Tomorrow I fly to Greece. The Globe and Mail and most of the global media would have you believe that the country is gripped by fear and uncertainty. I’m going anyway. I would imagine the people of Greece understand your concerns but in the world of New Wines of Greece everything is business as usual and the country remains of the safest places to visit. It will be the most interesting of times, in life and in wine.
My Greek adventure will focus on the region of Achaia, in Patra, Diakofto and Kalavryta. I will visit with and taste the wines of Parparoussis, Kotrotsos, Loukatos, Achaia, Antonopoulos, Karelas, Hahalis, Union of Cooperatives of Patras, Aegialia, Oenoforos, Katsikostas, Cavino and Tetramythos.
A capital and paramount taste of Greece came to Toronto’s Sudbury-Glass Factory on May 5th. Fifty-one wineries were represented. The ingress to the New Wines of Greece was formidable and collectively the 150 plus wines spoke of a language that contains the ancient loneliness of ruins. They also spoke in presence of a present that looks with modern eyes to the future.
Related – A new Greek morning
Tomorrow I will head to Achaia, a part of the northern coast of the Peloponnese. The sweet red vin doux of Mavrodaphne, the Muscat of Patras and the lemon-saline whites of Roditis await. There will also be surprises I am not yet able to fathom.
In addition to a handful of exceptional wines tasted at the May event, on July 11th VINTAGES will be releasing two worthy adversaries to consider against a world of whites for the summer patio, cottage and all-around quenching season. Once you go Malagousia you may never go back.
Alpha Estate Axia Malagousia 2014, Pgi Florina, Greece (371666, $16.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES July 11th, 2015 release
A northwestern Greece, Amyndeon cuvée fashioned by winemaker Angelos Latridis, this Malagouzia resides on the metallic meets mineral spoke. The alloy is spoken in medium-bodied tones though it lengthens recursively to include bright, ripe orchard fruit. A solid, reputable and worthy venture into the world of new and varied varietal play, set to repeat. Drink 2015-2018. Tasted June 2015 @ @
Cavino Grande Reserve Nemea 2008, Pdo Greece (295618, $17.95, WineAlign)
From my earlier note of November 2014:
Nemea strikes again. Dark rust, earth juiced on and of the . Like Sangiovese with attitude, made by Romans, like Syrah the way it was made in mythological times, by Greeks. A classical garden. This is actually quite modern and expressive for Agiorgitiko. Acts as if it were a touch clay (or amphora) baked but it’s really just a Peleponnese take on oak aging (18 months) and further bottle rest (12 months). This is right in its window and will be friendly for three to five years more. What a steal.
Last tasted May 2015
Thymiopoulos Vineyards Yn Kai Oupavós ‘Earth and Sky’ Xinomavro 2012, Unfiltered, Naoussa, Greece (371666, $19.95, WineAlign)
By my count this is Apostolos Thymiopoulos’ ninth vintage of the “Ghi kai Uranos,” a Xinomavro that while consummately Naoussan, could sketch out in seriatum somewhere between Cru Beaujolais and Barolo. The 2012 leans further to the side of the Nebbioli, but of a deep, dark and richly modern variety. More earth than sky, the ferric grit mixed with tar and roses symbiotically subsume one another. This intoxicating perfume goes right to the back of the aromatic and aneurusma eye. This wine has never shown so much body and wealth of layered flavour. Earth and sky, both, together meeting as if for the first time, love immediate, in whole accord, nodding and acknowledging the ten years of time needed to consummate their union. Drink 2017-2022. Tasted May 2015 @
The Young Vines is an orange to the Earth and Sky’s apple, of a change of fruit and a pace that is hot off the press. Yet it is not without some ancient wisdom. In some new world sites vines up to 15 years of age would be considered old growth adults. In a Greek vineyard like that of a Naoussan like Thymiopoulos, they are babies of the sun. The Xinomavro here is fresh, momentarily acts strikingly brazen, bracing and ultimately, blatantly beatific. With a glass of the young vines in hand to it I say, “it’s not the pale moon that excites me, that thrills and delights me. Oh no, it’s just the nearness of you.” Like Norah Jones in a glass, sultry, contemporary, lightly smoky, of a jazz aesthetic and a pop sensibility. And wild berries. So fresh, so good. Drink 2015-2019. Tasted May 2015
Domaine Gerovassiliou Malagousia Vieilles Vignes 2014, Thessaloniki, Greece (416792, $23.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES July 11th, 2015 release
Malagousia of a singular concentration and energizing as if by waters of Okeanos. Intensely, organically and historically purposed, of salinity that is perfectly mineral, but also fleshy and fruity, as if sourced from fresh water. Flavours are echoed in the guise of briny sea creatures and flinty eruptions coming together in a pool of ancient waters. Full open water rolling swells of unctuous palate depth, mineral to a titan degree and offering such a perfect foil for grilled seafood, dropped with pungent herbs and squeezes of citrus. Drink 2015-2020. Tasted June 2015 @ @ @ @ @SteveKriaris
Peza Union Nissos Red 2013, PGI Crete (Winery, No CDN price)
A fascinating red blend composed of Kotsifali (80 per cent) and Syrah (20) grown in south-central Crete. The thick-skinned variety Kotsifali releases resin and essential oils into the must and in the final product there is a keen sense of dark plums. It’s rich and dusty, not unlike Merlot but so much more island rustic Mediterranean, with attributes akin to the black olive, caper and garrigue aspects of southern France. The Syrah ensures this ratio and also helps to soothe the tannic grit. The Nissos also possesses a sense of coffee, but of a more natural crushed concoction, like chicory. Fine wine but certainly verdant, agrarian and countrified, though beautifully charming. @winesofcrete
Gavalas Winery Assyrtiko Natural Ferment 2014, PDO Santorini, Greece (Winery, No CDN price)
A completely different animal in Assyrtiko, an edible that makes contact, by skin, with a nose that is entirely spontaneous and natal. The blanketing of perfunctory aromatics is startling, invigorating and comforting. In some ways it is a more dangerous Assyrtiko, as if it walks a razor’s edge and might bleed out its character at any moment. That tension and risk esteem is what drives the natural mechanism and renders it oxidative in just the right sort of way. So very pronounced in citrus, even at the expense of mineral until the finish. Its fullness and complexity allows acidity to survive and thrive. A wild one to be sure. Drink 2015-2020. Tasted May 2015 @Santoriniwines
Santo Santorini Grand Reserve 2012, Pdo Santorini (Agent, Price Unknown)
Here Assyrtiko of an aroma never before nosed, like a bleed of fresh concrete, minerals under a computational microscope focused on the sense of smell. Like a wreath of dried white roses. This is an elixir of immortality, a nectar of gods and demigods. Already indicating the initialization of a slow-honeyed development, there will be 15 years in its quiescent and recessed future. This is the Greek equivalent of Bordeaux Blanc, a Grand Cru Classé in the guise of Santorini. Drink 2017-2027. Tasted May 2015 @ @
Biblia Chora Olivos White 2013, PGI Pangeon, Greece (Agent, Price unknown)
A remarkable and au courant 50/50 blend of Assyrtiko and Sémillon, like stumbling upon an undiscovered truth in assemblage. The wine spent nine months in oak, solidifying and hydrating the salinity. It certainly has an essence and a presence that reminds of OZ, of a Hunter Valley structure but the Olivos is so much more piercing, of citrus and mineral, due to the confidence and alpha variety élan of Assyrtiko. It’s also more direct and linear, of acidity and a double whammy of minerality. Salient brackish brine, chalky limestone like Burgundy and yet thinking, feeling, dreaming in Bordeaux. Just wow. Drink 2016-2022. Tasted May 2015 @ @Wines_ofNorthGR
Good to go!