The philosophy of Oenops is simple. As Nikos Karatzas puts it " liberated from PDO and PGI regulations we are looking for different terroirs that will bring out the character of the varieties with minimal intervention in the winery. So, as you will see in the near future, our 2017 Xinomavro is a blend of Naoussa, Amyndeon and Rapsani. The only thing which counts, to me, is how a wine tastes, and I am trying to express varietal character with as much validity as I possibly can.”
Karatzas is a pioneer in winemaking. He has paved the way for the new generation of Greek wines which are relieved from new oak; a course which is completely on the other side of what we are used to up to now. For example, while he does not exclude barrels for fermentation, maturation occurs only in inox and amphoras so as to attain ultimate fruit purity. Hallelujah!
Vidiano comes from the mountainous vineyards of Heraklion. It is spontaneously fermented in inox, amphora and oak, blended soon and then matured on the lees for 6 months in exclusively 400 lts amphoras. 2016 is relatively floral on the nose, somehow tight on the palate, with excellent balance of acid and weight. A small production of just 1300 bottles and restrained alcohol at 13% abv. It is more to the mineral side but has developed nicely over the last few months (89/100). 2017 on the other hand, scheduled to be released in June, is fatter and more Vidiano in its expression with purity of fruit, precision and elegance (90/100). Retail price fro the domestic market is €14.20. Packaging is also quite innovative including an illusion of the name of the variety while for the first time the name of Nikos Karatzas appears on the label. Another illusion perhaps?
Xinomavro from Trilofos in Naoussa also appears with an alcohol level of 12.8%, which shows that Karatzas has no insecurities when it comes to the maturity of the grapes. This wine is 80% fermented in a cement tank (shown below) and 20% in open barrels. ''All of my barrels are either lightly toasted or almost untoasted and I basically use them only for fermentation that will not affect the aroma of the fruit'' he comments. The wine is splendidly floral, its entrance on the palate is sweet and evolves to the tannic but non-astringent character of the variety. The fact that it has such a multitude of aromas although the alcohol is so low, should serve as an example to be imitated. (92/100). Retail price fro the domestic market is €16.
There is also a second Xinomavro in experimental status, with no sulphites added from start to finish, that has been produced completely in amphora. 400 bottles in total. In the glass the nose overflows with Xinomavro and the purity of the variety is revealed almost naked, free of oak spices, chocolate or coffee aromas. The nose is impressive with rose, violet, cherries and crushed pepper, without the slightest notion of tomato aromas. The mouth is still as tight as a punch, and the tannins need time to relax. (93/100)
The finale came with the tasting of a Limniona, more in the Zafeirakis style than in the Theopetra, with grapes sourced from 25 year old vineyards in Thessaly. Nikos, quite upset, confesses, “for just three months I did not get an adjacent vineyard which was planted with 100 year old Limniona bush vines that were finally ripped out”. Fermentation here is 60% in amphora with the rest in 500 lt oak. Alcohol is at 13% and the release is again 1300 bottles. Exotic fruit spices, black fruit, slightly meaty. Fuller than the Xinomavro, with a deliciously confident character. (92/100). Retail price fro the domestic market is €15.10.
I think that the fitting conclusion to this text is a phrase by Nikos Karatzas; the essence of his perception about winemaking and which can bring a breath of fresh air to the Greek winemaker community. “The concept behind Oenops is that I live in a small country which has an amazing variety of terroir and mesoclimates that I would like to explore. It's a nice challenge that costs me about 50,000 km a year!”