by Markus Stolz

A
decade of Costa Lazaridi

byMarkus Stolz
April 4, 2011, 2 Comments

The Lazaridi brothers Nicos and Costas can be credited for putting the wine region of Drama on the map, not only within Greece, but also on an international level. Nicos created the Chateau Nico Lazaridi, Costas split from his brother a few years after the establishment of the estate.

In 1992, he founded the Domaine Costa Lazaridi, who quickly became one of the major players in the high end segment. Today, the Domaine owns 250 ha of vineyards, enough to guaranty that they do not buy grapes from other growers. According to their winemaker, local growers will typically charge 60 to 70 cents per kilogram of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. He estimates that their own production costs are a hefty 2,50 €/kg, an investment they are happy to carry out in order to fully control the high quality standards. A total of 100 people are employed.

Domaine Costas Lazaridi has appointed two high profile winemaking consultants: Florent Dumeau has been overseeing production of all the white wines from 2000 onwards, and Michel Rolland has been advising on the red wines starting with the 2004 vintage. Domaine Costa Lazaridi is his only Greek client.

The tasting event was part of the outstanding HESTIA Vertical Tasting Series organised by Konstantinos Lazarakis  MW and the WSPC team. So far, every single event has been sold out, and I can’t give enough thanks to Kontantinos for pulling these off.

The red Amethystos wine is a blend of about 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20 to 25% Merlot, the balance being the Greek variety Limnio (since 2004, Limnio was replaced with Agiorgitiko). This wine was highly sought after in Greece during the nineties, and has remained a strong brand.

Flight 1:

1995 Amethystos, 13% alcohol: Medium deep garnet with brownish tinges. This has aromas of sweet red fruit, tealeaves, and cigar-box. Medium bodied with soft tannins and a lively acidity. The fruit comes through beautifully, elegant and feminine in style, good finish. 16/20

1996 Amethystos, 13% alcohol: Much deeper coloured than the 95, also less mature on the rim. The aromas exhibit dark berries, there is some earthiness and a solid dose of the cigar-box component. The palate is more pronounced, lots of dark fruit, good tannin structure that still holds well, enough acidity, slightly bitter on the finish. 1996 was a very hot year in the region. 16+/20

1997 Amethystos, 13% alcohol: Very similar in colour to the 96, with less maturity. The nose is much more classic Cabernet Sauvignon in style, black berries, herbs, eucalyptus. Medium bodied, tannins are still noticeable, good length, but drying out on the finish. This was the favourite wine of the crowd from the first three vintages shown. 16-/20

Flight 2:

1999 Amethystos, 13% alcohol: Deep black cherry colour, some orange tinges, rim just lightens up. Bit closed on the nose, aromas of tealeaves, herbs and red fruit. Medium bodied on the palate, solid tannins with good grip, a matching acidity, explosive fruit, expressive eucalyptus. This is the first wine of the night where the blackcurrant character dominates. It finishes well, shows a descent length. 17/20

2000 Amethystos, 13% alcohol: Dark red cherry colour. Again more dominated by herbal aromas, eucalyptus, thyme, and dark forest fruit. The fruit is concentrated on the palate, soft tannin structure with some grip, a mouth-watering acidity. The finish is a bit short and has a greenish element. The crowd’s favourite of the second flight. 16/20

2001 Amethystos, 13% alcohol: Medium deep black cherry colour. Good aromas of red fruit, herbs, cigar-box. It is medium bodied on the palate, with soft tannins and a good acidity, but rather green and somewhat aggressive on the finish. 15+/20

The vintages tasted so far were clearly produced in an “old world” style. They were all well made, but personally I miss the excitement factor. When it comes to Cabernet Sauvignon dominated Greek wines, I have perhaps a different perception than many Greeks. While I enjoy and appreciate these wines, they rarely (apart from a few exceptions) truly speak to me and captivate my senses. As a whole, I doubt that Greece will soon be renowned abroad for the production of its outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon wines.

2004 was the first vintage where Michel Rolland took over the reign as a consultant to the estate.

Flight 3:

2004 Amethystos, 14% alcohol: Darkest colour of all wines so far, bordering on opaque. Also the first time that legs or tears are clearly present (the consequence of the fact that alcohol has a lower surface tension than water, therefore an indication of alcohol content in the wine).This has much darker and concentrated aromas, black berries and spices. Full bodied on the palate, concentrated tannins, a matching acidity, explosive black berries. The finish is very long, and there is an aftertaste of truffles and mushrooms. 17/20

2005 Amesthystos, 14% alcohol: Again very dark colour, just a touch lighter than the 04, purple tinges, shows zero maturity. The wine has spicy aromas, also truffle, black berries, and an earthy component. On the palate this is overpowering, dark chocolate, espresso, but too over-the-top and too ambitious. Very bitter, the tannins are too heavy. Will be interesting to see where this is going in 5 to 10 years. This was the crowd’s favourite of this flight 15/20

2006 Amesthystos, 14% alcohol: Deep purple colour with blue tinges. The aromatics are challenging here, dark fruit, cocoa, might be the glass. Full bodied on the palate, very dark, a fistful of tannins, very good acidity, explosive blackcurrant and dark fruit, very well structured with a long finish. 17/20

2008 Amesthystos, 14.5% alcohol: Extremely dark purple colour, nearly opaque. This has forthcoming and open aromas of black berries, cassis and truffles. Full bodied with hefty tannins, powerful and masculine. Good amount of blue and black berries. I like this a lot, it has a very long finish and the cassis and truffles linger around for quite some time. 17+/20

The path Michel Rolland has taken is very obvious: Bold, big, masculine and full bodied wines with a lot of colour extraction, a concentrated tannin structure and higher alcohol levels. The herbal flavours are replaced by spiciness and ripe fruit. Although I usually prefer wines with a different set of characteristics, I think that in this particular case the approach worked rather well, adding depth and lushness to the wines.

Having said that, the wine lovers who attended the tasting were very opinionated about the change in style, and most were critical towards the new direction taken. One reply to the winemaker summed up the feeling of many participants: “You have become the Australia of Greece”.  I do not agree with this, in my opinion the Domaine Costa Lazaridi took a bold step that seemed fitting at the time.  The results are just starting to show, and they are encouraging. They strive to bring out the best of Cabernet Sauvignon, and their dedication is admirable. Maybe we cry to easily “foul” sometimes. I just keep wondering what the results would have been by now if had they had focused more heavily on Greek grape varieties.

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  1. Kostas KatsoulierisApril 4, 2011, 11:39 pm

    Good report and interesting to note the development of the wines / styles of wines over the years. Personally Amethystos has never been one of my favourite Greek Cabs (not that I drink many of them anyway) but that’s just me – one man’s meat is another man’s poison as the Brits say. We had a comparative blind tasting at Oinofiloi recently between Greek Cabs & Cabs from around the world (excluding France). You would have found the results surprising (I certainly did when the bottles were revealed). Anyway keep up the good work & I hope that Hestia will move to showcasing more Greek varietal vertical tastings – sufficient supplies of wines always permitting…

  2. elloinosApril 4, 2011, 11:59 pm

    Kosta, I appreciate your feedback. Greek cabs are tricky, in that most are are very different in style to what the average consumer would expect. I am not brushing them aside, but I doubt that they will leave a lasting impact on the export markets. Results may be surprising under circumstances, but I feel that most of the wines produced are made for the local market. Hestia has seen some great events, Kir Yianni, Skouras, Gerovassiliou – and is offerning great insights. There are a limited number of estates that can supply 10 + vintages, and the Lazaridi tasting was well worth just to experience the change in style from 2004 onwards. Great interaction with the crowd, very educational!