Posts Tagged ‘Greece’
Santorini 2015, Assyrtiko, Argyros ($25.25, 11639344)
100% Assytriko from 60- to 70-year-old ungrafted vines trained into low-lying nests and rooted in the island’s rocky, sandy pumice soil. Fermented and matured in stainless steel tanks. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole. Also available at the LCBO ($22.95, 387365).
Somewhat reticent nose that, with coaxing, reveals stones, lemon, brine and, according to one taster, “olive.” Very dry. True to the Assyrtiko grape, which is to say as much about minerals as fruit. The acidity would be trenchant were it not blunted by the slightly viscous texture. Finishes long on an appealing briny/sulphurous note. Bracing, savoury and ready to roll, though the winemaker says it can age for up to eight years. (Buy again? Yes and yes again.)
Santorini 2015, Assyrtiko, French Oak Fermented, Argyros ($32.00, 12338800)
100% Assyrtiko from ungrafted vines more than 150 years old and located in Episkopi. Spent six months in second- and third-fill 500-litre French oak barrels. Reducing sugar: 3.8 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Softer nose that smells a little sweeter than its sibling’s, with the oak relegated to the background. On the palate, too, the oak is discreet, evident more as gras than, say, vanilla, caramel or toast. It, along with the richer extract, explain the rounder texture; even so, the wine is tighter and more closed than its flightmate. The brilliant acidity, complex minerals and fruity heft are in ideal balance. The finish is long and saline. Already complete, this will only improve with age. If any wine can convince me that oak isn’t beside the point with Assyrtiko, this is it. (Buy again? Yes.)
Technical info is minimal because the estate’s website is offline, probably so it can be overhauled in conjunction with the launch of the estate’s impressive new winery and visitors centre, which opened just in time for the 2016 harvest.
MWG January 12, 2017, tasting: flight 3 of 7
Crete 2015, Vilana, Lyrarakis ($14.05, 11607553)
100% Vilana from vineyards in Alagni, central Crete, south-southeast of Heraklion. Manually harvested. Half the grapes were whole-cluster pressed; the other half were destemmed and cold-macerated on the skins for several hours. Fermentation took place in temperature-controlled (17-19°C) stainless steel tanks. Screwcapped. Reducing sugar: 1.9 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Focus Cellars.
Chalk, quartz, matches and a hint of dried herbs. Clean, light and smooth in the mouth, with citrusy, Sauvignon Blanc-like fruit, good acidity and a decently long, clean, minerally finish. Certainly drinkable but also somewhat simple and a bit anonymous. Would like to taste the more upscale bottling. (Buy again? Maybe.)
Patras 2015, Roditis, Tetramythos Winery ($15.80, 12484575)
100% Roditis from organically farmed vines in limestone-soil vineyards located about 10 km south and 800 metres above the Gulf of Corinth. The manually harvested grapes are destemmed and pneumatically pressed. The must is gravity-fed into small, temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks for fermentation (with indigenous yeasts) and maturation. Reducing sugar: 1.9 g/l. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Expressive nose of candied white berries, quartz dust and a hint of jalapeño. The fruity extract and lemon overtones notwithstanding, minerally – even rainwatery – on the palate, an impression only heightened by the brisk acidity. Ripe-sweet upfront, dry on the long, saline finish. Direct and to the point. Experience shows this really comes into its own with a selection of meze or a grilled porgy. (Buy again? Yes.)
Markopoulo 2015, Savatiano, Vieilles Vignes, Domaine Papagiannakos ($16.55, 11097451)
100% Savatiano from unirrigated 50-year-old vines in rocky, limestone soil a few kilometres east of Athens airport. Manually harvested. Fermented with selected yeasts in temperature-controlled (16-18°C) stainless steel tanks. Matured on the lees for three months. Reducing sugar: 2.0 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
The nose’s combination of floral notes, sandy beach, lemon curd and white peach is unique. Lemon with hints of tropical fruit, a mineral substrate and bright but unaggressive acidity mark the palate. A bitter thread weaves through the long finish. Probably the most versatile of the trio. As the 2008 Estate bottling tasted last summer showed, Savatiano is capable of improving with age. (Buy again? Yes, including a couple of bottles to cellar for five or six years.)
MWG January 12, 2017, tasting: flight 2 of 7
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.)
[Hover over pics to display captions and credits; click to embiggen.]
Located a 20-minute drive southeast of Athens International Airport, the Papagiannakos Winery sits on the northwestern edge of Porto Rafti in Markopoulo. Shoebox-shaped with a sloping roof and prominent girders that, in profile, look like a giant Π (pi, the first letter of the family name), the current structure was built in the mid-2000s. It is, in a word, gorgeous: clean and modern in design, integrated into the surroundings, eco-friendly and featuring extensive use of local materials, in particular stones. The equipment is state of the art, the compact barrel cellar houses Allier and Nevers oak casks. A glass wall under a large overhang faces south providing ample daylight while, on the north side, a row of clerestory windows runs above the tall stone wall ensuring good airflow and an escape route for warm air. At the far (west) end of the building are found, on the lower level, a large tasting room and, on the upper level, a beautiful, high-ceilinged event space with a sweeping view over the valley to the ridge separating the region from Athens, with the airport’s control tower just visible over the intervening hills. Carefully chosen artwork adorns the walls. In short, it’s a feel good place.
The Papagiannakos family has been growing grapes and making wine in Markopoulo since 1919. In the 1960s, the second generation upgraded the winery and improved the quality of its output. The current, third-generation owner-winemaker, Vassilis, took over in 1992, and almost immediately began the process of bringing the winery into the 21st century.
It may be a conceit but I’ve often found winemakers to resemble the wines they make. In any case, it’s true for Vassilis: classy yet down-to-earth, generous yet reserved, rooted in the past yet forward-looking, attached to a place yet also aware of the world. Speaking about his wines, he rightly said “they don’t shout,” but he could equally have been talking about himself (or his winery’s handsome labels, for that matter).
Papagiannakos has several vineyards, some around the winery and others – including ones under contract – scattered throughout the environs. Though the soil varies from parcel to parcel, it is generally rocky and infertile over a limestone base. The area receives no rain to speak of from May or June through October, so the vines are grown in low bushes; rot isn’t a problem here, in contrast to, say, the Peleponnese, where grape vines are usually trained on wires. The dry, breezy conditions also mean there is no need for insecticides or fungicides. On the other hand, irrigation (drip to conserve water) is a necessity, especially for young vines.
The winery has specialized in Savatiano since its founding. Actually, it was the only grape variety grown at the estate until Vassilis took the helm. He soon began playing with the newly resuscitated Malagousia variety and then red grapes. He also has several experimental plots, one of them Greco di Tufo, the first real vintage of which will be the 2016. “Italian grapes,” I exclaimed, unable to hide the surprise in my voice. With a shrug of the shoulders and a wry smile came the reply: “Well, as the name implies, it’s probably Greek.”
After a tour of the building, we gathered in the event room for a technical tasting with Vassilis and members of his family, including his children, affable, knowledgeable and articulate young adults who will eventually take the reins from their father. You’ll find my tasting notes after the jump.
♦ PAPAGIANNAKOS (ATTICA)
In early July, a group of seven Montreal wine and food geeks, including me, travelled to Greece to visit six wineries in as many regions in seven days. The trip was arranged and paid for by the wineries concerned with assistance from the European Union and the Greek government; I offer all of them – especially the wineries – my warmest thanks.
In the days and weeks to come, I’ll be posting reports here on the estates visited and many wines tasted and on where we stayed, where and what we ate and what we saw on my other blog, where a first post offers a few travel tips.
Attiki 2013, Melias, Domaine Papagiannakos
The third vintage of this wine. 100% Malagousia from dry-farmed vines rooted in limestone soil. The north-facing vineyard is located at an elevation of 100 metres in southeast Attica, not far from the Athens International Airport. An amount of must equivalent to 40% of the final wine is boiled down to concentrate it and the sugar it contains. Successive doses of fermenting unboiled must are then added. 13% ABV. Residual sugar is quoted as pushing 120 g/l. The elegant, svelte bottle holds 500 ml.
Golden to the eye. Beguiling nose redolent of green grape, peach/apricot and a touch of light honey. Sweet but not saccharine or cloying. The pineappley fruit tastes pure, fresh, uncooked. Bright acidity balances the sugar and lightens the unctuous texture. Long. A charmer with real presence. (Buy again? If only!)
I’m cheating a little here. It had been a long day and, as the wine tasted identical to the one tasted at the winery in early July, I decided just to sit back and enjoy it and not write a tasting note. Instead, I’m using the note I wrote in Greece, which will soon reappear on this blog as part of a series of reports on the trip. Our bottle was a gift from Vassilis Papagiannakos, and I wasn’t the only person around the table grateful to him for it.
MWG August 12th tasting: flight 8 of 8
The technical information for these two wines is identical. The fruit comes from organically farmed, 70- to 90-year-old, dry-farmed, low-yielding, ungrafted vines grown on the Ziros plateau in eastern Crete. The must is fermented with indigenous yeasts in cement vats and matured in old French oak barrels. The wines are bottled unfiltered, unfined and with only a tiny shot of sulphur dioxide.
Since the late 1990s, the Sitia appellation has required reds to be a blend of Liatiko and Mandilaria. As the 2006 is all Liatiko, it had to take the broader Crete appellation. Economou doesn’t release wines until he thinks they are ready; that said, this isn’t the first shipment of the 2006 to arrive in Quebec.
Both wines were carafed two or three hours before serving and both benefited enormously from it.
Crete 2006, Liatiko, Domaine Economou ($56.75, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Liatiko. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
The room fell silent as the wines were poured and people started smelling them. Aside from oohs and ahs, the first utterance was in reference to this: “I could drown in it.” An in-pulling, umami-rich nose of plum and cherry, Mediterranean scrub and the earth its rooted in, sea breeze, obsidian dust, violets and more. In the mouth, it’s medium-bodied and possessed of a fluid texture. Ripe but not jammy fruit, smooth but very present acidity and fine but sturdy tannins are all in perfect equilibrium. Dark minerals run like an underground river. Flavours and aromas echoing the nose unfurl from the mid-palate though the long finish. Still vibrant and vigorous at ten years of age. A beauty. (Buy again? Yes.)
Sitia 1999, Domaine Economou ($78.00, private import, 6 bottles/case)
A blend of 80% Liatiko and 20% Mandilaria. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
More subdued and, if anything, more involving. Evolved, profound nose: mushroom and truffle, leather, dark fruit, cocoa, hints of violets and dried orange peel. Dense and velvety yet medium-bodied. The fruit is a mixture of fresh and dried plums and cherries, the acidity is fluent and sustained, the tannins are resolved but still structuring. Strata of minerals, earth, tar and old wood provide ballast and depth. The finish goes on and on, like the afterglow of a perfect summer day. A magnificent, transporting wine that I suspect is near or at peak, though most definitely not on its last legs. (Buy again? If the opportunity ever presents itself again, yes.)
I repeat what I wrote two years ago: these are among the great Mediterranean reds. While neither wine could come from anywhere but Crete, Economou’s training at top estates in Bordeaux and Barolo is apparent in both.
MWG August 12th tasting: flight 7 of 8