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Greek winery tour: Tselepos (Arcadia)

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

Yiannis Tselepos is a phenomenon, one of the leaders of the Greek wine renaissance and the modern day king of the ancient Moscofilero variety. 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 be shale and rocky clay and the average elevation is 750 metres, helping ensure a 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 purpose is wine production. Although around two-thirds of the estate’s production is devoted to Moscofiliero, it 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 away to the north-northwest. The estate specializes in the Agiorgitiko, another ancient indigenous variety. A small winery has since been built to handle the estate’s production. As classy as its wines, the estate’s striking labels feature a dormant tree in silhouette.

Tselepos’s latest project is a joint venture on Santorini with the Chryssou family. The family provides 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. Yannis 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 winemaking 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 singlehandedly 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 and introduced himself as Theo Diamantis. He explained 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. And that is why he wanted Tselepos in the portfolio. “It was the first time anybody called me a vigneron,” Yiannis beamed, “and wass 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.


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Sausage love, 2017 edition

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Forget those overpriced Valentine meals prepared by bored chefs and served by jaded waiters in stuffy restaurants. On February 14, sausage lovers, wine lovers and just plain lovers will be heading to Nouveau Palais for a hit of Pork Futures goodness (mild sausage sandwiches with french fries and “piccante” hot sauce on the side) and glass after delicious glass of Dolcetto poured by oenopole.

The Seventh Annual Valentine’s Sausage Party
“Because nothing says love like sausage”
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
17:30 to 23:30 (or until they run out)
Nouveau Palais
281 Bernard St. West, Montreal

RSVP: or 514 273-1180


Written by carswell

February 9, 2017 at 20:04

Tasting champagnes with Pascal Doquet (4/4)

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Champagne 2005, Premier Cru, Vertus, Pascal Doquet ($82.25, 13142551)
A new addition to the SAQ’s Doquet lineup. 100% Chardonnay from organically farmed vines from vineyards in Vertus (rich, deep clay over chalk). Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Bottled unfiltered in April 2006. Aged 125 months on lattes. Dosage (with rectified grape must): 4.5 g/l. Disgorged in September 2016. Reducing sugar: 5.5 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Straw coloured with electrum and bronze glints, tiny bubbles and persistent foam. Complex nose of fresh and fallen apples, miso ramen, lees, lemon and a corporal note. So elegant in the mouth. Acid bright on entry and quite substantial. There’s real depth and great poise. Long on flavour (minerals, apple tart, lemon) and feel. Drinking beautifully though still quite young. (Buy again? Gladly.)

Champagne 2005, Grand Cru, Extra Brut, Le Mesnil sur Oger, Pascal Doquet ($98.00, 11787291)
100% Chardonnay from organically farmed old vines from vineyards in Le Mesnil sur Oger (poor clay over chalk). Fermented with indigenous yeasts, 45% in oak fûts and 55% in stainless steel tanks. Underwent malolactic fermentation. Bottled unfiltered in April 2006. Aged 96 months on lattes. Dosage (with rectified grape must): 4.5 g/l. Disgorged in April 2015. Reducing sugar: 5.3 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
The colour of drying hay with white gold glints. Layered, savoury nose of oyster crackers, shrimp shells, lemon, apple, lees, flint and chalk. Rich yet very dry and not exuberantly fruity. Softer effervescence and chalkier minerals than the Vertus. Chewing reveals layers of flavour, depth and complexity. As elegant as it is delicious, this soft-spoken, finely balanced wine has class in spades. If you’re going to drop a C-note on a sparkler, it’s a definite contender. (Buy again? Yes.)

Written by carswell

December 30, 2016 at 20:00

Tasting champagnes with Pascal Doquet (3/4)

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Champagne, Grand Cru, Blanc de Blancs, Diapason, Pascal Doquet ($73.25, 12946063)
100% Chardonnay from organically farmed old vines in vineyards in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger (poor clay over chalk). A blend of wines from the 2006 (84%) and 2005 (16%) vintages. Vinified in a enamelled stainless steel tanks (80%) and small, neutral oak barrels (20%). Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Aged 96 months on lattes. Dosage (with rectified grape must): 4.5 g/l. Disgorged in April 2015. Reducing sugar: 5.4 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
A shade golder than the other wines in the tasting. Engaging nose of lees, yeast and subdued white fruit faintly overtoned with white spice and powdered ginger. Dry yet richer than its predecessors. The soft bubbles, sleek acidity and ideal extract confer a beguiling texture. Chalky minerals and subtle, slightly browning fruit last well into the slow-fade finish with its lingering lemon and flint notes. Balanced and complete. Suggesting resonance and harmony, the cuvée name is most appropriate. (Buy again? Yes.)

Written by carswell

December 28, 2016 at 11:48

Tasting champagnes with Pascal Doquet (2/4)

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Champagne, Brut, Blanc de Blancs, Horizon, Pascal Doquet ($55.00, 11528046)
100% Chardonnay from organically farmed vines rooted in old chalk and grey marl clay in vineyards in Bassuet and Bassu. A blend of wines from the 2011 and 2010 vintages (two-thirds and one-third respectively). Fermented with indigenous yeasts in enamelled stainless steel tanks. Matured on the lees for four to five months. Bottled unfiltered. Aged 30 months on lattes (the bottles are stacked on their sides with thin strips of wood – think laths – laid between them to stabilize the stacks and minimize damage in the event a bottle explodes). Dosage was with rectified concentrated must. Disgorged in September 2015. Reducing sugar: 7.0 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Also available in magnums ($119.00/1.5 L, 11787304). Quebec agent: oenopole.
Pale straw with green and gold glints, a very fine bead and not much foam. Appealing nose of cookie dough, chalk, faint lemon and a hint of honey. Clean and dry in the mouth, the flavours tending to apple and pear. Acidity and extract are in ideal proportion. There’s fair depth and complexity and a marked mineral component, especially on the long, dry finish. (Buy again? Sure.)

Champagne, Premier Cru, Blanc de Blancs, Brut Nature, Arpège, Pascal Doquet ($64.25, 12024253)
100% Chardonnay from organically farmed vines in vineyards in Vertus (deep clay over chalk), Villeneuve (clayey topsoil over chalk) and Mont-Aimé (sand and chalk). A blend of wines from the 2010 and 2011 vintages (62% and 38% respectively). Fermented and matured on the lees in tanks for four to five months with occasional stirring. Transferred to oak barrels (45%) and stainless steel tanks (55%) for an additional 11 months before bottling. Aged 30 months on lattes. Undosed. Disgorged in February 2016. Reducing sugar: 1.5 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Similar in appearance to the Horizon, though with a slightly greener cast. Complex, evolving nose: citrusy, malic and leesy gaining straw/hay, seashell and preserved lemon notes as the wine breaths. Less fruity and more minerally than its flightmate. Bone dry from start to finish. Sustained but not sharp acidity. Long, rainwatery finish with lingering chalk, flint, lemon and seashells. Lovely. (Buy again? Yes.)

Written by carswell

December 27, 2016 at 13:23

Tasting champagnes with Pascal Doquet (1/4)

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In the run-up to the holidays, oenopole invited a number of wine critics, journalists, restaurateurs, sommeliers and bloggers, including me, to a tasting of champagnes from the house of Doquet. The tasting was led by the soft-spoken if loquacious owner-winemaker Pascal Doquet.

Based in Vertus, Pascal has been a winemaker since 1982. After taking the helm of the family estate (Doquet-Jeanmarie at the time), he bought out his sisters’ shares in the estate and created – with his wife Laure – Champagne Pascal Doquet in 2004. Comprising a little under nine hectares of vines, the estate has been certified organic since 2007. Pascal describes his approach to wine-growing as sustainable. The life of the soil is a primary concern, as evidenced by his careful application of homemade compost, avoidance of chemical weed-killers, use of lightweight straddle tractors and manual working of the topsoil around the vine rows.

In the cellar, pressing – always with a pneumatic press – is adapted to the characteristics of each vintage. Only the juice from the first two pressings is used. Fermentation is with indigenous yeasts. After alcoholic and malolactic fermentation, the wines are matured on their lees for, on average, four or five months, then naturally clarified and sometimes lightly filtered before bottling, which happens in spring for the non-vintage cuvées and in late summer or early fall for the vintage cuvées. Dosage is done with concentrated grape must, which Pascal feels is closer to the grape’s natural sugar. The wines tend to be shipped six to 12 months after disgorging.

The tasting began with the house’s rosé.

Champagne, Rosé, Brut, Premiers crus de la Côte des blancs, Pascal Doquet ($66.75, 12024296)
A blend of Chardonnay (85%) and Pinot Noir (15%) from vineyards around the village of Vertus. The soil is mostly deep clay over chalk. The grapes are entirely destemmed. The colour comes from briefly macerating the juice on the skins. Fermented with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel tanks. Matured 12 months on the lees in large barrels and 24 months in the bottle. Unfiltered. Disgorged in February 2014. Dosage was 6 or 7 g/l, which Pascal intends to lower to 5 g/l in the future. Reducing sugar: 7 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Salmon-orange with a fine bead and head. Yeasty nose of red berries, hard candies and hints of chalk and resinous herbs. In the mouth, it’s fruity yet delicate, ripe-sweet yet fundamentally dry. The effervescence is soft and structuring. Bright acidity swells on the mid-palate. Turns even direr on the long finish with its lingering fruit and mineral flavours. Not a throat-grabber but elegant, refreshing and delicious. (Buy? Yes.)

Written by carswell

December 26, 2016 at 14:54

Greek winery tour: Papagiannakos (Attica)

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

Papagiannakos Winery (photo: E. Lebel/oenopole)

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.

Vassilis in his barrel cellar (photo: E. Lebel/oenopole)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.

Savatiano vines (photo: E. Lebel/oenopole)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.

For details about where we stayed, where and what we ate and what we saw, including some of Papagiannakos’s vineyards, see the Day One report on carswelliana.


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Written by carswell

November 6, 2016 at 16:19