Communication is one of the most important ingredients in a successful business relationship. Over time, it can lead to mutual trust and respect for each other. I am very grateful to enjoy such a relationship with WineWise, the California based importer of fine wines.
Today, a container with Greek wines is scheduled to arrive in Oakland, CA. The fact on its own might not raise any eyebrows, but the content should: Included are wines from three new producers for WineWise’s Greek wine portfolio, all of them are from the heartland of Xinomavro, Naoussa. I firmly believe that Xinomavro is Greece’s best and most intriguing red grape variety with the firm potential to gain serious and lasting attraction abroad. I am thrilled that the partners of WineWise not only share this sentiment, but act upon it. The following additions should be available very soon in California (please click through the picture gallery on top of this article to see the labels):
Chrisohoou, Naoussa 2008: The first privately owned vineyards of this family winery were planted in 1978, today 18 ha are cultivated. Although this is an older Naoussa estate, notable changes are taking place. The owner’s smart and charming daughter, Nana, has been the oenologist since June 2004, and this 2008 vintage was the first one she completely oversaw. She is 33 years young, and puts her own signature to the wines, opting for a more modern and elegant expression of Xinomavro then in the earlier years. The Naoussa 2008 has a fine tannin structure and highlights the fruit on the palate, being very harmonious throughout. The quality price ratio is also quite enticing. Production of this wine is limited to approximately 12000 bottles annually.
Diamantakos, Naoussa 2007 and Preknadi 2011: I am thrilled to introduce the wines from this small family winery for the first time ever to the US market. 2.5 ha of Xinomavro were planted in the late 1970’s, and 1.6 ha of Preknadi vines were added in 2006. Georgos Diamantakos, the 34 year old oenologist, is one of the rising stars of the appellation. The production figures are small with around 8000 bottles of Naoussa and another 4000 bottles of Preknadi being produced annually. The Naoussa 2007 is concentrated and complex, with an elegant texture and an almost Côte Rôtie like aromatic quality. Add to this the distinctive taste of black olives, and you get a sense of its uniqueness. For more info on the Preknadi variety, please see my entry from earlier this year here.
VAENI, Naoussa 2007 and Grande Reserve 2000: The VAENI Coop was founded in 1983. It currently boasts more than 200 members, but remarkably the average vineyard holdings amount to less than 1 ha. The wines are great introductions to Xinomavro, the Naoussa 2007 offers high quality at very affordable prices; the Grande Reserve 2000 highlights the tremendous ageing potential of the variety. It was actually decided to bring in the 2000 vintage instead of the 2004, as the latter could still benefit from more bottle age. These Xinomavros are elegant and pure, leaning towards the more traditional style that is fashioned from this variety, with fine spices and a distinctive earthiness.
These additions bring the number of the Naoussa producers included in the portfolio up to four, with Kir Yianni being the first producer from the region who was represented by WineWise. Their Xinomavro wines are already very well received in the Californian market, and deserve the credit for building up the interest and demand for additional producers.
WineWise also keep their eye closely on the Amyndeo region, the other important Xinomavro vine growing zone, which is marked by its cool climate. Domaine Karanika is already creating a lot of buzz with their 100% Xinomavro sparkling Brut Cuvée Spéciale Méthode Traditionelle. I am proud that WineWise has decided to take on a new label, a blend of Xinomavro and Limniona. There are several reasons I am very excited about this development: I am a huge admirer of both varieties, with Christos Zafeirakis leading the way with his monovarietal Limniona. There have been many attempts in the past to blend Xinomavro with international varieties. Laurens Hartman, the owner of Domaine Karanika, is the first winemaker who experimented with adding the indigenous Limniona instead. He had originally planned on maturing this 50/50 blend from the 2011 vintage for 24 months in barrels. When we tasted barrel samples during the summer, we were left deeply impressed. The wine was already so lush and complete that we began to question if further ageing would be beneficial. I tasted another barrel sample in September, and after exchanging thoughts with WineWise, they decided to bring in the wine now. It is currently exclusively available in the Californian market and will not be offered anywhere in Europe soon.
The one addition outside the Naoussa/Amyndeon region is quite a special wine as well: Tetramythos has been experimenting with a number of “minimal intervention” wines that are currently produced in tiny quantities, only numbering a few hundred bottles each. One of those is being made from the Black of Kalavryta variety, which is a rarity on its own, as it is only found in limited areas in Aegialia and Kalavryta, northern Peloponnese. The organic grapes for this limited production wine, vintage 2011, are destemmed by hand and pressed by foot, the grape juice is fermented with wild yeasts.
WineWise now offers ten indigenous Greek grape varieties: Assyrtiko, Malagousia, Moschofilero, Preknadi, Roditis and Savatiano for the whites, Agiorgitiko, Black of Kalavryta, Limniona and Xinomavro for the reds. There is a selection of six monovarietal Xinomavro wines, as well as two blends, all coming from the two appellations that have been devoted to, and dominated by, this variety since ancient times. This selection of wines is a statement about the regions’ importance.