Tsaoussi is an indigenous Greek grape variety mainly found on the Ionian island of Kefalonia, although it has been suggested to be of Macedonian origin. Kefalonia shot to fame when the best seller “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” was transformed into a movie that was shot on the island. It is located in the heart of an earthquake zone and dozens of tremors occur each year.
Tsaoussi is a mixed-use variety, used to produce wine, but also consumed as a table grape. The tall bush vines yield large grapes that lack some acidity. In the past, winemakers have therefore opted to pick the grapes early, when they were still somewhat under ripe. This typically yielded in bone dry, crisp wines with low alcohol content.
Since the year 2000, the leading Gentilini winery has moved towards a later harvest in order to move to a more elegant style by gaining more complex fruit aromas. The low acidity is corrected by using a small volume of wine from under ripe harvested Tsaoussi grapes. As a result of the later harvest, the alcohol level has now increased from 11% in their first 1984 vintage to 12.5 – 13%. Usually Tsaoussi is vinified and fermented at 14 degrees Celsius. The wines have aromas of peaches, melon and honey.
It is not common to find 100% Tsaoussi wines, as it is most of the times blended with higher acidity varieties such as Robola or Sauvignon Blanc.
Disclosure: The wine featured in the video above was given to me as a free sample by Petros Markantonatos, the owner of the Gentilini winery. He also provided me with information about the Tsaoussis grape variety.