My first trip of the year (22.01.) took me to Nemea where I spent a couple of hours with the very generous Mr. George Palivos of the Palivou Estate. We tasted the full range of wines, starting with the basic Anemos white (Roditis), Anemos red (Agiorgitiko), and Vissino rose (Agiorgitiko/Syrah). Next came the Estate wines: the white Stone Hills (Chardonnay/Malagousia) and the red Nemea (Agiorgitiko). These were followed by the red premium wines from the Terra Leone range: Ammos reserve (Agiorgitiko), a Merlot, and a Cabernet Sauvignon. We finished with two dessert wines – Sun’s Art white (Muscat) and Sun’s Art red (Agiorgitiko). Mr. Palivos clearly is a gifted vintner, as the whole range of wines tasted was superb. The quality of the basic wines is already at a high standard, and every level up in price from there is more than matched with the improving quality. From there I drove through vineyards of Koutsi and enjoyed the breathtaking beauty of nature. I did not meet a car for quite some time, I finally flagged down the first I saw to ask for directions (it is quite easy to get lost in the mountains). The driver opened the trunk of his car instead and gave me an unlabelled bottle of wine. He said he was a hobby vintner and I should try his wine (Agiorgitiko/Syrah). He showed me his vineyard, and only after I returned home did I discover that his vineyard lies right next to Gaia’s! I look forward to opening the bottle soon. Thank god I still have his business card in case his wine is mindblowing, who knows, maybe I’ll source the next talented Nemea vintner :) At Ktima Driopi I found only a builder who worked on a new building. I remembered that Ktima Teselepos had just taken full control of the Driopi Estate, so I decided on the spot to drive to Tripolis. There I was able to meet the owner, Mr. Yiannis Tselepos. He was one of the pioneers of the 1980s, establishing his estate quickly as a top quality boutique winery. He is a larger than life character, and I enjoyed our discussions a lot. By now it was getting late, and I arrived back home in the evening after a 400 km daytrip.
Four days later I visited the VorOino at the Grande Bretagne Hotel in Athens. This event is organized by the Wine Producers Association of the Northern Greece Vineyards, and about 40 wineries showed their wines. The event was overcrowded and extremly busy. At Ktima Alpha, I had to stand in line to taste the wines. Luckily I was able to have chats with Angelos Iatridis, the winemaker of Ktima Alpha, Evangelos Gerovassiliou, the owner of Gerovassiliou Estate, and Thanassis Arvantidis, who together with his brother George owns the Arvantidi Vineyards.
On 29.01. I left at 6 am, as I was invited by Christos Kokkalis who came to fame with his Trilogia (Cabernet Sauvignon) wine. He is located in Illia, close to Pyrgos, and I was excited to meet him. Mr. Kokkalis lived and worked as a pharmacist in Germany for 40 years. His dream was to produce a world class Cabernet wine in Greece. He began to buy land and plant vines. For a few years, he continued to work in Germany while producing wines in Greece. He finally sold his pharmacy and became a full-term winemaker. His story is amazing, as he did not have any wine background, he is completely self-taught. I arrived at about 9:30 am, at which time he had just woken up, having spent the fornight drinking lots of good wines with his friends. We talked about wines, tasted barrel samples of 2007 and 2008 Syrah and 2008 Trilogia in his garage, where he stores the barrels and winemaking equipment. The quality of his wines is of the very highest standard, even his basic Nova (Agoirgitiko/Cabernet Sauvignon) is extremly well structured. It was freezing, and his two dogs were jumping up and down on me, while I admired the barrel samples. It was almost comical, me shivering, holding the glass in my hand and trying not to tumble while the dogs jumped on me. He then took me to his friend at Ktima Stavropoulos, where organic wines are being made. I tried the white Linon (Assyrtico), and Ilis (Merlot), the former was fresh and charming, the latter dominated by wood, but soft and elegant nevertheless. The three of us had lunch at a taverna, Mr. Kokkalis then intoduced me to Dimitris Skafidas, the winemaker at Ktima Mercouri. The Mercouri Estate in my eye offers a great range of niche wines, even for Greece. They had in the past strong connections with Italy, and planted quite a few Italian grape varieties. One finds blends like Refosco/Mavrodaphne, Mourvedre/Avgoustiatis, Tourkopoula/Ribolla Gialla among others. This estate is a true wine lovers paradise, there are so many interesting wines to try, and all are exceptionally well made. I was able to discuss the eight wines I tried with the Mr. Skafidas, who kindly took the time to taste with me. By now it was already afternoon, but I had another treat waiting! Mr. Kokkalis called his good friend Thanassis Parparoussis, who is located near Patras and said I was coming to taste his wines. Mr. Parparoussis came with his car to the Patras exit I took to meet me and show me the way to his estate. We toured the winery, then went to his home where he had prepared a table with bread, fresh cheeses, water, and of course the wines. He had even decanted a wine for me after he received Mr. Kokkalis’ call. We tasted together six of his wines, the quality is simpy outstanding. Amongst others, we tried a white (Athiri/Assyrtico), the red Reserve (Agiorgitiko), the red Taos (Mavrodaphne), the sweet white Muscat Rio Patras and the sweet red Mavrodaphne. I was deeply moved by the experience. At 6 pm, I started my journey home and arrived at 10 pm, having clocked up 720 km.
On 08.02. I visited the Oinotelia exhibition at the Megaro Mousikis in Athens around midday. About 40 wineries showed their wines. The exhibition was extremly well organised, and I tasted about 80 wines in four hours. I was glad to taste the new Escapades range, a Stellenbosch (South Africa) joint venture of Greek winemakers Gerovassiliou and Tsaktsarlis, as well as marketer Soldatos. Other highlights included Sclavos, Karipidis, Kikones, Panagiotopoulos, Ampeloeis, Tsilili, Oenogenesis, Fragou, Antonopoulos and others. I was most impressed with the range of wines from Ktima Argirou, all of which were fantastic.
Two days later, Mr. Kokkalis called me. When I visited him, I gave him two bottles of Daumas Gassac, 1995 and 1985. He drank them the night before his call, and wanted to thank me. He mentioned that he was in Athens the next day, and I invited him for dinner at my home. I picked him up from Kifissia tube station at 730 pm on the next evening. My wife had prepared dinner, and I served a magnum of Domaine Tempier 1990 (Bandol) with the main course, followed by a half bottle of Chateau Climens 1989 with desert. Both bottles came from my own wine cellar. We had a great evening, extremly enjoyable with lots of stories and laughter. Christos (he said good wine friends have to call each other by their first names) originally had planned to get home early, but it was midnight when he departed. It was simply one of these magical evenings, where everything fits and the time just goes by so fast. He offered me to come to his estate in summer, to show me how he makes the wine. This I will most certainly do, as he is like a great artist when it comes to making great wine!