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09 January 2023

Muses Estate Unicorn 2020 - Mouhtaro from another planet

By Yiannis Karakasis MW

"Unicorn" is a wine word used to describe some of the rarest, most elusive, and sought-after wine bottles worldwide. Wines that are so rare that they hardly exist, causing a frenzy among wine lovers across the globe who are seeking desperately to get their hands on them. It is a word that I see with caution as there is no qualitative link to it but only a scarcity factor. 

In this sense, my initial reaction to seeing it on a label of the new Mouhtaro wine by Muses Estate (run by the Zacharias family) stroke a sensitive chord, although I understand the intentions of positioning it as something rare. On the other hand, the 520 bottles made from the oldest, own-rooted Mouhtaro vines planted in the Muses valley, Central Greece, which exceed 100 years of age, is a unique narrative. But, what is most noteworthy is that Unicorn shows what Mouhtaro can achieve and how exciting the wines can be. And it is true, there is no sounder winery to bring these grapes to life than Muses Estate, which is so closely associated with this red variety, ever since the first single varietal wine they produced in 1998.

"Yields are exceptionally low from these vines, and I won't hide the fact that we always knew that these vines produced something special", says winemaker Nikos Zacharias. "From 0,7ha, following very rigorous sorting, we only managed to produce two barrels", he continues. 2020 was the first year this vineyard hasn't been included in the Classic Mouhtaro label, however, Zacharias is confident that this won't affect the quality of the original wine. After all, the vineyards of the Muses Estate are now nearing an average of 50 years of age, so "Classic Mouhtaro can be equally good (as it was) without including these precious grapes.'' 

"For us, the Unicorn Mouhtaro is the continuation of traditional winemaking that our father Thanasis initiated more than 20 years ago. However, this is how he did it without commercial yeasts, and this is how we follow on the same path", comments Stelios Zacharias. Oak use follows the same principles with special toasting that doesn't impart oak aromas but solely adds layers to the palate.

Tasting the wine, I detect the wild character of the variety. Truly "dark and gothic" as I have described it before, with remarkable aromatic intensity and many layers of dark fruit and spice. The different choice of oak is evident with less toast and bacon, compared to the classic Mouhtaro. Concentrated on the palate, with much acidity and tannins, which are still tight but supported by the pure juicy fruit. A very concentrated and big wine that is also elegant and light on its feet. An authentic wine that shows me the value of old vines. A wine which shows that for demanding and tannic varieties, old vines can be the missing link, providing balance and layers on the palate. (YK*)

More info:
abv 14% (very well integrated)
892 gr empty bottle (too heavy)
Wax (not needed) Closure DIAM 10
Price 55 euros (high as for all special things)


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