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08 January 2020

Alpha Estate Vieilles Vignes Xinomavro: The evolution

Planted in 1919 the 3.7 ha Barba Yiannis single-vineyard Xinomavro Vieilles Vignes (VV) is one of the most talked-about Greek vineyards and wines. From these precious 100 years old ungrafted vines that have survived phylloxera because of their sandy topsoil, Alpha Estate produces approximately 12.000 bottles of celebrated Xinomavro Old Vines.
These are bush vines producing irregular yields. Maybe 0.5 kilos per vine one year, 2.5 the other but overall yields barely exceed 22 hl/ha. Until 2007 the Xinomavro VV, first produced in 2003, was a blend from three terroirs. 'It has always been an evolution for the wine and we are getting there to the new era' says Angelos Iatridis, winemaker and producer in a vertical tasting in Mr.Vertigo Athens. Iatridis describes the Amyndeo terroir which I cover extensively in my report emphasizing the role of mountains and especially Mt.Vitsi creating a shield to rainy weather. For example, 2014 was generally a very challenging vintage in most of Greece but in Amyndeo the barrier of mountain worked wonders.
The soil in this specific block has a rich layer of limestone with classic sandy topsoil. Limestone provides to the wine the backbone and minerality. Roots penetrate deep. Iatridis shows a cross-section of the soil and talks about roots that go deep to 12 m!
I have often found in the past the style of VV perhaps too upfront for my taste but the tasting showed a stylistic shift from the rather luscious, rich and coffee like 2003 and 2004 still enjoyable but lacking the energy and tension to the purity of 2016. 
Xinomavro VV 2003, 2004, 2011, 2012
These four vintages covered a style of wine that I would describe as bigger, riper, more extracted with luxurious oak. Iatridis talks about the use of Limousin oak at that stage that covered most of the fruit something that was obvious in 2011 in particular. 2012 has seen a bigger extract something that can be felt on the palate, 2011 is spicy and coffee-like, 2004 is interesting holding nicely, still tannins deliver a bite. On the other hand, 2003 proved to be a very pleasant surprise with a lovely integration of all elements and a super long finish. 
Xinomavro 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016
The next four vintages are on another level progressing to a more refined second phase. Obviously the use of white toast (neutral) oak has played a major role. I ask Iatridis about the use of bigger oak casks and he says that in his opinion barriques give the right amount of oxygen for opening Xinomavro's structure. In this second phase, there is the use of a specific strain of native yeasts developed in collaboration with Geisenheim University.

2016 is the epitome of that evolution, impressively pure, approachable and elegant highlighting the fruit expression. This is a solo guitar playing by Eric Clapton while 2015 plays the accordion sometimes being open or closed. 2014 looks great like an orchestra perfectly synchronized while 2013 plays the piano with a very relaxed rhythm. 

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