A recently popular topic concerning Greek wines, is whether the top white ones are able to age, and more specifically to age well! With this question in mind, Grigoris Michailos and Yannis Karakasis, the two guys behind WineCommanders, invited me to participate to a quite rare tasting. What the concept was? A pair of bottles from the same label, but with some (or many) years apart each other.
As i hardly resist to such propositions, and among many friends and some of the participating winemakers them selfs, it was time to get started:
Flight No 1: Papagiannakos Savatiano 2012 & 2008 (both 12% abv). Savatiano is the main grape planted in the region of Attica where the capital Athens is located. It is a variety heavily battered the past decades, linking its name with low quality wines, high alcohol (in order to add water upon consumption), heavily oxidated (as it is very proning to it) and basic grape for the raisin flavored Retsina. Luckily, there have been lately many winemakers doing a great job with this misunderstood but gifted grape, producing high quality wines that pair well with most Greek dishes.
Fresh bottle, was full of citrus aromas, with hints of orange zest, stony, floral, and slightly oxidative character. Full bodied, good acidity and medium+ fruity finish. Already enjoyable and recommended. But what about going four vintages back? 2008 was more or less, with the same character, but significantly less fruit in favor of roasted nuts, toast, brioche and oxidative aromas. As Mr Papagiannakos verified, it is hard to believe that the wine has no oak treatment at all! Very good with interesting food pairing suggestions.
Aging capability: Very Good
Flight No 2: Tetramythos winery, Roditis 2012 & 2008 (12 & 12,5 % abv). Made by Roditis, a grape responsible for almost half Greek white wine production (along with Savatiano). Plants are 24 to 42 years old and located in northern Peloponissos area of Aigialia, in high altitude exceeding 900 m, making the wines full of crispy acidity and green fruit aromas, as happened with 2012 bottle. Green apple, lemon, and some pergamonte on nose, among some traces of dairy and flowers. Medium bodied with crispy acidity and medium+ finish of citrus and stony flavors. Four years back, and 2008 bottle presented a remarkable resistance in time. Same aromas, more evolved, a bit tending to floral ones (but still not above green fruit), with evident presence of honey and wax. Mouth was medium bodied with the same crispy acidity and medium finish. By far the most well “fruit preserved” wine of the night, This fact, as well as, the high acidity, make a wine promising for great aging potential.
Aging capability: Excellent
Gerovassiliou Malagouzia 2010 & 2007 (both 12.5 % abv). Malagouzia is a variety that was near extinction in the 80’s. As Mrs Roxani Matsa explained (see later on for her wines), main reason is that the grape needs a lot of care in viticulture, and more money to produce equal quantities of wine. More specifically you need about 90 working days per hectare when Savatiano demands only 10. It was only in early 90’s when Vangelis Gerovassiliou, who was working at this time as oenologist in Porto Karras winery, Northern Greece, found an abandoned single vine in a pergola. Founding his own winery in Epanomi near Greece’s co-capital town of Thessaloniki, was the rebirth of the variety, as the winemaker believed in it and invested heavily. Today, a half of the unified 550.000 sq meters of the estate’s vineyard belong to the princess of Malagouzia. 2010 bottle presented the typical floral aromas of the variety with a scent of apricot to contribute to complexity. It must be said that the nose is of medium intensity, making the wine more elegant from the average of the rest labels of the market, something i’ am personally more fond off. Mouth is medium bodied equally floral, with adequate acidity and medium+ finish. Bottle of 2007 presented same behavior with more evident the toast and roasted nut elements. Both versions are light food friendly and recommended.
Aging capability: Very Good
Flight No 4: “Wine Art” Estate, Chardonnay 2012 & 2006 (both 13,5 % abv). Let’s pass to the international representatives: Heavy weight class Chardonnay! Wine Art Estate was created by the civil engineer Yannis Papadopoulos and the architect Yannis Kalaitzidis. Winery and vineyards are located in northern Greece, outside of town of Drama. Today’s labels (named Idisma Drios meaning “sweetly oaked”) started their career back in 1999. The 2010 bottle presented a nose of tropical fruit and apricot, with a lot of vanilla from the oak. Quite closed, it needed more time to open up. Mouth was full, with very good acidity and medium+m, oaky lasting. Not bad but needs time to integrate it’s different elements. With that in mind, i was very curious of the 2006 vintage to verify wine’s development. And hopefully so it was: Fruit was naturally downgraded and aromas of honey, wax, roasted almonds and dried flowers came up. Acidity was as high as the fresh bottle and mouth had, more or less, the same character. The wine showed very good development and bottles over three/four years old are highly recommended.
Aging capability: Excellent
Gerovassiliou Chardonnay 2010 & 2005 (13% & 13,5% abv). Same heavy weight class as the previous one, but going a bit further in terms of barrel intensity. 2010 sample presented some tropical and stone fruit, and lemon jam. Vanilla and traces of smoke where also there due to oak treatment. Palate was full bodied with medium acidity and medium finish (but with more than nose evident oak). Not fully balanced yet, in need of some more years to be acceptable, and should be avoided at this stage of it’s life. Unfortunately 2005 bottle was corked and can not be reviewed, but as i have tasted a couple of times before this label (in a margin of four to five years of vintage), i can verify that it is a good wine, and above all, with great resistance/development to time.
Domaine Matsa, Malagouzia 2012 & 2003 (13,5 & 13 % abv). This label is considered one of the best samples of the variety, made by a lady with over 40 years of winemaking experience. Facts for the grape where mentioned previously. It’s time for tasting! 2010 bottle is full of intensity and floral aromas of all kinds. Nothing more nothing less, but seducing flowers! Mouth is oddly more citrusy and savory, with medium acidity and medium+ finish. But how a so floral wine can be 9 vintages back? Well … no flower bouquet but interesting roasted and oxidative character, and strangely enough, very balancing acidity. Not bad but i prefer more the fresh versions.
Aging capability: Good
Boutari Kallisti Reserve, Santorini 2010 & 1989 (14 & 12 % abv). The time all we where waiting for, was now. The king it’s self, Assyrtiko in a long and well respected oked label. For those of you not tasted a Santorini yet (great mistake, and it’s the last time you grant forgiveness) the vines are located in the whole tiny area of the volcanic island of the Aegean sea, dealing with extreme viticulting conditions. Due to dry and hot summers with enormous winds, vines are kept unstaked and trained low to the ground in a basket shape, in order to protect the grapes from those moderate conditions. Bottle of 2010 was a typical sample: Light green fruit and more toasted and deliberately oxidative aromas, along with some honey. The palate is dominated by the top two characteristics of the Santorini wines: Top acidity and stony volcanic long finish. Naturally unbalanced yet. Give it some time and you be surprised.
Assyrtiko is well known for it’s aging potential, but 24 (!) vintages back is a lot of time for a white wine: Well … 1989 label was still alive and in absolute shape. Unbelievable complexity for a “love it of hate it” wine. Wax, dried fruit, roasted hazelnuts, and something between a fine Cognac and an high quality Sherry. Medium bodied, long lasting finish and acidity as it was tasted the year of it’s vintage. Not food friendly, but as Yannis suggested, it will do a fine combo with medium intensity Greek cheeses. For those of you fond of Spanish sherry’s, here is your new love, and with the additional benefit of the acidity. Respect!
Aging capability: Something more than excellent. Unique!
Feeling PROUD for those Greek wines, it was time to finish the actual part of tasting, and continue the night with (what else) wine chating with the rest of the participants, enjoying an “out of competition” Savatiano from Mrs Matsa. What vintage? 1963!
Now you all know … Greek whites can age, and actually .. age really well!