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A toast to Haridimos Hatzidakis

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Originally from Crete, Haridimos Hatzidakis founded his eponymous estate in Pyrgos, on Santorini, in 1996, replanting a vineyard that had been abandoned 40 years earlier after the devastating 1956 earthquake. Today the estate comprises 10 hectares of owned and leased vineyards. Assyrtiko, Aidani and Mavrotragano are grown and the farming is organic, still something of a rarity on the island.

Hatzidakis’s wines, which the Mo’ Wine Group began discovering when some of the 2008s became available through the private import channel, quickly convinced me that Santorini was one of the world’s great wine appellations and that Hatzidakis was one of the world’s great winemakers. My first encounter with the Mylos, again the 2008, had me declaring it to be one of the world’s great whites, a claim subsequent encounters and vintages have not called into question.

I met Hatzidakis only once, at last year’s Salon des vins d’importation privée. He seemed a humble, somewhat shy, soft-spoken man who needed only a little prompting to reveal his passion for wine-making, organic farming and Santorini. He spoke with pride about his new winery and encouraged me to visit if I made it back to the island. It is something I ardently hope to do but, alas, it won’t be in his company: Haridimos Hatzidakis died suddenly last Friday.

On Saturday, friends and I opened a bottle of the recently arrived 2016 Mylos, arguably the estate’s flagship wine, and raised a glass in honour of Haridimos’s life and accomplishments and in the hope that his legacy lives on.

Santorini 2016, Assyrtiko de Mylos, Vieilles Vignes, Hatzidakis ($51.75, 12338834)
100% Assyrtiko from dry-farmed old vines – ungrafted like all Santorini vines – that average 150 to 300 years old. The certified organic, late-harvested grapes were picked by hand, destemmed, cooled, crushed and macerated on their skins for 12 hours. Fermentation (at 18°C with indigenous yeasts) and maturation (on the lees) took place in stainless steel tanks and lasted 10 months. Bottled unfiltered, unfined and with minimal sulphur dioxide. About 3,000 bottles made. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.

Already pale gold in colour. Tightly furled nose that blossoms as the wine breathes: preserved lemon, minerals, hints of petrol and fish oil and eventually Mediterranean herbs. Weighty in the mouth, with an oily texture, Meyer lemon flavours, a mineral structure and an astounding salinity. Assyrtiko’s trademark acidity is here turned stealthy by the dense extract. Dominated by citrus-pith and sharp-edged minerals and developing honeyed overtones, the intense finish lasts for minutes. Made a credible pairing for grilled octopus dressed with wine vinegar, olive oil, red onion and capers and a superb match for bucantini with olive oil, lemon, leek and bottarga, which brought out the wine’s fruit (“though it’s fruity in the sense that olives are fruity,” another imbiber noted). (Buy again? Oh, yes.)

Earlier vintages of this wine have “aged” quickly, turning a rich gold-bronze, gaining pronounced oxidative and honeyed notes, the acidity smoothing out, the minerality receding slightly. However disconcerting this can be at first, you are soon won over by the wine’s richness, authority and infinitely layered complexity. At that stage, it is excellent with grilled lamb chops (recipe after the jump) and sublime with beef tartare.

Update (September 9, 2017): On the oenopole website, Theo Diamantis has posted a moving tribute to Haridimos.

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Written by carswell

August 15, 2017 at 13:23

Buy again? Repeatedly.

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Santorini 2015, Assyrtiko, Domaine Hatzidakis ($27.25, 11901171)
100% Assyrtiko. No maceration. After clarification, the must is fermented at 18ºC with indigenous yeasts. Matured on the lees for 40 days. Aged in stainless steal tanks. Lightly filtered and dosed with sulphur dioxide before bottling.1.9 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Sandy beach, preserved lemon and a note that trills between petrol and resinous herbs. A mouthful of minerals, dusted with dried lemon zest and salt, infused with tincture of dried peach peel. Acidity would be glaring were it not for the mellowing extract, chalk and quartz. A thread of dried honey twines through the long finish. This has paired deliciously with dishes as varied as grilled chicken (recipe after the jump), veal scalloppini finished with lemon juice and parsley and, of course, oysters on the half shell. It also makes a deluxe aperitif. The price hikes are unfortunate (the 2011 retailed for $21.95) but inevitable: the world has discovered Santorini wines and grape prices on the island are skyrocketing. That doesn’t make this overpriced – far from it – just less of an incredible bargain than it used to be. (Buy again? Repeatedly.)

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Written by carswell

December 22, 2016 at 13:32

Mönch on this!

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Mosel 2015, Ürzig Würzgarten Riesling Kabinett, Mönchhof ($25.90, 11034804)
100% Riesling from ungrafted, dry-farmed vines between 60 and 100 years old in the original part of the Würzgarten vineyard (red slate) in the municipality of Ürzig. Manually harvested. Fermentation with selected yeasts in stainless steel and neutral German oak vats lasts four weeks. Matured four to six months in stainless steel tanks and neutral German oak barrels. Filtered before bottling. Screwcapped. Reducing sugar: > 60 g/l. 8.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Valmonti.
Green apple, lime/grapefruit, mown meadow, slate, lemon yogurt, hints of yellow stone fruit. Sweet on the attack, then the acidity kicks in. Chockablock with pure, ripe fruit. Endowed with a mineral backbone. Shows fair depth and some spice at the back of the palate. Finish is subdued but quite long. Well balanced despite the hot vintage. Ageable at least a decade, maybe two, during which time it will deepen, gain complexity and lose sweetness. For now, while almost too sweet to drink as an aperitif, it comes into its own alongside food, in my case a fairly faithful replica of Nigel Slater’s apples, potatoes and bacon recipe finished with crème fraîche, mustard and tarragon, a dish I’ll be making – and pairing with German Riesling – again. (Buy again? Yes.)

Written by carswell

October 5, 2016 at 12:50

Blancs de Provence

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IGP Méditerranée 2013, Viognier Sainte-Fleur, Triennes ($22.30, 12625681)
Triennes in the project of two well-known Burgundians (Jacques Seysses of Domaine Dujac and Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanée Conti) and a Paris-based friend. The estate is located in the Var, east of Aix-en-Provence, was founded in 1997 and began converting to organic farming in 2008 (the 2011 vintage of the Sainte-Fleur was the estate’s first certified organic wine). This 100% Viognier is fermented in temperature-controlled tanks and matured in tanks. Reducing sugar: 1.8 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Séguin & Robillard.
Quartz dust and faint peach filigreed with honeysuckle, smoked salt and garrigue. Bordering on unctuous in the mouth, where it proves more of a fruit cocktail, albeit a dry and alcoholic one that’s freshened by smooth acidity and backdropped by sun-baked stones. A faint bitterness threads through the long finish. Not bad for an inexpensive Viognier – no one’s going to mistake it for a Condrieu – and pleasant enough to drink but not really memorable and not the bargain that the red is. Might well show better at the dining table than it does at the tasting table. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Bandol 2014, Domaine du Gros’Noré ($30.75, 12206989)
Despite what you’ll read on SAQ.com and on the Quebec agent’s website, this is a 70-30 blend of Ugni Blanc (aka Trebbiano) and Clairette from sustainably farmed vines averaging 30 years old. The must is macerated on the skins for 24 hours, then fermented at low temperatures with indigenous yeasts. Sees only stainless steel until bottling. Unfiltered and unfined. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Shy nose of quartz, wet ash, earth and white flowers. The rich texture is balanced by a steady stream of underlying acidity. Somewhat neutral in flavour yet somehow savoury and mouth-filling. Stones and lemon pith haunt the long finish. While this will never be an exuberant wine, it is a baby at this point and, as a second bottle showed, it doesn’t stop evolving for hours after opening. Definitely a food wine: I thought sea bass with pesto might make a good match but that second bottle was transporting with the winemaker’s recommended pairing of grilled mussels with rosemary, my recipe for which you’ll find after the jump. (Buy again? Done!)

MWG October 8th tasting: flight 2 of 7

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Written by carswell

October 17, 2015 at 13:43

A fascinating Soave

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Soave Classico 2012, La Froscà, Gini ($26.80, 12132107)
Organically farmed Garganega from 57-year-old vines. The manually harvested grapes are soft-pressed and the must is cold-macerated on the skins. Temperature-controlled alcoholic fermentation is in a mix of stainless steel and neutral French oak casks. Does not undergo malolactic fermentation. Matured on the lees for at least eight months, partly in stainless steel tanks, partly in 228-litre “seasoned” oak barrels. Sulphur is added only at bottling. Reducing sugar: 3.4 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Bambara Selection.
Beautiful, fragrant nose: pear and a little peach, loads of chalky minerals, hints of spring honey, white flowers and almonds. In the mouth, the wine is as much about minerals as fruit – in fact, there’s a real tension between them. Intertwining threads of honey and bitterness add intrigue, while a fine acidity animates a density that might otherwise border on lethargic. The long kaleidoscopic finish is marked by saline notes and a faint Szechuan pepper-like numbingness. Fascinating. The most savoury Soave I’ve ever tasted. Unless you’re a wine geek, probably best thought of as a food wine (recipe after the jump), which role it will play stupendously. (Buy again? Absolutely.)

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Written by carswell

August 30, 2015 at 16:33

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming…

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…to bring you the following public service announcement.

Normally I’d wait until all the notes from the MWG’s February tasting were up before posting this one. Why the rush? Because Domaine des Huard’s owner-winemaker, Michel Gendrier, is in town and will be pouring this and other wines at the excellent Le Comptoir charcuteries et vins tomorrow evening (Monday, March 9). And if that weren’t inducement enough, he’ll be joined by fellow Loire winemakers Étienne Courtois and Nicolas Grosbois. For details about this Romo love-in, see here.

Cour-Cheverny 2008, François 1er, Vieilles Vignes, Domaine des Huards ($24.45, 12476452)
Huard’s top-of-the-line dry Cour-Cheverny. 100% Romorantin from organically and biodynamically farmed vines averaging 75 years old. Manually harvested. Two-thirds of the grapes are immediately pressed, one-third are macerated on the skins for 15 hours before pressing. Fermented with indigenous yeasts at between 18 and 20°C. Matured on the lees for five months. Cold-stabilized before bottling in the September following the harvest. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Honey, straw, chalk, dried lemon, browning apple, faint white spices and an even fainter whiff of kerosene. Medium-bodied but with a dense, bordering-on-unctuous texture. Ripe-sweet on entry, the fruit is nicely soured by a surging undercurrent of acidity before slow-fading into the long finish, revealing the mineral substrate and leaving behind a very dry, light astringency and a hint of nuttiness and coriander seed. A lovely, layered, elegant wine deserving of a dry goat cheese or a fine piece of fish (you’ll find a couple of recipe ideas after the jump). Available as a private import, the 2007 was a Loire lover’s must-buy at $32. At under $25, this 2008 is a certifiable bargain. (Buy again? Absolutely.)

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Written by carswell

March 8, 2015 at 14:14

MWG January 8th tasting: A marriage made in heaven

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The tasting ended with a dessert wine, a Tokaji Aszú from Béres, the producer of the dry whites that so impressed us in the third flight.

As the aszú designation indicates, some of the grapes had been shrivelled and concentrated by Botrytis cinerea (aka noble rot). Assuming the Béres is made according to standard practice, the botrytized grapes are destemmed, stored for about a week and “then kneaded to a pulp which is added to a base Tokaji wine, or to must, by the puttony (a hod of twenty to twenty-five kilos). The eventual sweetness depends on the number of puttonyos added to the 136-140-litre barrels (called gönchi) of one-year-old base wine – usually 3, 4 and 5 puttonyos; 6 is exceptional,” quoting Hugh Johnson’s Wine Companion.

Tokaji Aszú 2007, 5 puttonyos, Béres ($53.45/500 ml, 12387791)
A blend of Hárslevelü and Furmint from vines between six and 32 years old. Manually harvested. Fermented with selected yeasts in Hungarian oak barrels for four weeks. Did not undergo malolactic fermentation. Matured off the lees in 220-litre Hungarian oak barrels for 24 months. Lightly filtered, then bottled and aged another 12 months before release. 9.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Valmonti.
Rich nose of apricot, honeycomb, orange marmalade and acacia blossom. On the texture spectrum, somewhere between satin and cream. It’s also very sweet. In fact, were it not for the racy acidity, the wine would be unctuous and cloying. Layered and complex but also clean and pure. Yellow apple and pear compote, peach and toffee are the dominant flavours; minerals are there if you dig for them. The finish lasts for minutes. Delicious now but still a baby (the producer claims this can age up to 50 years). (Buy again? Gladly.)

Like many Tokaji Aszús, this would make an exquisite pairing for foie gras. At the tasting, it was served with the clementine and almond syrup cake (sans chocolate icing) from Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s excellent Jerusalem cookbook. While I’d figured the pairing would work, it proved to do far more than that: not only did the wine and the cake make each other taste better, the effect was quite different depending on which you tasted first.

(Flight: 8/8)

Written by carswell

February 10, 2015 at 17:19