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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