As the African plate inched forward, it collided with the European, and Crete popped up. The only near-uniform soil type on the island is the limestone hillsides above the town of Iraklio. The rest of the island is a geologist's dream.
With its cooler microclimate, this artisan estate lies on a dream patch of soil. On a geology map, it looks like it poured out of a mixer. Marl-littered, with petrified shells and urchins, red oxides, sand and schist. Yannis Economou has been on my radar ever since I discovered him in the 1990s. He readily admits Ziros is blessed with an extraordinary terroir. Yet, it is his deep understanding and minimalist approach that turn heads and raise eyebrows. For two decades he has been making "natural" wines. His only concession is low doses of sulphur, and that not in all wines.
There is nothing weird about his Sitia. It sings with laser-like accuracy. Economou is not an easy man to pry about his methods or get to taste the older vintages. Not suffering fools lightly, he teases, in a nice way. His worldly outlook to the world's finest wines enables him to see what he has and how to manage it, cellaring up to a decade and releasing when each vintage is ready. All grapes come from his own, organically farmed vineyards. Yields are minute, as "that's what nature gives up here", from ungrafted 80-90-year-old vines.
On a recent visit, I tasted the trio of 2006, 2005, 2004. All very different, compelling stuff. The 2004 is enveloped in a wall of acidity. Like the reviewed 1999, it is a profound wine, even though not ready yet. One can not argue against Economou's approach. It is all clearly thought out. Perhaps the best news is that he plans to bottle in magnums. I cannot think of any other collectable red wine more deserving of this, some argue ideal, format. There is another hidden gem in his 600-m. Ziros cellar: the little-seen dark horse in the Cretan white-grape bounty, Thrapsathiri 2009. Think of Château de Beaucastel old-vine Roussanne meeting Cretan botanical gutsiness. Now that is another teaser Economou story.
The smaller-berried Liatiko, with a spoon of Mandilari. Indigenous yeast. Darker- and fresher-looking than any previous vintages. Reminiscent of an aged Burgundy frozen in time. Floral, with aeration it expands into a spectrum of exotic spice aromas. "Sweet" Pinot noir-like nose and palate. Cherries. Compact, high-acid, firm backbone. Intense, lasting aftertaste. A rare combination where a great terroir and human are in unison. If this wine hailed from a classic Italian or French region, it would be very, very expensive. For this pedigree and class, it is a steal. Carafe for 15 minutes. Best 2012- 27.
21 Aug 2012 © Nico Manessis | Score: 19/20
|Area: Crete|| |
|Variety: Liatiko / Mandilari|