I invited you to join me on a journey some months ago. I planned to select some Greek wines, purchase and cellar them; then report on their evolution over time. Please refer to the original article “Flipping through time” for more background.
Today’s piece is the first instalment of a series of articles that I hope to write over many years. I have selected three indigenous Greek grapes: Assyrtiko, Xinomavro and Limniona. The former two are known for their extraordinary ageing capabilities. Limniona does not hold any such claims, it was once cultivated extensively in Central Greece, before phylloxera contributed to its loss. It has only very recently been resurrected.
All three wines are available in the export markets, the selected vintages are the ones that you should be able to find now.
Assyrtiko: Gaia Thalassitis 2011, 13% alcohol, synthetic closure. The vines are around 80 years old, yields are below 25 hl/ha.
The first whiff points out multi-faceted aromas of lime and honeysuckle, with a pronounced steeliness. The wine features a sharp and poignant acidity, has a dense structure with concentrated fruit on the mid-palate, it is chewy, with an intense finish. This has already evolved to a much more complete wine within the last six month, now teasing with hints of its potential. Right after its release, it had a high octane sharpness which has now mellowed down beautifully.
Limniona: Zafeirakis Limniona 2009, 13% alcohol, natural cork. Matured for 12 months in old 3000 litre casks, aged for another 18 months in bottle.
The wine exhibits forthcoming aromas of red fruits, plums and oriental spices, with a distinctive earthiness underneath. The soft tannins are in harmony with the acidity, the structure is silky, and the pure fruit is in balance with the well integrated oak. This is a soft wine that whispers, rather than shouts. It is elegant, round, smooth, charming and seductive, balanced without swaying. It will be very interesting to see what the future holds, and how the soft tannins will cope with time. This is currently one of two varietal Limniona wines that are being produced (the other being made in small quantities by Tsililis, Ktima Theopetra), and 2009 is the third vintage.
Xinomavro: Kir Yianni Ramnista 2008, 14% alcohol, natural cork. Matured for 16 months in 225 litre (60%) and 500 litre (40%) barrels, both French and American oak with only up to 15% being new, aged for further six months in bottle.
The nose is a little reserved at this point in time, vegetal aromas, red fruits, also a barnyard component. The dense tannins strike first, but are met by a complimentary acidity. This is followed by an intense mid-palate that truly highlights the fruit. The focused finish is intense and long lasting. I suspect that this particular vintage will evolve beautiful over many years or even decades. The raw components that might seem sturdy now are waiting to be grinded by time.
All wines were tasted at room temperature, the notes were written right after I opened the bottles and poured the contents. One day later, all three wines had benefitted immensely from the extra time, being more approachable and complete.