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14 January 2020

SuperNormal: Manousakis Nostos Grenache 2017

There is no doubt that all the excitement regarding Greek wine focuses on the indigenous varieties; Assyrtiko, Xinomavro, Agiorgitiko, Malagousia, Vidiano, Robola, Savatiano and friends. Which doesn't leave much space for international varieties to shine. But, this little space does exist, and it is up to producers to realise that it is there and needs to be filled. The magnificent Nostos Grenache from Manousakis winery in Crete manages to do just that. The winery was founded by Ted Manousakis and is now run by his daughter, Alexandra Manousaki, and son-in-law, Afshin Molavi (pictured below). It built its reputation on cultivating and vinifying Rhône varieties, that have adapted amazingly well to Crete, but is lately expanding to Assyrtiko, Vidiano, Romeiko and Muscat of Spinas. 

The bush vines of Grenache Rouge are planted on schist and sandy clay soil, which is rich in iron and magnesium, at 600m altitude. The latter brings the much-desired freshness to the wine. But there is more. Following a 15 day maceration, the wine is aged in large 3-tonne oak casks (Grenier Foudres) and is bottled with no filtration and stabilisation. Afshin talks passionately about this Grenache; ''Grenache has always been a variety that I loved and when I got involved in the winery in 2012, it was the one I have changed the most. We used to age in barriques, with 30 days maceration, but since one of my favourite winemakers is Emmanuel Reynaud (Rayas) -  I was always very jealous of his wines -  I was inspired to make a more elegant, lighter Grenache, with more finesse and freshness. Laurence Feraud (Domaine de Pegau) has been our consultant for some time on the viticultural part, and the pruning. So, together with our in house viticulturist Yiannis Galanis we have managed to refine the wine, and see an even better future for it.''

It is the unmistakable combination of these two ingredients - finesse and freshness - that stand out in a tasting that shows silky texture, fantastic balance and integration of all structural elements. The flavours are unadulterated and seductive, full of garrigues, crunchy red fruit and orange peel. A great non-interventionist style Grenache, with a seamless texture, suave tannins and super long finish. (Alc: 14%, pH: 3.43, Total acidity 5.08 g/l, 12,000 bottles). 

Moreover, it has one of the most striking wine labels. Afshin continues, ''the label depicts my father in law, founder of the winery, on a bike that he rented for a day, with money he had stolen from his mom (a very cute story about the panigiri of the village, and one of the very few pictures we have of him in the village). Alexandra loves this picture of him, sometime before he left for the USA, and really wanted this to be on the label''.

You can find the 2016 and 2017 vintage in Greece & Grapes , 17.90€

Ι have contemplated the question of value and wine for quite some time and it seems to me that wine has become an increasingly expensive affair, in the last few years. The prices of quite a few wines have rocketed so high that they have become more of an asset, a luxury brand or a trophy, rather than a drink made of the complex development of grape juice that is meant to be savoured, appreciated, shared and, most of all enjoyed. And despite the fact that these wines are ultimately beautiful it makes you wonder if wine is losing (in some cases) its essence and perhaps its soul.

Nowadays, as soon as a bottle of wine becomes well known and sought after, it takes little more than a few vintages before its price spirals upwards. And, I'm not only referring to the top regions of Burgundy, Bordeaux and the Rhone. This column arose from my perception of an empty space. The legendary wines are often praised by all but can be afforded by very few. Nevertheless, there didn't seem to be much written about wines that are distinctive, interesting, and sensibly priced. Suggestions of wines with character, that are actually an amazing bargain for their quality. So, here I will be focusing on beautiful, top value, wines that should not be missed. Of course, I had to set a reasonable upper limit; exactly the point of this column. The limit for wines from Greece is up to 15 euros and for those from around the world, up to 35 euros. Welcome to the world of super+normal. 

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