02 February 2017

To drink this week: Xinomavro and Agiorgitiko

Agiorgitiko and Xinomavro are the two most quality red Greek grapes producing a fascinating range of wines, from fruity ones to more serious, structured examples that develop layers of complexity over the years. Both of them are challenging for the production of top quality wines; for Agiorgitiko the main issue is not to overextract or overoak during maturation period and for Xinomavro to fill the mid palate with flesh and at the same time tame the often, very aggressive tannins. So if those issues are addressed properly the wines can be glorious like these two below.

Dalamara Vieilles Vignes 2015, PDO Naoussa

This is a new label from Domaine Dalamara that comes as a continuation of the sublime, own - rooted Xinomavro, Vignes Franches. Because the major part of the specific Paliokalias plot that provided fruit for Vignes Franches was heavily hit by hail in 2014 and has not recovered fully since, winemaker Kostis Dalamaras decided to release Vieilles Vignes instead. The wine includes 40% of the fruit that composed Vignes Franches (that is from own - rooted, prephylloxera bush vines that are extremely old around 100 years of age in the specific plot of Paliokalias vineyard plus some younger vines, again own - rooted, but trained in wires this time, located in the vineyard next to the winery) with 60% from a selection of the crème de la crème of old vines in Paliokalias also trained in wires. All in all 328 standard bottles were produced along some magnums. The winemaking carries the philosophy of Kostis Dalamaras, including spontaneous fermentation, maceration for 18 days with pigeage, gentle handling, maturation in second use oak and low SO2 of 70 mg/lt total.

I tried to get some words from Dalamaras about this new project and he was kind enough to comment that he is thrilled about the quality of the wine which he relates to the character that own rooted Xinomavro gives to the wine. He says ''the roots in the own rooted vines extend very deep into the soil and this is perhaps why minerality is pronounced in the wine. Moreover it combines concentration and has real flesh that makes it already approachable for those that cannot wait''.

The wine: Gorgeous nose, seductive and ripe with roses, cherries, chocolate and mineral aromas with some tomato leaves notes in the background. All very well defined, perfumed and very Pinot Noir like. Elegant on the palate with fine tannins, flesh and already superb balance. Drink it now with proper decanting or keep it for 15 years. 93+/100 (Retails from the winery at 50 euros and is sold mainly through mailing list)

Gaia Estate, Gaia Estate 2013 PDO Nemea

I re - tasted this wine a week ago during the presentation of submerged Thalassitis 2011 and I was convinced for one more time that Gaia Estate presents the right approach for producing a premium Nemea. There is power but there is also finesse. Yes, this is a big boy with 15% abv but alcohol is fine integrated and oak is now on the background.

I asked winemaker and co - owner of Gaia Yiannis Paraskevopoulos to explain what lies beneath the wine and he said, ''First it comes from Koutsi, a relatively cold subregion and from low yields of maximum 50 hl/ha. Add also to the equation the old vines that are approaching 40 years of age and you can understand we get top quality fruit having invested a lot in the vineyard with new clones and techniques. Then we take another approach in the cellar since Agiorgitiko is fragile to new oak by maturing the wine for 14 months in 50% new oak, light toast with 36 months seasoning and then we rack it to big casks of 1500 lts for further oak integration''. 

I will have to agree on that with Paraskevopoulos and I am calling this ''taking out the mark of new oak''!

The wine: Deep ruby, fairly youthful colour with a nose that has started to blossom with dark chocolate, juicy black berries, cinnamon and lovely oak integration. On the palate all the elements have started to come together and while the wine is big this does not show. Velvety with elegant fruit this is absolutely serious and for many years the best Nemea in the country. 93/100 (retails in local market 24.90 euros)

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