Brett happens

All wine, most of the time

Posts Tagged ‘Greece

Sea wine

leave a comment »

Santorini 2016, Thalassitis, Gaia Wines ($29.55, 11966695)
The cuvée’s name refers to the ancient practice of mixing wine with sea water (thalassa meaning sea in ancient Greek) to produce a health-promoting beverage called thalassitis oenos or sea-originated wine. 100% Assyrtiko from ungrafted vines about to enter their ninth decade, trained into nests and rooted in the arid, soil (mostly pumice devoid of organic matter) of Episkopi, Akrotiri and Pyrgos. Vinified in stainless steel. Fermented with selected yeasts. Did not undergo malolactic fermentation as the winery claims it contains no malic acid to be converted into lactic acid. Spent five to six months on the lees. Sealed with a synthetic cork that looks a little like the black sand and rocks found on the island. Reducing sugar: 1.6 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Le Marchand de Vin.
Fresh and preserved lemon, tidal pool, pumice, faint honey. Buttery texture. Fruity attack for an Assyrtiko. Still, the fruit soon gives way to the expected minerality. Acidity is, of course, very present, especially from the mid-palate on, but seems a tad smoother and less trenchant than is sometimes the case in Santorini Assyrtikos. Very dry, especially on the long, extremely saline finish. Probably my favourite of Gaia’s three Santorini bottlings. While not as deep, powerful or crystalline as some of its (often more expensive) peers, it would still make a good introduction to the grape and terroir. The winery suggests ageing it two to three years; given Assyrtiko’s propensity to oxidize and syncorks’ propensity to allow oxidation, I wouldn’t chance keeping it much longer than that. A near-perfect pairing for oysters on the half shell, grilled sea bass or porgy drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice and just about any octopus dish; with some oxidation, a killer match for beef or venison tartare. (Buy again? Yes.)

Written by carswell

May 23, 2017 at 13:43

Stone wine

leave a comment »

Robola de Céphalonie 2015, Vino di Sasso, Domaine Sclavos ($26.95, 12485877)
100% Robola from organically and biodynamically farmed, ungrafted old vines on the Ionian island of Cephalonia. Vino di sasso means “wine of stone,” a reference to the island’s rocky cliffs and outcrops and the vineyard, composed mainly of calcerous pebbles at an elevation ranging up to 850 metres. The manually harvested grapes are directly pressed. The must is fermented at low temperatures with indigenous yeasts and matured eight months on the lees. Sees only stainless steel until bottling. Bottled unfiltered, unfined and with only a tiny squirt of sulphur dioxide. Reducing sugar: 1.4 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.

Limestone dust, dried hay, yellow apple, faint peach, dried herbs, almonds and smoke. A striking combination of minerality and richness. Bone dry. Seems built around an acid-mineral core. A saline current runs under the ethereal orchard fruit and tangs the long, fruity, almondy, smoky finish. A unique, fascinating wine, more enigmatic and involving than the 2014. The price of admission is more than fair. (Buy again? Yes, including a couple of bottles to cellar for a year or two.)

Written by carswell

May 22, 2017 at 12:42

Voilà Vóila

leave a comment »

Crete 2016, Assyrtiko, Vóila, Lyrarakis ($18.15, 11996333)
A new label and name in 2016, neither of which are shown on SAQ.com (the UPC codes are the same, however). 100% Assyrtiko from unirrigated vines planted in the 1970s in the loamy soil of the Vóila vineyard at 580 m in Sitia, eastern Crete. (These may be the first Assytiko vines planted outside Santorini.) Manually harvested. Given 10 hours’ skin contact at 12ºC. Fermentation in stainless steel lasted around three weeks. Reducing sugar: 6.6 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Focus Cellars.
Briny, minerally nose with hints of peach, lemon and honey. In the mouth, it’s satin-textured and weightier than you might expect, quite extracted but not very fruity (what fruit there is tends to apple, citrus and stone fruit). On the other hand, quartz and chalk abound and powdered ginger spices the credible finish. The trademark Assyrtiko acidity is there but is softened by the extract and residual sugar – the residual sugar, which (and this is my only complaint) is a notch or two too high. It doesn’t make the wine sweet or even off-dry but it does verge on cloying after a glass or two. That effect is less apparent with food, meaning this is probably not an ideal choice as an aperitif wine. Softer, a bit fruitier and less trenchant, grippy and profound than top Santorini Assyrtikos or, more locally, Economou’s but appealing in its own right. Far less expensive, too. Something of a sleeper, actually. There aren’t many $18 whites from Greece or elsewhere that offer its combination of terroir, balance and savour. All that and a screwcap too. Earlier vintages have been drier, so let’s mark the 2016 down as an anomaly (Buy again? The 2016 maybe. Drier future vintages for sure.)

 

Written by carswell

May 15, 2017 at 10:34

Posted in Tasting notes

Tagged with , ,

The difference a day makes

leave a comment »

Crete 2014, Kotsifali, Lyrarakis ($13.75, 10703818)
100% Kotsifali from unirrigated vines rooted in loamy sandy soil in the Alagni region of central Crete. Manually harvested. Fermentation with selected yeasts and on the skins in temperature-controlled (24-27°C) tanks lasted 10 days. Screwcapped. Reducing sugar: 2.2 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Focus Cellars.

Day one: Popped (well, twisted) and poured, the wine was dull, hard and one-dimensional, seemingly incapable of providing pleasure. After a couple of glasses, the remainder was transferred to a half-bottle, sealed and stuck in the fridge.
Day two: The wine is transformed. Engaging, surprisingly complex, not exuberantly fruity nose of plum, blackberry, spice and ashy earth with dried herb, raw meat and floral notes. In the mouth, it’s savoury, dry and medium- to full-bodied. The ripe but not sweet fruit and dark minerals are structured by soft tannins and smooth acidity. The fair finish brings a wood note, a whiff of alcohol and a lingering taste of sour bitter plum.  Honest and enjoyable. Not only is it off the beaten path, it’s one of the better wines in its price range. (Buy again? Yes, though there’s not much left in the system.)

Written by carswell

April 14, 2017 at 13:37

Greek winery tour: Tselepos (Arcadia)

leave a comment »

[Hover over pics to display captions and credits; click to embiggen.]

One of the leaders of the Greek wine renaissance and the modern day king of the ancient Moscofilero variety, Yiannis Tselepos is a phenomenon. A Cypriot by birth, he studied oenology at the Université de Bourgogne in Dijon and, after graduating, spent a couple of years working at several Burgundy estates. He then moved to Arcadia in the eastern Peloponnese, where he found employment as a consulting oenologist, married a local girl, Amelia, and with her founded the eponymous winery. The Tseleposes currently own two estates and have an interest in a third.

Located in Rizes, central Arcadia, Ktima Tselepos is the larger and older of the two estates, dating back to 1999. It sits on a plateau on the eastern flank of Mount Parnon. While the main buildings are surrounded by 30 hectares of vineyards, the estate’s holdings actually total some 240 hectares. The soil here tends to shale and rocky clay and the average elevation is 750 metres, helping ensure the all-important wide difference in day and night temperatures. The handsome winery is built in the traditional local architectural style; less flashy and touristy than some, it feels like a facility whose main vocation is wine production. Although around two-thirds of its output is devoted to Moscofiliero, the estate makes a wide range of wines, from sparklers to still dry reds and whites to sweet wines, from international as well as local grape varieties. With a total annual production of 350,000 bottles, half of which is exported, this is no small operation.

In 2003, Tselepos acquired a second property, Ktima Driopi, an 8.5-hecatre plot of 50-year-old vines rooted in steep clay soil in Kousti, near Nemea, about an hour’s drive to the north-northwest. The estate specializes in Agiorgitiko, another ancient indigenous variety. A small winery has since been built to handle the estate’s output. The estate’s striking labels, as classy as its wines, feature a dormant tree in silhouette.

Tselepos’s latest project is a joint venture with the Chryssou family on Santorini. The Chryssous provide the grapes (from 12 hectares of ungrafted 50- to 100-year-old vines in Pyrgos and Emporio) while Yannis provides the wine-making expertise. Dubbed Canava Chryssou Tselepos Santorini, the estate currently produces around 12,000 bottles a year of a single wine, a 100% Assyrtiko.

At all three estates, the viticultural practices are enlightened without being full-bore organic. In Arcadia, the vines are trained on wires, a virtual necessity in the region’s humid climate. On arid, wind-blasted, sun-stroked Santorini, the vines are coaxed into nest-like spirals that lie close to the ground, the better to protect the fruit and preserve precious water. Irrespective of the estate, the grapes are manually harvested in the cool of the early morning and transported to the winery in small crates. Though the facilities are outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment, Yiannis views technology as limited to a supporting role. “Good technology makes for good wine, but only the right vineyard will yield a great wine,” he says.

One aspect of this balancing act between technology and terroir was the focus of an interesting exchange during our technical tasting. A member of our party, a professional sommelier with an impressively acute palate, wondered why Tselepos used selected instead of indigenous yeasts since, he felt, the former scalp and compress wines. Yiannis countered with “I have 17 families besides my own who depend on the winery’s success. I’m not going to put their livelihoods at risk.”

I can see both sides of the argument. Obviously, indigenous yeasts – the yeasts native to a place – are a factor in terroir. And many other winemakers have shown that fine wines can reliably be made using them. So it seems a little paradoxical that the winery, which proudly describes its central wine-making philosophy as “to grow Greek varieties within their specific native ecosystem” and which, as the following notes show, does indeed make terroir-expressive wines, doesn’t go all the way down the terroir path.

Then again, Yiannis is clearly more than just a winemaker. He’s also a successful businessman, a player in the local community and a standard bearer for the wines of his region and country. His Moschofileros and Agiorgitikos are widely viewed as models for what the grapes can achieve. His Mantinias have almost single-handedly put that appellation on the map. One of the reasons this has happened is the wines’ consistency. Why, then, tinker with a winning formula? Why introduce another variable into the process? Why do anything that could undermine the livings of so many and the reputations of a business and a region?

More than just a winemaker? Yes. But still a winemaker at heart, as the following story shows. At one point, Yiannis told us how he came to chose oenopole to represent his wines in Quebec. One day this Greek-Canadian showed up, introduced himself as Theo Diamantis and explained that he was setting up an agency dedicated to selling “real,” terroir-driven wines with a high drinkability quotient, wines made not by industrial producers but by vignerons. Which was why he wanted Tselepos in the portfolio. “It was the first time anybody called me a vigneron,” Yiannis beamed, “and it was all I needed to know. I was ready right then to sign on the dotted line.”

You’ll find my notes on all the day two wines after the jump. For details about where we stayed and ate and what we ate and saw, including some of Tselepos’s vineyards, see the day two report on carswelliana.

INTRODUCTION
PAPAGIANNAKOS (ATTICA)
♦ TSELEPOS (ARCADIA)
MERCOURI (ELIS)
TETRAMYTHOS (ACHAEA)
THYMIOPOULOS (MACEDONIA)
ARGYROS (SANTORINI)

Read the rest of this entry »

Buxom blend

leave a comment »

Epanomi 2016, Estate White, Ktima Gerovassiliou ($18.65, 10249061)
The village of Epanomi is located about 25 km southeast of Thessaloniki in central Macedonia. A 50-50 blend of Malagousia and Assyrtiko from estate-grown vines After a brief maceration, the grapes are pressed and the juice is fermented in temperature-controlled (18-20°C) stainless steel tanks. Does not undergo malolactic fermentation. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Le Maître de Chai.

Redolent of flowers, fruit and something green: jasmine, orange blossom, grapefruit, lime, stone fruit, lemon grass and maybe a little kiwi and mint. Round in the piehole, fresh with aromatic fruit and bright acidity. A minerally vein runs well into the long finish where it’s joined by an appealing salty bitterness. The Malagousia’s exuberance makes this seem less dry than it actually is, while the Assyrtiko’s acidity and minerals provide welcome structure. Fans of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc looking to broaden their horizons should make a bee line. Food-friendly by nature, this made a fine match for herb-roasted salmon with a squeeze of lemon. (Buy again? Sure.)

Written by carswell

March 21, 2017 at 13:28

Not your ordinary Agiorgitiko

leave a comment »

Peloponnese 2015, Agiorgitiko, Domaine Tetramythos ($16.90, 12178957)
100% Agiorgitiko from organically farmed vines grown at elevations between 400 and 1,000 metres near the village of Ano Diakopto, Achaea, overlooking the Gulf of Corinth. The grapes are fully destemmed, then macerated and fermented with indigenous yeasts for around two weeks in stainless steel tanks. Matured five months in 5,000-litre barrels. Unfiltered and unfined. Reducing sugar: 2.2 g/l. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.

Plum and elderberry (fruit and flowers) against a backdrop of old wood and slate dust. In the mouth, it’s medium-bodied, supple and lean, with tart fruit, blazing acidity (surprising for this grape) and lithe tannins. An underlay of earth, wood and minerals provides savour while a hint of bitter chocolate and spice adds interest to the long finish with its lingering note of black currant tea. More akin to an alpine wine (think Savoie) or maybe a Piedmont red (Barbera?) than to your typical sun-drenched Agiorgitiko. The freshness and balance make this a versatile food partner. As is often the case with Tetramythos wines, it benefits from a hour’s carafing. And don’t serve it too chilled, just a few degrees under room temperature. (Buy again? Yes.)

Written by carswell

March 16, 2017 at 12:42