The Wines of Syros: the promise of Serifiotiko
By Wojciech Bonkowski
Syros holds a special place amongst the Cyclades. Its capital, Ermoúpoli, founded during the Greek Revolution in the 1820s, became the leading commercial and industrial centre of Greece, as well as its main port eclipsed by Piraeus in the late 19th century. But it remains a stunning place, with lavish neo-Hellenic mansions and a sophisticated atmosphere, not to mention its beautiful position on a series of hills rising over a natural harbour. The rest of the island presents a familiar mixture: inviting pebbly beach coves, coastal cliffs, whitewashed hilltop villages, with inner valleys covered in terraced orchards and tiny vineyards. The rugged, windswept northeast of the island, with its stunning Aegean vistas, could be another interesting terroir.
Syros now has four active wineries, and the quality of the produce suggests it is willing to challenge the very best of the Cyclades.
Run by Brits Edward and Eileen Maitland-Makgill-Crichton (or MCC) since 2016 (pictured below), this winery sprang to fame after Sarah Jane Evans MW earmarked their Rosé as the best of Oenorama and Jancis Robinson MW as rosé of the month. The first vintages were made from Naxos grapes and vinified in Athens before a diminutive winery was assembled in the family house in Chroussa in 2018. Edward is careful to grow gradually, currently farming 1.5 hectares in different locations and buying grapes from another 1.5 for a total production of 15,000 bottles. The Rosé is still the best-known product here, now served in 5* hotels and gourmet restaurants throughout Greece, but I was excited by the potential of Serifiótiko (a local variety of Serifos island widely cultivated in the Aegean islands), which was first trialled here and shows captivating structure and staying power. The wines have real cut and precision and are worth seeking out, also thanks to their keen prices.
Ousyra Monemvasia 2020: 12.9%. The Paros grapes are also grown on a limited scale in Syros and this comes from 5-year-old vines. A deep-hued, plump-fruity wine with lime, apricot, lemon liqueur, open and approachable with an opposite character to the tight mineral Serifiotiko (see below). Truly tasty, especially for 12.90€. 89
Serifiotiko 2020: 13%. From 40–80-year-old ungrafted vines. Whole-bunch pressed, with a few days’ cold soak and aged in inox. Tight if not downright austere white wine style, bone-dry with a steely acidity and a saline, almost seawater sensation on the finish. Like an Assyrtiko without the fruit, this makes an immediate impression with its arresting personality, a truly vertical wine. 92
Serifiotiko 2019: 12.9%. Opened by Edward MCC to demonstrate the staying power of Serifiotiko, which is obvious. Very little evolution, though this feels less pure than the 2000, a little more pressed, with lemon peel astringency. Great personality. 90
Serifiotiko Amphora 2020: 13.2%. 450 bottles of this trial from ungrafted 50-year-old vines. Not an orange wine, this shows a pale pearl colour. Allusive lemon zest on the nose which has considerable purity. Not so very acidic but really saline, concentrated, firmly structured, this packs in more density and definition than the classic Serifiotiko here. An essence of pith, wind, and salt. Captivating. 92+
Rosé 2020: 14%. From Fokianó, still sourced from three different vineyards on Naxos. A very pale salmon hue. Edward’s breakthrough wine is certainly very distinctive in its savoury, saline edginess. There is also a balmier, wild strawberry fruitiness here, coupled with emphatic structure. The winemaking is very precise and the balance is perfect. This is the epitome of bone-dry, savoury gastronomic rosé. Only 14€. 90
Les Contours d’Ousyra Rosé 2020: 13.8%. Edward’s (just) more affordable bottling at 10.50€. Less distinctive if rather pleasant, with vanilla pod, crushed strawberry, some estery banana cool ferment notes. Quite less saline and structured. 87
Syros’s oldest and most widely distributed winery, heir to the former state monopole operation. I did not visit but tasted their wines on multiple occasions.
Fabrika White 2020: 13%. A white wine blending Monemvasiá and Koundoura. Neutral appley fruit on the nose. Just a little salty on the palate, with an apple seed bitterness too. Light-bodied but characterful, with some authenticity. Easy drinking. 86
San ta Máratha Assyrtiko 2020: An altogether more serious white, showing Assyrtiko’s poise and tension, very well-made with its interplay of salty and citric energies. It's sweet, ripe, green-fruity, perhaps a little technical, but (just) mineral too. 89
Sheriff Fatman Serifiotiko 2020: 13.5%. Jumping the Serifiotiko bandwagon with a very good example of the grape. Less austere and vertical than the Ousyra version, with lovely peary fruit but savoury too and with beguiling plump weight. Very mineral indeed, with fine balance and great drinkability. Excellent. 91
Fabrika Red 2019: From Mandilariá. Dark-hued cherries and red berries. Rather fruity for this grape variety, without the drying earthy notes, and a very controlled structure. Another wine showing high winemaking culture for this winery. 89
In operation since 2018, this small winery bottles three wines at the moment, easily available in local shops and restaurants.
Nisou Methi White 2020: 13.5%. Serifiótiko and Roditis. Reasonably fresh and fruity; correct but somewhat dull, with a bitter almond finish. Better with time in the glass so I have faith it will integrate. 86
Nisou Methi White 2019: This vintage is still available in wine shops and shows more aromatic than above. Very tight, with noticeable SO2 and crunchy minerality. Good content and texture to this unoaked white, but not very expressive. 87+
Nisou Methi Dry Rosé 2020:13%. Serifiótiko and Koundoura. Very pale pink. Very dry, slightly drying from the SO2, similarly to the white here. Not great charm but surely quite some structure, which is a common thread in the wines of Syros. A food rosé. 87
Aionas White 2020: 13.5%. Organic. This wine also shows high SO2 but has a riper feel and more buttery texture than Para Kopois. Unaromatic, crunchy, mineral and saline. Another wine that clearly taste of Syros, this is really inviting. 88+
Kritsinis is an excellent wine shop located just 100 metres from the main square in Ermoúpoli. It has a large selection of Greek classics and practically all bottled Syros wines. The owner also bottles some wines under his own label, including an ambitiously priced anniversary red (the cava boasts 100 years of tradition. I only tried the Roditis–Agiorgitiko Rosé, which failed to thrill.