Turkish occupation has helped the area enter into the "Eastern middle ages". It did not help wine, in the sense that it did not encourage wine production. European Traveller's accounts from the 18-19th century tell the horrors of Greek wines. Up until 1970, Greek wines were mostly undrinkable (with rare exceptions), and were drunk only by the locals. There were very few small areas in Greece, which have produced wine that was honorable. Such places include (but are probably not the only ones) Naoussa, Santorini, Samos, and Archanes/Peza in Crete.
In the 1970s, the work of some visionaries, who have seen up-close the huge gap and progress of Western European wine production, started the renouveau of Greek wines. This is a slow process that is still in evolution.
There is a huge difference in the wines one finds in the marketplace today. To start with, many if not most are drinkable. And some can also provide pleasure in drinking. This should be compared to the wines I drunk in the seventies and eighties that at their (rare) best were neutral.
There is also a (small) difference in the attitude of Greeks towards wine quality. Although the vast majority still do not care (and cannot distinguish) whether they drink wine or vinegar, there is a small minority that strives to get to know, and drink better wines. This minority is composed mostly of the nouveau-riche society of Greeks that, along with other things, they also ask for good wine, although they are not yet seasoned connoisseurs. It also includes the intelligentsia, which has always asked for good quality.
Below is my personal view on some Greek wines I consider interesting. My views are based on tasting, on many occasions, wines at various times of their developments. I would like to thank in this, a group of colleagues and friends with whom we have had numerous tastings.
1) Unless otherwise stated, tasted wines were bought in (provably) good condition and cellared in optimal conditions (12 C constant temperature and 75%-85% humidity). I should also stress here that most wines one can buy in Greece, especially whites that are more fragile, are damaged by high temperatures. I found no place in Greece, including wine cellars in posh areas in Athens, that keep their wines under acceptable conditions. The result is that you can get a white that has not been cooked, only if it has been transported during mid November-mid March, did not stay in the van during a sunny day and was bought in that period. Chances that all of the above are true are very small.
By talking to wine merchants, you find two types: The "educated" ones, who will expand on being careful how to keep the wine etc, but who keep it in a cement-warehouse at 40 C in the summer. And those, that do not even know the theory.
2) In general, do not trust the views of wine merchants, especially if they seem authoritative. I have spoken to many of them in Crete and Athens. I have found none that was really knowledgeable. A friend I trust tells me that he knows one. Even the most posh merchants are not experts in wine. There are two types: those that know nothing and those that claim they know. The first category is innocuous since they will not give you advice. The second is dangerous, since you will be offered authoritative advise, which almost always is invariably wrong or misleading or both.
The same applies to resident "wine critics" that write in the press. Although they make an effort, they do not have the long tasting experience at international level to be trustworthy. This is the reason that "oak juice" according to several of them is an excellent wine. I still remember the statement, several years ago, of a wine-critic of a major Greek newspaper, after we had a long conversation and after he realized that I know something about wine: "I am proud since I can tell when a wine is corked". I am definitely sure there are exceptions to this rule. I was not lucky enough to meet them.
3) There are many wines I have never tasted. There are also wines that were tasted under difficult conditions, so that I could not have a reliable opinion. There are many more wines that were tasted but which I cannot recommend. None of the above appear below.
4) There are no world-class white or red Greek wines, but there are some that now start approaching that level.
All Greek whites, under ``normal" conditions should be drunk during their first year of age.
Some do not survive even that. Some if
not mishandled might survive two years. Most are already dead after their first trip.
That being said, quite a few selected whites that were bought in pristine condition and impeccably cellared (see above) had the fruit last 3-6 years.
On the other hand, I think white wines hold much more potential for the future than the reds in Greece. I also think that many if not most of them, if aged properly, improve with age.
I will describe below some of the grapes/wines that my tastings of the last 20-25 years suggest that they improve with age. I start from the whites first.
One of the white grape varieties with this property is "Lagorthi", a rare variety, almost extinct, that was resurrected by the late Antonopoulos from five vines, kept in the ampelographic Institute in Athens. It has some organoleptic similarities to Semillon and seems to improve with age if properly cultivated and vinified.
The second is the Asyrtiko grape. I have had several examples of well made Santorini wines that from 5-10 years of age started showing noble and sometimes complex mineral flavors characteristic of Alsacian dry Rieslings. Untill now, most Santorini wines started life with a rather neutral character, but acquire a complex and important aromatic profile with age. They have a substantial body, that is also accentuated with age. Of course by now asyrtico has a name of its own in some international wine markets, but it is also true that modern Santorini wines are also approachable young, although I think that aging them properly is a must. It is also true that asyrtico wines from other areas, notably Crete (see further below) hold a lot of promise.
The third is the Vidiano (white) grape of Crete. It is a grape saved from extinction and has been now vinified from good vintners for about 10 years. Although my results are preliminary, they are convincing, that Vidiano ages superbly in a mix of mineral and fruit aromas that are very interesting while it gains weight in the mouth. To get a better feeling, look at my tasting notes when I refer to Douloufakis and Miliarakis Wineries below.
The fourth is Thrapsathiri, an indigenous white grape of Central and Eastern Crete. It gives wines that so far are not particularly appealing when young. It ages however superbly, although it evolves slowly and needs 10-15 years to show its best.
The fifth is Plyto, an indigenous white grape of Central Crete. It gives wines that are elegant and refined. It ages gracefully, and reaches its plateau between 5-10 years. The wines remain, subtle and elegant although they become more complex.
By now there are many more whites that seem promising in this direction although I do not have solid data to back my claims. I should mention the four very interesting whites of Cephalonia (Zakynthino, Tsaousi, Vostylidi and Robolla), Athiri and Aidani from the islands and Crete, as well as Kydonitsa from Peloponese.
From the indigenous reds, Xinomavro from Naoussa stands out as the main red greek variety that provably ages superbly. The best examples prove the point and the only remaining challenge is to tame the hard tannins of the grape. The 1996 and 1997 Ramnista wines tasted in 2016, had a superb and complex aromatic profile and body reminding me of the "Hermitage, La Chapelle" of Jaboulet from the 70's and 80's, when this wine was at the top of the appelation.
I would add to this, three Cretan varieties for which I have undisputed data: the first is the Mandilari grape (a very late-maturing grape by Greek standards). Until Lyrarakis did it properly, it was an (unripe) blending grape. My tests indicate that the Mandilari of Lyrarakis if properly cellared, ages gracefully and substantially improves in the bottle. The 2007 vintage tasted in 2021 emerged with a luscious body and high complexity.
Another is the Liatiko grape and its two variations (in Dafnes and Ziros plateau). Both after many years (at least 10) evolve to a complex aromatic profile and interesting bodies that are worthy of attention. So far the stars are the dense Liaticos of Economou, raised in the oxydative style, but even the ligher versions from the Heraklion area become compelling after 10-15 years of age.
The third, unexpectently for me, is the Kotsifali grape from Crete. It is typically blended with around 20% of Mandilari, or more recently syrah. It is usually uninteresting young (some exceptions exist, see below) but it ages superply. It needs a lot of patience, as under normal cellar conditions it needs 15-20 years of cellaring to show its best. Its most important difficulty is so far large yields. I do not thing that the last word has been said on that grape.
There is also the Mavrodaphne grape, which was traditionally used to make fortified sweet wines, with appelations of origin in the Patras area and in the island of Cephalonia. In the last twenty years , dry wines made from 100 % Macrodaphne appeared. They show promise, and more comments are presented below, when we mention Paraparousis in Patras.
The Limniona wine of Zafeirakis and the Rapsani old vines of Dougos indicate that the respective varities may have a potentially interesting evolution.
My favorite Cretan wine producers are (alphabetically):
(a) Douloufakis Winery
This is located in the village of Dafnes, at rather high altitude.
Douloufakis makes two wines from the Vidiano grape. The Aspros Lagos white is made from 100% vidiano grape that is barrel fermented and aged. It has an interesting profile, but I am not a big fun of oak, although the oak has become subtler with age. The 2019, a good wine, may be oak free in about 7-10 years.
My preference goes largely to Dafnios white wine that is made of 100% vidiano grape and is raised in steel tanks. In its youth it is complex and aromatic with excellent body. However, it ages superbly and with a few years the fruity aromas mix with mineral aromas adding a new layer of complexity that is spectacular. In view of its price it is a great bargain. The 2016 is a ``vin d'anthologie" and the 2019 may surpass it.
Douloufakis has a portfolio of other wines, both from indigenous and international grapes that are all very well made. I shall mention also his Dafnios red (100% Liatiko grape) that in recent years has improved substantially. This is a medium bodied wine that starts life rather inocuous and not very interesting, but improves substantially with age. It should be drank at 10+ years where it develops a complex nose dominated by reglisse/licorice aromas together with spices, leather and other empyreumatic nuances. A bottle from 1996 tasted in 2019 at the winery, and kept in ambient temperatures for almost 25 years had a superb (albeit not very complex) perfume of licorice, and it was a pleasure to drink. You can find here my tasting notes of a mini vertical tasting of the red and white dafnios done at the winery.
(b) Giannis Economou,
is a remarkable and idiosyncratic winemaker with no equal in Greece. He was well
travelled in his youth and worked starting from Piemonte, then to Chateau Margaux
and finally in Baden Germany. He then returned to Greece and took over a vineyard on the
Ziros plateau in south-eastern Crete. This a remarkable terroir which is very arid,
and Economou claims that his vines in the plateau (mostly Liatiko) are prephyloxeric
due to the dryness of the surroundings. In particular, as the roots go very deep,
phyloxera can only affect roots near the surface and therefore cannot
destroy the plants.
Economou makes a red wine out of Liatico grapes. This grape here has the same name as the grape cultivated in Dafnes. It is believed the two grapes are cousins but there is no DNA analysis so far, so this is mere speculation. There is however a huge difference in yields. Liatico in Dafnes produces 80-200 hectoliters/hectare while Economou's Liatico yields are a mere 20-25 hectoliters/hectare. We have tasted a barrel sample of a young Liatico wine (a few months old, from the 2019 vintage) and its was a fruit bomb: cherries, kirsch and other red fruits together with a complex palette of spices dominated the nose and palate. Economou uses long aging of this wines and releases them only when they are ready, typically between 15-and 20 years after harvest! For ageing, he uses various recipients and techniques. This reminded me of Francois Mitjaville of Tertre Roteboeuf fame and the flak he took in the nineties for milder but similar techniques in evolving wines.
The wine, when released, has a fully-evolved and complex personality that can make an impact, if you are looking for original character in a wine. He cultivates also a small quantity of another red variety, Voidomati (sometimes claimed to be the same as Mandilari) that he is currently blending with Liatico.
Economou also cultivates three white varieties, Vilana and Thrapsathiri, both indigenous to Crete and Asyrtico. He is also aging these wines in tanks before release and depending on the years, he makes different blends. His wines are easier to find outside of Greece than inside. He was the first to show that Vilana and Thrapsathiri when aged can produce interesting, complex wines.
This is located near the village of Kolymbari at the western side of the island of Crete.
It produces several cuvees.
For two years (2011, 2012) he produced the Lithos white cuvee, probably the most idiosyncratic and original white in Crete. It was made from soultani grapes (sourced from vineyards near Heraklion) that are used for the production of dried raisins. Nobody ever thought (except maybe Karavitakis) that this grape would give an interesting wine. As a young wine, it had a mineral aromatic profile, an oily texture and an interesting body. Moreover, a bottle of the 2011 opened in 2020, reserved me a very pleasant surprise: a world-class wine with tertiary aromas worthy of an old Roussane VV of Chateau de Beaucastel and a superb mouthfeel. Unfortunately, this wine was discontinued because of legal technicalities.
Another wine that I tasted for the first time in 2017 was the 2015 Asyrtiko called "Nomas". It is a superb wine, with an open character, with the vinosity and huge body of asyrtico, that drinks very well after its 3rd year of age. The 2015 Nomas, drunk in 2020, is a full bodied, aromatically complex wine, not dissimilar to a very good Riesling. But in my opinion, it will be even more complex with ageing another 5 years.
The red wine Elia made from Refosco grapes is a sensuous wine that is interesting. The 2007 aged properly and consumed in 2017 was evolved, interesting and complex. Karavitakis makes also other red and white wines, that merit attention.
(d) Domaine Lyrarakis is an important winery
located in the village of Allagni, south of Heraklion. It is one of the first recognised quality producers on the island.
Recently, the young generation has gone far by producing several wines from indigenous grapes, most of them highly original.
The first is "Dafni" made from the little known Dafni white grape. It is a very original and mineral wine, with distinct and clear laurel aromas that make its name fitting. It can pair very well with difficult courses for wine, like asparagus courses, green-beens, green fava beens and other dishes dominated by vegetal aromas that "cut through" most white wines. It is a wine that evolves with a glacial pace. Bottles going back to 2011, are still in their youth. It remains to be seen what is the tertiary character of this wine, but it is already clear that it is highly original and fits well Cretan and Mediterannean cuisine.
Another wine is the only serious effort I know in mastering the Mandilari grape (common in the Aegean and Crete and used as a blending variety to add structure and color to reds). It is a VERY late ripening varietal that is never picked ripe, except in this case. Picked from late September to mid-October, this makes a huge difference compared with grapes picked in late August-early September in Crete. Very structured but rich when ripe, it has a lot of potential although I do not think the final word has been said in the Mandilari variety. The 2007 wine, tasted in a recent vertical tasting is fully mature, and has shown a complex palette of aromas, going from red fruits, to spices and leather and tar. It has a substantial body and great balance with a long aftertaste.
The winery's wine from the local plyto grape is also very promising. It has subtle fruity aromas in the beginning that slowly mix with mineral flavors as it evolves. In a recent vertical tasting, going back to 2011, it was clear that it is a subtle wine, that evolves gracefully, and develops a complex aromatic profile miggling fruits, and bee-wax. The wine is fragile though and proper cellaring is important.
The recent wine made from the asyrtiko grape sourced from the Voila vineyard near Sitia is very promising. The 2016 marked a new advance and it is a wine which is interesting, drinkable young, but will be much more interesting in 5-10 years or so. It compares favorably with many efforts from Santorini at a fraction of the price.
In the last few years Lyrarakis produces a dense Liatiko, from a vineyard on the Ziros plateau. It looks interesting and I expect it to be much more interesting with age. He also produces a wine from 100% thrapsathiri. This grape so far gives neutral and uninteresting young wines and therefore escaped my attention. However, as Economou has first shown using his oxydative techniques, and now Lyrarakis, by aging in bottle, thrapsathiri is a grape that ages remarkably well and produced a complex and compelling aromatic profile after 10-15 years of cellaring. You can find here my tasting notes from a tasting of aged wines at the winery and some further tastings.
There is one more wine that seems interesting, a joint effort between the Manousakis winery in Western Crete (see below) providing Romeiko grapes to be blended with the Mandilari of Lyrarakis. The wine is called Mazi ("together" in Greek) and is a very interesting wine in its youth. I found out that in order to get the maximum out of this wine it should be served at 18 C and not lower (neither much higher of course). A bottle of the 2012 (the first effort) opened in 2020, showed a complex medium bodied wine, with a remarkable palette of aromas, pairing the powerfull red character of Mandilari and the feminine aromatic profile of Romeiko. It is therefore with great saddness that I learned recently from C. Galanis (see below) that this wine was discontinued. What a pity!
(e) Manousakis Winery
owned by Cretan expatriate Manousakis, and
located around the Vatolakos village south of Chania. They produce the line of wines under the name "Nostos" that
is mostly exported in the US. The winemaker is the very knowledgeable and forward-thinking Costis Galanis,
seconded by his son Ioannis, a viticulture expert, who is in charge of the vineyards.
Alexandra Manoussaki and Afsin Molavi are in charge of the winery and the commercial
operations that are expanding with time.
The winery used to deal mostly with Rhone varietals and produces an excellent Rousanne wine, that is interesting. They also produce a very good blend of Syrah-Grenach-Mourvedre (Nostos blend) and several single varietal wines from Grenache, Syrah and Mourverdre. It is fair to say that this winery is the only one that so far managed to produce excellent Grenache and Mourverdre in Greece. The Mourverdre especially has recently reached new heights and the 2016 is monumental. Although it is complex already young, it will be much better with 10-15 extra years of cellaring and last 30+ years. The Nostos blend needs time to evolve and sometimes it passes through strong reductive phases but they always come out after 2-3 years. However, these wines need 10+ years to reach their plateau of full maturity and I suspect very few of them are drank at their plateau. You can find here my tasting notes from a mini vertical of the Mourverdre at the Manousakis winery.
The blended cuvee Alexandra, is an irresistible forward red, accesible young, that should be tasted!
However, in recent years the winery turned also its attention to local varietals, and now has a excellent portfolio of Cretan grapes. They include a very elegant muskat of Spina from very old vines in a mountain vineyard, a superbe Vidiano wine (the 2014 is the best young Vidiano I ever tasted), and an asyrtico wine which is excellent.
Galanis has for many years tried to tame a local variety of the West part of Crete, Romeiko. It is a redish variety that is very aromatic and very easily oxydised. After many years, he culminated into two efforts, a blend with Mandilari from Lyrarakis (see above) and a white-vinified Romeiko wine that is very nice and very aromatic when young. It remains to be seen how the white Romeiko will evolve with age, but the Mandilari-Romeiko blend has evolved very favorably with age and developed a very captivating aromatic profile (see my "Mourverdre" tasting notes mentioned earlier).
(f) Ktima Miliaraki (aka Minos wines)
is an important producer of wines under the label Minos. Under the direction of Nikos Miliarakis
they now produce some limited production cuvees that are very interesting.
The white made from 100% Vidiano grape has a very interesting aromatic profile that turns to mineral and is subtle. It has also a very good and interesting body. The 2009 was last tasted in 2019 and was remarkably complex and full bodied.
The Ktima Miliarakis red made from Kotsifali (majority) and Madilari can be extraordinary with a burgudian nose when young (due to kotsifali mostly), a very interesting and balanced body, a few tanins and a good finish. This is prominent in the 2015 and I think Miliarakis is the only one to obtain such a profile from Kotsifali. The 2010 Kotsifali-Madilari blend (with a hint of Mourverdre) opened in 2020 has an excellent tertiary aromatic profile, contrary to those claiming that Kotsifali does not age well.
The domaine produces also a dessert wine made from sundried Liatiko grapes that is aromatic and pure, one of the best efforts on the island.
The domaine has produced since 2011 two new cuvees. One is a single vineyard cuvee blending Syrah-Grenache-Mourverdre that is promising. It is named Chelona (Turtle) Red (from the name of the lieu dit). The second (Chelona White) is a blend of Rousanne-Souvignon, (first produced in 2012) with with the 2017 vintage was changed to 50% Rousanne and 50% Vidiano. It has an exotic nose when young, that is dominated by a wild strawberry flavor that is not a primary or secondary aroma of the two participating grapes, but is apparenty due to the contribution of its terroir. This wine is complexifying with age. The 2012 Chelona white has been tasted in 2020, showing a fully mature personality. It has the remarkable aromas of old Roussane, blending bee-wax, resin and incense, a full body, a lively but well integrated acidity and long aftertaste.
In June 2021, a vertical tasting was held to assess the aging ability of the Chelona White, Vidiano wine and the Domaine Miliarakis red. My tasting notes from this tasting can be found here. The conclusion is that all wines age well, but for me, especially the Kotsifali was the eye opener. I have rarely seen interesting young wines from Kotsifali, but we now know that these wines age well but need a lot of time. Under optimal cellar conditions one needs at least 15 years of patience.
Silva Daskalaki Winery
. Mrs Daskalaki has been the pioneer of biodynamic wine culture in Crete.
The vineyards are near the village of Siva in the Daphnes area, south of Heraklion.
The white Enstikto wine is a blend of 80% chardonay and 20% vidiano. It is a very good and balanced white wine.
The red Enstikto wine is a blend of 70% syrah and 30% indigenous kotsifali. It is a smooth, aromatic and sensuous wine.
Strataridakis Brothers' Winery This is a
relatively new winery located in the south of the island in the Moires area.
They are famous for producing probably the best dry wine from Muscat of Spina grapes (a local elegant muscat variety). It is a very elegant muscat and can compete positively with the best Alsatian dry muscats.
They are also producing other interesting wines. Their white wine from the local Vidiano grape called Aspra Harakia is superb. Complex, aromatic and elegant is unbeatable at that price. Moreover as other similar wines from that grape, it improves with age. A bottle of the 2012, tasted in 2020 showed a fully mature wine, with a complex aromatic profile mixing fruit aromas (with the very characteristic loquat smell) and empyreumatic and mineral aromas, finishing with a hint of bitterness that ties well with a laurel aromatic component. You can find here my tasting notes on the Vidiano wine. They now also produce a wine from the asyrtico grape that is promising.
(a) Antonopoulos Wines near Patras.
The white Adoli Yis, a white wine made primarily from the grape Lagorthi is worthwhile (Its full composition is 60% Lagorthi, 30% Asproudes (Santameriana, White Volitsa, Mygdali, Brena) and 10% Chardonay). It is one of the first Greek white wines that I have found to improve with age. I always thought that it starts life as a neutral, rather acidic wine until I tasted it young at the winery, where I realized that it has a rich fruity profile. It expands with age and in 5-6 years develops complex and noble aromas reminding aged Roussane wines.
Another wine that I appreciated only when I tasted it in their premises, is a special cuvee of Moschofilero, called "Gris de Noir" made from a selected parcel in Mantineia. It has a superb complex aromatic profile dominated by rose aromas, that remind a bit gewurtztraminer, but it is far superior because the aromas are understated and elegant. However, this cuvee was discontinued, a few years ago.
Their Oreina Ktimata a Moschofilero wine, is also very good with complex aromatics. I defy anyone to find these wines in pristine condition without going to the winery! Even in a recent tasting the winery organized in Heraklion, the Gris de Noir's aromatics were gone!
(b) Ktima Mercouri (or Ktima Merkouri ). A good producer. The Ktima Mercouri Red is a well-made, expressive, forward red that can be drunk for several years. It is made from a Refosco grape variety imported from Veneto in the nineteenth century completed by 20% Mavrodaphne. I have followed the evolution of this wine since the 1993 vintage. I can state that it can evolve for ten years and although not really improving, it can give pleasure. Its nose becomes fragile though and if it is more than 3-4 years old, it should be served with care. Their white, "Foloi" made mostly from the local Roditis grape, is an example of a simple fragrant white that should be drunk in its first year of life. Both wines are correctly priced.
(c) Parparoussis. A very good producer near Patras.
His Taos wine, produced occasionally from 100% Mavrodaphne grapes (an absolutely dry red wine) is highly original with notes of tar, menthol and leather at its youth. After 8-10 years, spices and menthol are added to the aromatic palette. The 2004 and 2008 are now on tertiary aromas of sour cherries, kirsch, and spices. This is a very interesting and singular wine and makes the case that the mavrodaphe grape must be experimented upon beyond the traditional sweet wine use, to find out its full potential. Having also tasted on different occasions the 2008, one starts forming an idea on the profile of Mavrodaphne grape. It can become aromatically complex, has original flavors, ages well, with a plateau between 10-20 years, but the wines have an austerity in the mouth that is due to the high acidity that does not seem to mellow with age. This suggests that a blend with a small part of a rounded variety (like syrah that fares well in Greece) might give an even better result. Here are some recent (2021) tasting notes on such wines that are interesting.
His inexpensive Oinari wine, made from the Agiorgitiko grape is probably the best bargain for a red wine in Greece (with only serious competition from Moraitis' Paros red). It is sensuous, and it evolves gracefully for 10+ years.
His entry-level white, "Dora tou Dionysou" is an interesting and crispy, light white wine made from the Sideritis grape.
His reserve Agiorgitiko is excellent but should be drunk in its 5-6 first years of age.
In some years he also produces a special white cuvee, "Dora tou Dionysou, Cava" from the Athiri and Asyrtico grapes, that when young has a very original flavor profile, and is very interesting. It passes afterwards from a mute period and reemerges with complex mineral aromas that remind an old Riesling (this is the asyrtico contribution). The 2005 has reopened in 2020.
Parparoussis produces also a collection of excellent brandies and two sweet muscat wines that are worth searching for.
(a) Yiannis Boutaris. This is a good producer, producing a portfolio of wines based on
The "Ktima Yanakohori" is a xinomavro based wine that I have followed since 1994. It is hard at a young age. It needs 10 years to absorb its tanin and to develop a fragrant nose that is interesting. The 2009, tasted in 2020 is an excellent and fully mature red, that can last another 10 years if appropriately cellared.
The Ramnista wine is also based on Xinomavro but is better. In a recent (2015) vertical tasting of all vintages starting with 1996 till the 2006, the 1996 has won the night eclipsing the 1997 (that had started life more promising than the 1996). The message is that older vintages needed 10-15 years at least to shed some of their tanning and develop fully their aromatic profile, but some of the tannin is still hard and may never disappear.
However, starting with the new century, the tannins seem to have become softer and the 2005 was the first effort in which tannin seemed fully ripe (but was otherwise dissapointing). The new generation has changed many things and rearranged blends. For almost 10 years now Ramnista has lost some of its best grapes that went into the Diaporos wine, the flagship of the domaine. An excellent Syrah that the domaine produced (in small quantities) also disappeared and is now blended in Diaporos.
Diaporos when young has the quality of the old Ramnista maybe a hint more, but at triple the price!
However, we have recently (June 2021) done two tastings. In the first we have compared four excellent xinomavro wines from the 2007 vintage. They were the Xinomavro Vielles Vignes from Alpha Estate (from the Amyndaio area), Ramnista and Diaporos from the Kir-Yianni estate and Paliokalias from Dalamaras. They were all excellent wines reaching their plateau of maturity. Last in the classifiaction came the Xinomavro Vielles Vignes from Alpha Estate. Next up were, almost ex equo, Diaporos and Paliokalias. These two wines had very different profiles. In Diaporos, the old syrah portion was marked in the aromatic profile and also present in the mouth, taking the upper hand from the tell-tale aromas of xinomavro (strange, as it is a small part of the blend). The Paliokalias did not resemble a Naoussa at all! And surprisingly, the first in the classifcation turned out to be the Ramnista 2007. Although the tannin was still present and noticeable in this wine, it aromatic complexity and body set it appart from the other wines. It was also clear that Xinomavro Vielles Vignes and Diaporos were at their plateau of maturity, while Ramnista and Paliokalias were expected to get even better with time.
In the second tasting, we have compared Ramnista, Diaporos and Paliokalias from the 2011 vintage, that is one of the most reputed vintages in the region. Again, all three wines turned out to be very good. The third wine now was Ramnista. Compared to the other two, it lacked some aromatic complexity and its body was a bid leaner than the other two. Second came Diaporos. Here, unlike the 2007, the aromatics of Diaporos are those characteristic of Naoussa. And at the first place, came Paliokalias, with an incredible complexity , body, balance and finish. I think this is a legendary wine in the making, that is not yet in its plateau of maturity.
(b) Dalamaras winery .
This is an excellent producer of Naoussa wine, the only one to my knowledge that competes with the Domaine Kir Yianni.
His Paliokalias cuvee
is a superb xynomavro based wine, that ages gracefully and improves for 10-20 years (see above for comparative comments).
I have seen recently, however, that also this wine had its price go off the roof.
His basic Naoussa cuvee is more approachable and is a excellent wine showing the Naoussa aromatic profile,
but also needs 5-10 years to develop fully.
Santorini is a singular viticultural area, with very old vines (some close to 150 years old), a special microclimat
and special grapes.
The most interesting grape is the assyrtico grape
and the most interesting wine the sweet "Visanto" made from
mixture of white and red sun-dried grapes, that is further aged as a tawny port.
The dry white wines can be very good, and they are gaining in reputation. They age very well.
An upcoming varietal is the red, "mavrotragano" that produces an interesting aromatic
profile, but whose tannins have not been tamed yet. It is interesting to follow its evolution although
its first efforts have been grossly overpriced.
The most interesting producers I know are
(a) Argyros Estate. He produces a very interesting Visanto, aged typically for 20 years is large foudres. It is a well balanced superbly complex wine in the class of top 20 year old tawnys but with a very distinct character. It is unfortunately very expensive. The un-oaked standard dry offering, Domaine Argyros, can be a very good wine based on the Asyrtiko grape. I do not like much the oaked versions of Santorini wines as I think that oak does fit the profile of that grape and does not improve its long-term behavior. That being said the wines need time, and at 10 years of age they are at the plateau of their maturity.
(b) Sigalas Estate. He produces an excellent Visanto that is aged for 3-4 years. The 1996 tasted in 2019 was rich and complex, simply superb. He has now many exccellent (albeit expensive) Santorini offerings and he is the first who has bottled separately, the eight different village terroirs in the island. Tasted at Oenorama, these cuvees are clearly distinct, and they give the first glimpse into the mosaic of Santorini terroirs.
(c) Hatzidakis, a gifted winemaker and a visionary created
the Hatzidakis winery
in the nineties, and in 20 years became the frontrunner in the race to create good Santorini wines.
His asyrtico wines as well as the Nyxteri have come to the top echelon of the appellation.
Unfortunately, he tooks his own life a few years ago. It remains to be seen if his family can carry the relay.
(d) The cooperative cave of the island,
Santo Wines for many years has produced average to mediocre wines without interest.
In the last decade slowly but steadily the wind changed. In my Oenorama 2012 tastings,
the dry Santo wines made a very good impression.
Their Nyxteri as well as the Asyrtiko Grand Reserve were excellent, and full of potential.
(e) Vasaltis is a new winery with a very short
track record. They have produced, however, three excellent Santorini cuvees that made them
strong competitors for the best Santorini wines.
Samos is another island that built its modern reputation since the beginning of the century on sweet muscat wines. The producer is the local cooperative that is exemplary for Greek standards. The most interesting wine is
(a) Samos Grand Cru: A sweet muscat, made in the style of Muscat de Frontignan, with nice exuberant aromas of the muscat grape. If properly cellared, it can be drunk during at least 9-10 years without losing its aromas.
(b) A dry muscat has been produced, "Psiles Korfes", from specially selected grapes in mountainous vineyards of the island.
It is dry, elegant and complex, reminding such Alsatian benchmarks as the muscats of Domaine Kientzler and Burn.
The flagship aged wines of the cooperative are Anthemis and Nectar untill 2010 they were the
best wines of the lot, aged between 2 and 5 years in barrel
and excellent values for money. Sadly, their quality went down in recent years and their price up.
Finally Kefalhnia (kefalonia) is an island in the Ionian sea, with a rich viticultural
tradition that was revived in the last 20-30 years.
There are several efforts, and varietals that are interesting to follow.
I shall describe below the frontrunner (in my opinion)
The Sclavos-Zisimatos Winery has
behind the idiosyncratic, gifted and soft spoken Evryviadis Sclavos.
He practices biodynamic cultivation and has put several local varietals to the forth.
Untill recently, the star grape of the domain and the island was the Robolla grape that by now gives very interesting mineral wines. But Sclavos produces superb wines from the grapes, Zakynthino, Tsaousi and Vostylidi, which, when young, at least to me they seem more interesting and superior to Robolla. I have not tracked these wines in time, but I plan to do so. My feeling is that they must all age well.
Sclavos produces also two dry red wines from the Mavrodaphe grape. They are interesting but have some way to go (see the part further up, on Paraparousis and the relevant tasting notes).