Brett happens

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Posts Tagged ‘Greece

Three Macedonian flagships

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The Macedonia in question is the region of northern Greece, not the Republic of Macedonia.

Epanomi 2014, Avaton, Domaine Gerovassiliou ($40.25, 11901111)
A blend of Limnio (40%), Mavroudi (40%) and Mavrotragano (20%). Manually harvested. Fermented in neutral barrels. After malolactic fermentation is completed, the wine is transferred to French oak barrels (50% new) for 18 months’ maturation. Reducing sugar: 3.0 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Le Maître de Chai.
Nose of very ripe black raspberry, dark cherry and plum overtoned with earth and spice. Full-bodied and dry. Full of jammy, sweet fruit. Round tannins and smooth acidity provide some structure and texture. Gains meat and spice notes on the mid-palate and chocolate on the long finish. A bit heavy and unrelenting: probably better in four or five years but also probably never  refreshing. Seems bigger, more modern and more international in style than some earlier vintages. (Buy again? Maybe next vintage.)

Macedonia 2015, Terre et Ciel, Domaine Thymiopoulos ($31.25, 11814368)
100% Xinomavro from three parcels of organically farmed 45- to 75-year-old vines. Manually harvested. Fermented in stainless steel vats with native yeasts. Matured in a mix of Burgundy barrels (20% new). Bottled unfiltered, unfined and with a small squirt of sulphur dioxide. Reducing sugar: 3.6 g/l. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Complex, savoury, evolving nose of “wine gums,” “soy sauce,” “pickled beets” and coffee beans segueing into cherry, “Worcestershire” and, unfortunately, a streak of volatile acidity that wouldn’t dissipate. Smooth and more medium- than full-bodied in the mouth. Good balance between ripe fruit, bright acidity, round tannins and mineral depth. Still, we couldn’t shake the feeling that this was a little off. Bottles opened before and since have been clean and more interesting. (Buy again? Based on other bottles, yes.)

Amyndeon 2012, Xinomavro Reserve, Vieilles Vignes, Alpha Estate ($33.00, 11902940)
100% Xinomavro from 91-year-old vines rooted in sandy clay over limestone. Manually harvested. Destemmed, lightly crushed and cold-macerated. The tank is gradually heated, prompting fermentation to begin. Matured 24 months in French oak casks and 12 months in the bottle. Unfiltered and unfined. Reducing sugar: 4.6 g/l. 14.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Univins.
Deep nose: dark fruit, graphite, smoked meat spice and meat, among other things. Full-bodied though unheavy, quite structured though round. The plummy fruit is spiced with star anise, framed by cushy tannins, enlivened by acidity. A “butter cookies” note enriches the long finish. An elegant wine in the prime of its life. (Buy again? Sure.)

MWG July 27th tasting: flight 6 of 7

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Written by carswell

September 29, 2017 at 15:33

Neo Naoussa

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Naoussa 2014, Domaine Thymiopoulos ($23.85, 13288218)
A new cuvée that, in price and sophistication, sits between the Jeunes vignes and the Terre et Ciel (the Xinomavro Nature, available through the private import channel, stands apart in more ways than one). 100% Xinomavro from organically farmed, 30-year-old vines rooted in volcanic and limestone soil and located between 180 and 500 metres above sea level. Manually harvested. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. After alcoholic and malolatic fermentation, the wine was transferred into 500-litre oak barrels for 12 months’ maturation. Unfiltered. Reducing sugar: 2.4 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Protean nose of, among other things, black cherry, wild strawberry, black olive, balsamic vinegar, old leather, earth and violet. Medium-bodied and, despite the fine, firm tannins, supple. Fruity but dry, with freshening acidity, flavours that echo the nose and a slatey underlay. Any oak is very sotto voce. The finish is savoury, while earth and sweet-spicy notes linger. Clean, pure and eminently drinkable. Food-friendly too. May be the most elegant Xinomavro I’ve tasted. Unsurprisingly, the limited quantities are disappearing fast. (Buy again? Of course.)

Written by carswell

August 17, 2017 at 12:51

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

Mountain red

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Achaia 2010, Grand Cave, Domain Mega Spileo/Cavino ($28.85, 13110137)
The estate is named after a nearby monastery that once owned the vineyard. Most of the technical info comes from the back label and kudos to the winery for that. A 60-40 blend of Mavrodaphne and Mavro Kalavrytino (aka Black of Kalavryta) from vines rooted in sandy clay soil in a relatively cool-climate mountain vineyard between 780 and 880 metres above sea level and located near the village of Kalavryta. No chemical insecticides, herbicides or fertilizers are used. Manually harvested. Destemmed. Prefermentation maceration at low temperatures for 24-48 hours. Long and gentle alcoholic fermentation in small temperature-controlled tanks. Malolactic fermentation and maturation on the lees in new oak barrels (80% French, 20% American) for 16 months. Lightly filtered. Not cold stabilized. Bottle-aged 24 months before release. 6,500 bottles made. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Divin Paradis.
Heady nose of plum, prune, leather, burned earth, sweet spice, coffee, hints of blood and chocolate. More medium- than full-bodied and very dry. The ripe but not jammy or forward fruit is complemented by a full set of tertiary flavours (old wood, leather, cigar box, dried herbs and earth) and a swirl of inky minerals, framed by smooth but animating acidity and soft tannins that show their mettle on the long, lightly astringent finish. Sandalwood, terracotta and dried cherry linger. Savoury, balanced and at peak. Fairly priced for a seven-year-old wine of this quality. Fairly cries out for grilled lamb. (Buy again? Yep.)

Written by carswell

August 13, 2017 at 13:12

Mercourial

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Letrini 2015, Domaine Mercouri ($21.65, 11885537)
A blend of Refosco (85%) and Mavrodaphne (15%) from estate vines. Fermented with selected yeasts. Matured 12 months in second-, third- and fourth-fill French oak barrels (mainly Allier). 35,000 bottles made. Residual sugar: 1.6 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.

Blackberry, plum, cinnamon, sawed wood and a faint whiff of kirsch against a slate backdrop. A very full medium-bodied. Fruit (riper and denser than the 2014‘s) cloaks the sleek acidity and lithe tannins, which asset themselves only on the lightly astringent finish. A slim thread of oaky vanilla-caramel runs throughout while spice overtones and lingers. An elegant and satisfying wine with few peers at the price point. The integrity and balance point to a certain ageing potential. Paired beautifully with Greek-style roasted pork chops and potatoes. (Buy again? Yes, including a few bottles to hide away for five to 10 years.)

Written by carswell

July 1, 2017 at 09:58

The Key to Greek Wines

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I’ve written an article for oenopole‘s new Boire vrai blog: The Key to Greek Wines.

 

Written by carswell

June 30, 2017 at 11:50

Posted in News, Wine travel

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Greek winery tour: Mercouri (Elis)

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

In so many ways – historically, climatically, viticulturally, architecturally, culturally, even scenically – the Mercouri Estate stands apart from the other wineries we visited and quite possibly from all wineries in Greece.

Created in 1864 by merchant Theodoros Mercouri, the estate is one of the oldest in the country. Wine-growing began in 1870, when Refosco vines imported from northeast Italy, where Mercouri had trade ties, were planted. The resulting wine soon gained a reputation and was not only consumed locally but also exported on ships that docked at the estate. Such was its renown that the Refosco grape came to be called Mercoureiko in Elis (aka Ilia). New wine-making facilities were built in 1930. Production more or less ceased between World War II and 1985, when Vasilis and Christos Kanellakopoulos, the fourth generation of the family, began revitalizing the estate and its wines. These days, Vasilis’s two sons are taking the helm, Dimitris as the oenologist and Labis looking after the business and marketing side of things. To all appearances, the estate’s future is in good hands.

Set like an emerald on a small bay to the west of Korakochori, the estate enjoys a unique micro-climate. The Ionian Sea has a tempering effect and, as rain clouds in Greece tend to travel from west to east, the average annual precipitation and relative humidity are higher than in the rest of the Peloponnese, though paradoxically the summer and fall are drier than areas further east, a boon for grape health and harvest. The danger of frost is very low.

The mix of grape varieties grown in the 40 hectares of vineyards is as unparalleled as it is cosmopolitan, and includes the Greek Agiorgitiko, Assyrtiko, Avgoustiatis, Korinthiaki, Malvasia, Mavrodaphne, Rhoditis and Robola as well as the extra-Hellenic Mourvèdre, Negroamaro, Ribolla Gialla, Syrah and Viognier. The winery also reportedly has or has had experimental plots of Albariño, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Merlot, Sangiovese and Sauvignon Blanc.

Several of the buildings, including ones still in use, are little changed from when they were constructed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many are built from local stone. Several have steeply pitched tiled roofs. Parts of the winery have been preserved as if in amber, with the original furnishings, paintings and equipment intact. Walking through the front door is like stepping back in time, a feeling only increased by a visit to the estate’s small museum with its collection of old presses, tools and photographs, among other things.

While Greece is rightly seen as a meeting place between the western and eastern Mediterranean cultures, the estate feels closer to the west than the east, seems to have one foot in Greece and the other foot in Italy. Take the grape varieties, for example. Take the now abandoned owner’s mansion, which is depicted on the label of the estate’s flagship reds and wouldn’t be out of place in Brindisi or Bari. The Italian feel even extends to the park-like grounds. With its lush foliage, huge trees, expanses of lawn, gentle inclines and pristine shore, the landscape is uniquely pastoral and bucolic.

However present the past may be at Mercouri, the wine-making is resolutely modern, which is not surprising for an estate that has been crafting wines from local and foreign varieties for close to a century and a half. Even the wine labels seem to express this embrace of new and old; the flagship dry whites, Lampadias rosé and Antares red feature reproductions of colourful stylized or abstract paintings; the flagship reds’ labels are far more traditional; the newer reds’ labels live in both eras, with modern typography and an old photograph of young members of the family.  The kicker is that all the bottlings, whether old or new and especially the reds, are among the most elegant Greek wines I’ve tasted.

You’ll find my notes on all the Mercouri wines after the jump. For details about where we stayed and ate and what we ate and saw, see the Day Three report on carswelliana.

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

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Written by carswell

June 29, 2017 at 15:01