First Ever Vertical Tasting From The Land Of Xinomavro: Alpha Estate 2003 – 2009

When you receive an invitation to participate to the first ever vertical tasting of one of the most important Greek wines, it is always hard to resist. The event was organized during the annual portfolio presentation of Cellier wine stores, one of the main retail chains in Greek market.

Oinologist Agelos Iatridis, in front of the winery.

Oinologist Agelos Iatridis, in front of the winery. (photo by Alpha Estate)

Alpha Estate, was founded back in 1997, by the vine grower Makis Mavridis & oinologist Angelos Iatridis. It is located in northwest Greece, at the Amyndeo region, the land of (maybe) the most important red indigenous variety: Xinomavro. A 70ha privetly owned vineyard, gives all the necessary fruit for estate’s quality wines. The vines are grown at an average altitude of 600m/2000ft at a very special micro-climate: Three surrounding mountains along with two lakes giving the ideal balance for optimal growing.

Winery’s flagship wine is a red blend with very good popularity and acceptance in Greek and international market, seven vintages of it were about to be presented by Mr. Iatridis (for the first time ever as he stated!)

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First of all, some class work, and here are the general characteristics of the wine: Varieties: 60% Syrah, 20% Merlot, 20% Xinomavro. 750 sq. m. linear private vineyard at an altitude between 620 m and 710 m (2000 ft to 2300 ft). Soils are sandy/clay over a thin limestone under layer, with excellent drainage. Ageing: Thirteen months in Allie – Bertrange oak casks medium – light toast. No treatment or filtration before bottling, and twelve months in bottles before hitting markets. All vintages a bit above 14% alcohol (to max 14,7%). 2008 vintage is sold in Greek market about 20 euros, and 35$ in USA.

So lets get started!

2003 Vintage: This difficult year gave medium ruby color. Medium intensity & complex nose of ripe black cherries, cassis, black chocolate, black spice, and evident leather and animal elements. Oak is very well integrated mainly with some vanilla. Palate is dominated by the high acidity making it a great pair for fatty meats. Medium bodied with same aromas but less fruit. Tannins are many and rounded in their perfect point of development. Very long finish indicative of it’s high quality. Ready to drink now as it is not going to improve much further.

2004 Vintage: Also difficult and rainy year, led in to two weeks late ripening point, giving wines more delicate and complex, and a bit earlier development. Medium ruby color. Same nose as the previous one but with elevated the part of chocolate and leather. Oak is also very well integrated with vanilla notes. High acidity and more bodied with good fruit. Tannins are many and rounded. Excellent long finish. Ready to drink now but it is going to improve more.

2005 Vintage: A big year for Amynteo, and my favorite of today’s flight. Ideal weather conditions led to grapes of optimal aromatic and phenolic ripeness. Medium ruby color. Very intense nose of milk chocolate, less leather, and very strong fruit. Oak changed to 60% French and 40% American with same shy vanilla notes. Acidity is always there along with a very long finish with the stronger (black) fruit of any other vintage. Same good tannins. Ready to drink now but with such alive fruit and quality tannins, it is going to improve for at least five years more.

2006 Vintage: Quite easy going year, gave wines with good ripening levels and high sugar/acid ratio. A bit younger in color. Maybe the most balanced vintage presenting “enough from all”. Oak returned to 100% French. Palette equally balanced in every previous mentioned aspect. Ready to drink.

2007 Vintage: A drier year than others, made the vines thirsty in early July, but gave good ripeness and smaller yields. It was bay far the best vintage of Syrah, witch led in a more evident variety signature to wine, with more spice and structure. Medium ruby color. All parts of nose are in the same good levels, with (as mentioned before) evident black spice and some plum. Oak same as 2006. High acidity and medium+ bodied with average fruit. Tannins are many and rounded. Excellent long finish. Ready to drink now but it is going to improve more. Must try vintage (especially for Syrah lovers) along with 2005.

Alpha Estate Vinyards and Winery

Indicative photo showing why this is a unique terroir: Vines surrounded by mountains & lakes

2008 Vintage: Equally dry year led to stressed vines in August but finally with good ripeness. Despite the drought, yields stayed the same as the vines were in good “shape” from last years low production.  Medium ruby color. Medium intensity & complex nose, with the same aromas, very good fruit and some floral notes. Oak is same as previous year, mainly with vanilla, and more evident than other years. Palate with the usual high acidity, but with a more unripe character. Medium bodied with same aromas and average fruit. Tannins are many and almost rounded in need of more time. Long but harsh finish . Enjoyable but it is strongly recommended to cellar more.

2009 Vintage (not yet market released): A hard year for Amyndeo, with a non typical weather profile, witch (luckily) gave at the end, adequate ripeness and high levels of acids. Medium ruby color with some purple hints. Fruity nose with all the typical aromas, but without the animal notes as expected in it’s youth. Oak same as 2008 but instead of vanilla smoke is more in forefront. High acidity and medium+ bodied with good black ripe fruit. Tannins are fine and dry, begging for time. Nice long finish. Obviously not ready to drink now, but cellaring a couple of years, will be much rewarding.

Conclusion: Not much to say, as the wine has built a strong reputation of quality and persistency. Only thing to verify was whether it can age well. Well, yes it can, and pretty well! Look after it, try it and i’m sure you will have a good word for Greek wine.

Enjoy!

Winery’s webpage: alpha-estate.com

PS: I want to thank especially Mr. Nikos Loukakis, wine manager of Cellier, for his invitation. Thanx Nick!

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