit orchards I always wanted to make wine.” When visiting new addresses one way in assessing the vineyard’s pedigree is by “looking” at the distillates from these grapes. His tsipouro was raw, just a few weeks old. Yet, this all-Xinomavro clear-grape spirit was aromatic and textured. It is also one of the most refined I have ever tasted. The cynic may ask, “Is this estate a one-hit-wonder?” Quite on the contrary. The maiden vintage (2009) was a cracker. So much so that Xino Nero (Florina) restaurateur Nikos Kontosoros accurately commented that this vintage tasted more like cooler-climate Amyndeon than warmer Naoussa. The three aforementioned place-names have a proven track record, though only the first two are shared by other growers, namely Dalamaras, Karydas and Melitzanis. Previews of 2011, 2012, 2013 are promising, reflecting their vintage characteristics. Above all, they capture the wholesome classic (modern, not rustic) side of Naoussa. This “new” blood may not be redefining Xinomavro, but is a useful source of yet another facet of a lesser-known, rarely dull terroir.
Very fine aroma of black-berried fruit, strawberry, disappearing into ripe tannins. Expansive juicy fruit. Not over-extracted. Seamless oak. Attractive balance between acidity and tannins. Smells and tastes like no other Naoussa, yet brims with character of the PDO snapshots from which it hails.
06 Jan 2014 © Nico Manessis | Score: 16.5/20
|Ktima Kokkinos Xinomavro|
|Area: Macedonia|| |
In this part of the world, a desk stacked with copies of the Australian Wine Journal is not a common sight. But then, neither is oenologist Panayiotis Papagiannopoulos, one of the more sensitive technicians, tuned in with nature and grasping the broad...
Peloponnese | Red | Agiorgitiko
In this part of the world, a desk stacked with copies of the Australian Wine Journal is not a common sight. But then, neither is oenologist Panayiotis Papagiannopoulos, one of the more sensitive technicians, tuned in with nature and grasping the broader picture regarding wine. There are many innovative, re-thought, back-to-basics approaches at work in this address. Notably, a holistic approach. On a recent visit, their ‘new’ Agiorgitiko stood out. It is a star in the making. The inter-regional Agiorgitiko race is truly on, the grape now popping up as far as the cooler-climate north-east, with notable results near Kavala and western Drama. This effort is a little closer to Agiorgitiko's historic home, Nemea. With all this movement, there is never a dull moment, and the challenges of climate change have inspired a number of thought-provoking realizations. Several years back, while I was walking the Nemea vineyards with visiting IRNA’s chief ampelographer, Jean-Michel Boursiquot, it became clear to me that some of the best terroirs have been planted to olive trees. These are mostly limestone, the first tier, located just above the valley floor. Fact is that with the contraction of the Greek economy (now in its sixth year), these now precious olive trees are not going to be grubbed up any time soon. I am willing to wager that a brighter future lies round the corner. The leading nursery, local boy made good, Kostas Bakassietas has been working diligently with a whole new generation of virus-free Agiorgitiko clones. Perhaps they should first be planted on the aforementioned ‘steps’ overlooking the valley floor. So this new departure over the canyon balconies of the Gulf of Corinth is some location. A single vineyard of northeast exposure at 715 m. high on the nameplace of Pano Pythos. Planted in 2006 on a patch of clay and gravel, it is farmed organically. The wine is made with minimum intervention, wild ferment with a strong nod towards ‘natural’, aged for four months in 5,000-litter upright oak tank from Grenier in Burgundy and bottled unfiltered, using light sulfuring within the new, lower norms of EU organic winemaking laws. What struck me most was how it reminded me of what Nemea looked and tasted like in the mid- to late 1990s. All blue-rim, textured, of higher acidity. There are other realizations, to be posted in a forthcoming longer post under Opinion. In the meanwhile, it is time to rejoice and enjoy this arrival.
Blue rim. Clove-like spiciness with floral complexity. Bright cherry with a green apple bite. Concentration. Beguiling fruit depth. Marked by texture and grippy fresh tasting concentration. Uplifting vibrancy throughout. An exciting source of all-Greek natural wine. Nemea revisited. Best 2014-2024.
06 Dec 2013 © Nico Manessis | Score: 17/20
|Area: Peloponnese|| |
"Without travel, you can’t really know the place you are from" -David Mansaray In late November 2008, I was graduating with a degree in Enology in Athens, while at the same time I was practising my second vintage harvest on the island of Santorin...
"Without travel, you can’t really know the place you are from"
In late November 2008, I was graduating with a degree in Enology in Athens, while at the same time I was practising my second vintage harvest on the island of Santorini. It was a period in my life when I was becoming ever more curious and excited in discovering with my own eyes and soul the art of winemaking, worldwide.
Early enough in my career, I realized that no matter how many wine books I read, or how many wines I tasted I would never become accomplished before I finally handcrafted my own wine!
My journey across the wine world started in early 2009 with a trip to Mendoza, Argentina. If I were ever asked to express my overall experience in one word that word would be "teamwork", a principle I intend to treasure throughout my career.
Cahors, France, was the second destination of my journey. This south-western region in France, famed for the Malbec grape variety, taught me how the integration of everyday life with the skills of winemaking can generate a new synthesis, called "knowledge".
After France, it was now time for Australia to be my new home. Winemaking in Australia and quality control go hand in hand. I have experienced all levels of winemaking, with their impeccable focus on the preservation of flavours and aromas, both signature characteristics of Australian wines. I have re-visited Australia on numerous occasions and was always faced with the same question: "Are you a white or red winemaker?" In a country where specialization is very important, I was lucky enough to become involved with both types of wines and at the same time deal with all kinds of grape varieties.
Last but not least in my journey across the wine world was California. A land so generously gifted by nature. Napa and numerous other valleys of California are decorated every year with new state-of-the-art boutique style wineries, thus giving the opportunity for new people to develop their winemaking skills and produce new, modern wines.
One of the lessons I derived from my practical work across the world was to appreciate the knowledge that I acquired as a student of Enology in Greece and from my interaction with the local growers. Winemaking in Greece is deeply routed into our culture and has also technologically evolved throughout the years as Greek winemakers nowadays meticulously analyse, assess, and craft all types of wines.
Nonetheless, all individuals must be dedicated to becoming the best version of themselves. Opting for work placement abroad and then implementing the positive experiences from our host countries to our own ethics gives us the foundation for a promising career.
The setting, the spacious canava of Pelekanos Hotel Wine Bar. Haridimos Hatzidakis had invited the farmers from whom he sources some of his grapes, alongside with a clutch of wine lovers, to explore a decade of his Nichteri. If you are unfamiliar with thi...
The setting, the spacious canava of Pelekanos Hotel Wine Bar. Haridimos Hatzidakis had invited the farmers from whom he sources some of his grapes, alongside with a clutch of wine lovers, to explore a decade of his Nichteri. If you are unfamiliar with this term, some insight: In the past, after harvesting all day long, this was the first wine made, after dusk. Nichta is Greek for night. In essence, it was the free-run juice of the then age-old foot presses. It was a canava’s finest and most expensive wine. In today’s terms, it translates into grapes picked later, of ABV14.5% – ABV16%. To put this in context, the bone-dry PDO Santorini are on average ABV%13.5. These wines need strongly flavoured dishes. Their intensity compares to Sherry, Fino en rama. Surprisingly, another wine region also gives a nod to the unique wines of the crescent-shaped volcanic island. More on that in a moment.
On a large communal table, the mingling of land-owning farmers like the genial Christoforos Chryssou and chef Vassilis Zacharakis, who went as far as to name his restaurant, what else, Nichteri, boded for a great evening. The guest list rounded up most of the island’s wine community. Sharing was genuine. Their stories behind these wines, encompassing a very diverse and far-reaching spectrum of experiences and opinions, made this simply the most instructive and enjoyable clan gathering on my wine-route travels in years. Leading the tasting was Paris-based Hatzidakis importer, Yorgos Ioannidis. All bottles came from the producer’s cellar and were decanted between 2-4 hours. To put us in the mood with a "reference", a teaser. 2012 cask sample. Reminiscent of a Vin Jaune from the Jura. It felt like it was harvested a few months ago. Not rated.
2010: Did not reach standards and was declassified
2009: Grapey. Quince. Textured. Elegance. Structured for ageing. 18.5/20
2008: Fino-like. Heat. Tannic bite. Bone dry. Approachable. 17.5/20
2007: Petrol. Heat imprint. Honeyed. Stoney backbone. 17/ 20
2006: Focused. Complexity. Freshness. Classy. Complete. 19.5/20
2005: Petrol. Maritime salinity. Extract. Intensity. 17.5/ 20
2004: A large harvest. Fleshy. Marred by hollow finish. 14/20
2003: Floral. Spice. Cherubic. Playful. 16.5/20
2002: The smallest harvest in recent memory. Lactic. Mushroom. 15.5/20
2001: Lively fresh flavours. Energy. Some staying power! 18.5/20
2000: Back to the Nichteri style. Smokey pyritic aftertaste. Holding up. 17/20
1999: Reductive. Signs of oxidation. Sherry-like flor. Dried out. 14/20
Haridimos explained that these wines were not always from the same sites. Rather, it was all about a quest to locate the most suitable place name to deliver the best Nichteri possible. With hindsight, it is a pity that a team of young technicians with their tablets were not involved to help compile a database to build on from this pioneering quest. Interestingly, Hatzidakis also stated that the average ABV% on all these wines was 14.7. The 2006, the night’s star, was perfection. This breathtaking bottle has joined my pantheon of the greatest wines I have been lucky enough to enjoy over the years. Let me put it this way: There was no spitting out. As I stepped out on the cobblestone street of Fira, cold winter air bracing my face, something quite unexpected happened. I jumped up, clicking my heels. Now, I may be a poor dancer but, with the elating rush throughout my body and soul, it felt, for that fleeting instant, like the gravity-defying, mid-air hovering leap Mikhail Baryshnikov performed in his day.
Switzerland, my adopted country of domicile, could in two words be summed up as thrifty and industrious. One could add organized, too. This is a story of Swiss teamwork on Patmos, where a mountainous and an island culture bonded while reviving an abandone...
Switzerland, my adopted country of domicile, could in two words be summed up as thrifty and industrious. One could add organized, too. This is a story of Swiss teamwork on Patmos, where a mountainous and an island culture bonded while reviving an abandoned wine farm. Patoinos-Domaine de l’ Apocalypse, at Petra, is the vision of ex-parliamentarian Josef Zysiadis.
This ex-theologian and politician has proven a great forward-planner and organizer. Has anyone recently heard of Patmos wine? Not for a while. Sixty years ago, Muscat of Alexandria and the red Fokiano were abundant on numerous terraces throughout the island. Zysiadis turned for advice to leading ampelographer Kostas Bakasietas. He in turn recommended Santorini's great Assyrtiko and another, age-old Aegean specialty, Mavrathiriko (Black Athiri). Four vignerons-encaveurs from the Canton de Vaud were generous with their skills and time.
Gilles Wannaz, a long-term convert to biodynamics on his farm overlooking Lac Leman spearheaded. He first brought his family here in winter to get a feeling of the “energies” and prepare the soil, not using soil-compacting tractors but mules. He returned in spring 2011 with Noé Graff, Raymond Paccot, and Raymond Cruchon to plant.
The soil was “biodynamized” with their know-how. There are several novel to Greece schemes, such as a vine-adoption program. Out of 10,000 vines, 2000 will be leased for ten years and in return you will receive one bottle of each vintage. The day of my visit, a French visitor walked in, inquiring details for adopting one Assyrtiko vine. One wonders what Mavrathiriko rosé will taste like!
There are other exciting plans on this eco-friendly venture: Donators have come forward with an olive press. Further to the estate’s olive trees, remarkably, there are 2000 on the island. There is more to this Swiss-Patmos connection: there is also the wonderfully named Aristides Miaoulis – his surname comes straight out of the 1821 Greek War of Liberation – a local who moved 35 years ago to Moudon, in the Canton de Vaud and became a cheese maker. This busy retiree has set up his small workshop not far from the winery. Tomme de Patmos anyone?
Beyond agriculture, there is a cultural note in these constructive efforts. Old engravings, to the left of the old town, depicting three windmills, have been restored by Geneva's banker Charles Pictet.
Are we looking at a trend here? Is this rebirth, driven by Swiss input and long-term commitment, to be repeated by other like-minded people? One would hope so, as the inertia-riddled, fiscally and morally bankrupt Greek state has at this juncture little to show for itself. My only bone to pick on this pioneering project is why it took the Patmos Monastery of St John ten years to strike an agreement with Joseph Zysiadis? May I suggest to owners of other estates up and down the archipelago a little more of the 21st century: Posting details and inviting lease offers on the Internet would be a good starting place.
For more information please visit www.patoinos.ch