Greek white wines offer at least as much diversity as their red siblings. While there are many stunning wines available, it seems that none are so terroir driven as the Assyrtikos from Santorini. It is no surprise that these wines are receiving more and more attention from wine critics on a global basis.
As with my personal Greek red wine pick posted here last week, my choice for the Greek white wine of 2010 is guided by objective judgement and emotion. It comes from all the wines tasted, but necessarily released in 2010. In terms of objective judgement, there were a handful of wines that would all deserve to take the honours. Emotion was clearly the deciding factor for me.
Gaia Wines was established in 1994 and has become a true icon in two Greek wine regions, Nemea in the Peloponnese, and the island of Santorini. The Assyrtiko Wild Ferment 2008 (13.5% alcohol) comes from grapes grown in the upland vineyards of Pyrgos, Santorini, from 80-year old ungrafted vines. According to the winemaker, the Assyrtiko grapes are more aromatic than from the other parts of the island. The juice remains in contact with the skins for 12 hours at around 10 degrees Celsius. Half of it is then transferred into small 1000 litres tanks, the other half into 80% new oak barrels. The temperature is then allowed to rise naturally, without any further involvement. Only the natural yeasts are used for the fermentation, which develops at a gradual pace. In every tank and every barrel something different will occur. It is a risky business, in the 08 vintage 3 out of 10 barrels were lost. After a 4-month maturation period, the wine from the barrels is blended with its unoaked partner.
The Gaia Wild Ferment 08 has a platinum colour. It exhibits very dense and rich aromas of citrus fruits, a clearly noticeable minerality, and pan-fried butter – a very impressive combination. The palate is full-bodied with a sublime acidity that adds to the structure. This wine shouts out for food, but is striking on its own. It is bone-dry, and truly expressive of its terroir. It is one of those marvellous gems that touch one deep down. I also enjoyed the 09 vintage in New York just a few days ago, the quality is at least as good as the 08. Also, the 2010 vintage has been released by Gaia today.
I love that some wine estates never rest on their laurels, and are not afraid to experiment with new approaches. In some cases, this will inevitably lead to such stunning results as this one.