Most Exciting Greek Wines tasted in 2020
By Yiannis Karakasis MW
Imagine that you are stepping on the gas pedal of your car with all of your enthusiasm or, even better, flying a helo with the engines screaming at full power. Can you feel the adrenaline rising? Can you hear your heartbeat? This is precisely the feeling I want to describe with these wines; the excitement they evoke. The sensation they inject under our skin.
I realise that most are micro cuvées of a few thousand bottles, hard to get for most consumers. Some have not even been released yet, or may even be sold out. Regardless, the point I want to make is completely different. These are at the peak of the mountain, and the view from there changes considerably.
Chloe Chatzivariti Spin Negoska 2018
Chloe is one of the freshest wine voices in Greece; she has moved the winery towards low intervention wines that also possess a high drinkability index. She’s also pretty brave as she is experimenting with the capricious Negoska, a red variety with little colour and alcohol, but rather robust and often aggressive tannins.
Spin comes from Filyria in Goumenissa, a terroir that was revealed by Boutari winery. This wine is a blend of 2 different harvest dates; it combines the acidity given by the early harvest with the fruity core and colour of the late harvest. Spontaneous fermentation, without any addition, clarification or filtration and with a very low level of sulfites. Grapes see 5 days maceration for the first harvest and 20 days for the late. After blending it is aged for 4 months in old French oak barrels and 1.5 years in the bottle. The result is a delicious aromatic wine, a testament to Negoska’s fruit purity in a framework of elegant tannins and a long aftertaste. (800 bottles, 18 euros)
Diamantis, 'Magoutes' Xinomavro 2017, Siatista
A wine expected to be released in 2021. A mountain-Xinomavro, at 890 m altitude, that matures in 500 Lt oak barrels. The result is an elegant, refined and silky expression of the variety. On the nose seductive perfume of violets and ripe red fruit with mineral nuances. Pure with cashmere-like tannins, bright acid, and a long finish.
Gavalas Santorini (Thalassina?)
Although unreleased for the moment I have to include it as this is a sensational Santorini. Perfumed and fine on the nose with some sage hints, and lovely pear fruit. The palate is rich, layered with lip-smacking salinity. This is a separate whole-bunch fermentation with grapes sourced from the village of Megalochori, and the wine maturing on the fine lees for 18 months. An irresistible Assyrtiko.
Koutsoyannopoulos 15 year old Assyrtiko
A limited release of approximately 500 bottles, sold exclusively at the winery, it has spent 15 years in, mostly, old barriques. Oxidative amontillado-like complexity on the nose followed by an impressively lively palate with a good level of freshness, layers of flavours and a long lingering finish. A crazy wine that makes you wonder. A pricey rarity as well. (290 euros)
Malichin – Chryssos Old Vines Vidiano 2019
Single terroir Amygdalos in Rethymno, Crete at 740 to 800m. Prephylloxera vines of 90 + years (phylloxera arrived in Crete very late in the 80s) so these could be considered heritage vines. Low intervention winemaking with fine lees maturation of 12 months and low addition of sulfites. Ripe nose with marzipan, smoke and flowers around a core of apricot. An impressive wine, super long and layered, but would have hoped for less lees ageing so as to achieve more finesse to the wine. Nevertheless, exciting and noteworthy. (1365 bottles, 37 euros)
Tetramythos Pheloe Nature 2017, Peloponnese
The Tetramythos winery features the Spanos brothers and winemaker Panagiotis Papagiannopoulos, who are among the guardians of the tradition for mountainous Aigialeia in the Peloponnese. Papagiannopoulos has a connection to Ancient Phelloe (named Seliana nowadays) as he used to spend his summers there. At the Metochi site of the holy 16th-century Byzantine monastery, his family and other landowners cultivated the vineyards and gave a proportion of their grapes to the monks. In 2004 Panagiotis re-planted the 0.3-hectare vineyard, with Agiorgitiko, local Black of Kalavryta and Mavrodaphne; of this 30% are own-rooted vines.
Low intervention winemaking. Layers and layers of blueberries, black cherries, violets and Asian spice. More earthy and herbal notes evolve with time. Harmonious, detailed and sophisticated on the palate. A precious gem. (22 euros)
Troupis Moschofilero Ekato 2019, Peloponnese
A 100-days skin contact Moschofilero (Ekato means one hundred in Greek) has a deep salmon-pink colour with an intense nose expressive of cranberries, pomegranate, watermelon and pungent spicy undertones. Acid-driven on the palate, with noticeable yet well-integrated tannins it fills the mid-palate with flavour and depth of fruit. The most extreme Moschofilero (a pink-skinned variety) produced yet. (985 bottles, 15 euros).