Going Greek !

ALPHA XINOMAVRO SINGLE VINEYARD HEDGEHOG P.D.O. AMYNDEON 2011

This blog is usually French wine orientated, however today I am leaning towards the Joie de Vivre, specifically the enjoyment of wine. Europe, specifically the Med is awash with historical evidence of winemaking dating back to before Roman times. In fact, some argue, successfully at that, that many of the original Vines which are a staple of European wine making in fact originated in Greece.

Certainly there is a large amount of evidence for this, however, currently the main problem faced with Greek wines is simply, an Alphabet which is a mystery to much of the world, grape varieties which are unknown, and a slightly fragile government and economy. Happily, things are changing, thanks to the varied climate and terroir of Greece it’s possible to produce some excellent wines.

Mainland Greece has a mountainous climate, specifically the area I am looking at today is in the North West, where the Greek wine revolution began. Long gone are the days of Ronseal like Retsina, this area Macedonia, and the Balkan and Aegean landmass are known for Red Wine. In fact, that’s predominantly all you will find here. The main grape variety is Xinomavro, nick named “Acid Black” due to the unusual sourness which can be present. Thankfully these wines, also known for their slow maturation are amongst the best to be had in Greece.

The North West facing side of Mount Vermio, which forms part of the appellation of Amindeon, is home to Alpha Estate, although not far from the border with Macedonia, and situated on the windy lake influenced region they are producing wines which are perhaps the beginning of a New Wine Revolution in Greece. Alpha Estate is the brainchild of two visionaries, the second generation Vinegrower Makis Mavridis and the Bordeaux trained Winemaker Angelos Iatridis. Their aim is to pinpoint and promote contemporary Greek vinegrowing and winemaking to the world. With a philosophy allowing the people and the vines to work together with nature in order to create wines which offer character, and are representative of the area and the country, whilst retaining as little artificial influence as possible.

This wine is deep in colour, the Purple hues almost hypnotic to the eye.  The bouquet is complex with dark fruits and minerality, there is a spice to, with a slight hint of clove and Vanilla.  Just a quick slurp reveals a depth of flavour, reminiscent of wines from Barolo and Cahors. The almost berry like zing is perfectly tempered with notes of spice, yet there is still a delicate freshness. The tannins are well balanced and this wine has a long lingering finish. Ideally I would serve this with grilled meats, perhaps a Souvlaki or Kleftico in winter. But equally I think it would pair well with roasted peppers and olives, perhaps even a nice Tzatziki.

If this is the way Greek winemaking is going – then I want to be part of it, the country and the people have always influenced Europe in terms of Philosophy and Politics. It’s reassuring to know that Alpha Estate is leading the North Western Charge in producing wines of such a complexity and character, which may well encourage a new wave of Greek winemakers. I for one look forward to trying more from this beautiful country. Hopefully this is the start of something new and exciting for Greece. Yamas !

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