05 September 2016

The T-Oinos Project: Greatness in Falatados

The drive from Chora which is the capital of Tinos island to the village of Falatados, one of the emerging Greek terroirs is around thirty minutes. Mostly a gentle drive that gets really exciting as huge, mostly round granite rocks appear on both sides of the road that compose an almost moon-like landscape. 

These granitic stones called volakes were formed approximately twenty million years ago and it is here that Alexandros Avatagellos established T-Oinos garage winery in 2002 aiming high or maybe even higher - at the top. 

Winemakers Spyros Zoumboulis and Helena Alevra speak the basics: More or less 20.000 bottles, six labels and four indigenous varieties (Assyrtiko, Mavrotragano, Malagousia and Avgoustiatis) from 11 hectares of vines. Yields are notoriously low less than 18 hl/ha and vines densities are notoriously high up to 11.000 vines per hectare whereas the soil is poor granitic sand. Serious intentions indeed with most of the wine exported and Ducasse group through sommelier Gérard Margeon getting a big share of it. The French connection is solid, with no introduction needed, super - star wine-consultant Stephane Deronancourt consulting now for the reds and Thanos Fakorellis for the whites.  

Getting ready to taste in Falatados and Avatagellos join us quietly. He speaks quitely of the energy he gets from this mystic terroir and the hard work they do in the vineyard together with their agronomist Michalis. ''It is a never ending journey, we are learning everyday, yet I believe we have something unique here that we try to express with purity and authenticity'' he tells me.  ''I am not looking into producing another good wine but only top wines'' he continues. 

Climate in Falatados is defined by extremes; there is twice the rainfall compared to Santorini (500-600 mm) together with a lot of snow during winter. Stegasta is the basic vineyard at an altitude of 350 m with granitic sand, Rassonas produces only Mavrotragano and Ag. Dimitrios is the third one.

The whites

Harvest has many tries and then long slow pressing follows for 7 hours. The wines mature with the lees for up to eight months. For the Clos Stegasta Assyrtiko that comes exclusively from the 6 ha Stegasta vineyard fermentation takes place in a combination of stainless steel, wooden casks of 2 tonnes and some oak. From 2016 there will be experimentation with amphoras shown below. Total Assyrtiko production is around 5.000 bottles. It may reach in the future 8.000 or 9.000 bottle maximum says Avatagellos but there is now way it will go more. 

Having tasted four vintages I have to say that 2011 and 2015 are stunning examples of terroir wines that express fruit purity, tension and precision. Terroir - driven, textural wines with no oak detected. On the other hand 2013 and 2014 showed a more oaky character something that I do not feel is necessary when you have top quality fruit like this one. The wine is hard to find in Greece and retails around 40 euros making it one of the more expensive whites. Malagousia is also delicious and can age for 4-5 years. 

T-Oinos Clos Stegasts Assyrtiko 2015, 13% 

The current release of T-Oinos Assyrtiko shows the greatness of an extraordinary terroir when combined with top viticulture and minimal intervention in winemaking. Tight on the nose with a mineral and citrus fruit core along some herbal notes. The magic appears on the palate where the wine is very textural with impressive complexity for its age. Purity and minerality. (60% maturation in 2 tonnes wooden casks for 7 months, around 10% new oak). 2018-2025. 93

T-Oinos Clos Stegasta Assyrtiko 2014

Compared to 2015 this shows a more oaky character with hazelnuts and ripe stone fruit on the nose and underlying minerality. Would enjoy it more without oak influence I think but here it is more like a stylish Burgundy (around 20% new oak). 2016-2020+. 90

T-Oinos Clos Stegasta Assyrtiko 2013

Just by sniffing it reminded me of an oaked Argyros Assyrtiko, but the fruit was sweeter. Quite oaky on the nose, some oxidation as well but gorgeous on the palate, vivacious with precision and long finish. Stone fruit and some herbs complement the mineral core (new oak). 2016- 2020. 90 

T-Oinos Clos Stegasta Assyrtiko 2011

Sweet dreams are made of this gem. It is in fact so stunning that makes a lot of top Santorinis blush with its combination of purity and elegance. Super fresh on the nose with citrus fruit and minerals along evolving honeyed character. Salty, layered and detailed on the palate this is one of Greece’s top. Could it be that Greece's top Assyrtiko is produced in Tinos? (around 10% new oak) 2016-2022. 94 

The reds

For Clos Stegasta Mavrotragano there is an inclusion of stems adding structure and freshness on the wine that can go up to 50-60% . Oak fermentation takes place in open top fermenters with manual pigeage. Only indigenous yeasts are employed and the temperature is allowed to rise up to 25ºC. Total extraction lasts 20 days and then there is 24 months of maturation in 400-500 lts new oak that you do not feel at all. It comes entirely from terraced Rassonas vineyard and is produced in more or less 2.000 bottles with a ratio of 1 bottle per 4 or 5 vines. The Clos Stegasta Mavrotragano retails in Greece around 75 euros, possibly the most expensive red in the country.

There is also Mavro a blend a blend of 80% Mavrotragano and 20% Avgoustatis that sees 30% new oak which is also firm and layered, T-Oinos red and Mavrose rosé wine.

T-Oinos Clos Stegasta Mavrotragano 2013

Profound wine with impeccable balance on the palate, huge but refined - almost Burgundian - tannins. Layered, detailed and pure this is a top example of red Greek wine with tremendous depth of fruit combining power and elegance. An opulent wine light on its feet! (Single vineyard from Rassonas, terraces, 1500 bottles, 18 hl/ha, whole bunches in open top fermenters, 24 months in 400 lts). 2016-2020+ 95

T-Oinos Mavro 2012

A blend of indigenous Mavrotragano and Avgoustiatis grown on sandy loam soils over granite bedrock. Very youthful and tight on the nose at this moment. Spicy and peppery on the palate with beautiful oak integration. Supple, Burgundian yet firm this has a lot to reveal. 2017-2020+. 91

T-Oinos Mavro 2011

A blend from fascinating Mavrotragano and 20% Avgoustiatis to mellow the edges. Luxurious oak, spicy black fruit and leather notes on the nose. Fine-grained tannins on the palate, full bodied with a savoury touch. 5.000 bottles made. 2018-2020+. 89

Find the wines at wine-searcher.

Stegasta Vineyard
Stegasta Vineyard
Spyros Zoumboulis with Michalis
Spyros Zoumboulis with Michalis
Winemakers Spyros Zoumboulis and Helena Alevra
Winemakers Spyros Zoumboulis and Helena Alevra

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